SANTIAGO, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- China and Chile agreed on Tuesday to lift bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership as Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his first state visit to the Latin American country.
In his talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Xi compared China and Chile to true friends who could touch each other's heart from the other end of the world, and commended Chile for taking the lead amongst Latin American countries in developing ties with China.
Chile was the first country to establish diplomatic ties with China in South America, as well as the first Latin American country to sign a bilateral accord with China on the latter's accession to the World Trade Organization, and to recognize China's status as a market economy.
It was also the first Latin American country that signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.
Two-way trade amounted to 31.8 billion U.S. dollars last year, nearly five times as much as in 2005 when the FTA was signed.
China's first RMB clearing bank in Latin America was opened in Chile in June this year, setting up a platform to upgrade financial cooperation between China, Chile and the rest of Latin America.
Citing a high level of mutual political trust between the two countries, their mutually beneficial and win-win economies, and increasingly closer multilateral cooperation, the Chinese president said China-Chile ties have entered a new era of maturity and stability.
He said both countries are in a key phase of development, and are dedicated to seeking further development through deepening reforms.
From this new starting point of bilateral ties, Xi said, they should actively strive forward to ensure that China-Chile relations could continue to spearhead China's ties with Latin American countries.
China is willing to work with Chile to improve the top-level design for bilateral ties, improve their FTA, broaden investment cooperation, strengthen sci-tech and innovation cooperation, lay a solid foundation of public support, and lift their strategic coordination, he said, adding that the Chinese side supports its enterprises in seeking a spot in Chile's infrastructure and clean energy industries.
He also noted that tourism cooperation between China and Chile is conducive to people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries, and urged the two sides to enhance communication and coordination within multilateral institutions.
For her part, Bachelet welcomed Xi's visit to Chile, saying the country will further cement friendly ties with China, and expand political dialogues as well as trade and economic links.
Chile, she said, is willing to take the elevation of bilateral ties as an opportunity to deepen cooperation with China in various areas, while breaking new grounds for cooperation.
An upgrade of the FTA between Chile and China will give trade and economic cooperation between the two countries a strong boost, she said, adding that Chile welcomes Chinese enterprises to increase their investment in the Latin American country.
The Chilean president stated that her country is willing to join the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as soon as possible, and to conduct closer coordination and cooperation with China on international affairs.