SANTIAGO, May 22 (Xinhua) -- As the world's most dynamic economy, China is carving a vision of an integrated future that Chile hopes to be a part of, Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz has said.
"China, given its population, economic scale and projection, is the future, the future of the global economy and the future of innovation: the knowledge-based economy," Munoz told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
China is already leading in this digital era, and that's why Chile is looking to the future with China with great interest, added Munoz, who, along with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held earlier this month in Beijing.
The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.
"It is a great Chinese initiative that has an overland component and a maritime component ... and most importantly, a digital component," said Munoz.
The world is increasingly electronically interconnected, he noted, "so China's approach to this integration scheme is very appropriate."
Chile signed e-commerce agreements with China's online retailer Tmall.com, adding to existing accords with Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, in China.
"What we want is to connect ourselves to the future, and China's vision in organizing the 'One Belt and One Road' gathering is a future outlook, so we support the initiative, and we see deepening our ties with China as a bet on the future," said Munoz.
To that end, he said, the two countries are working to expand a bilateral free-trade agreement that dates back to 2015.
The attraction of the Belt and Road Initiative also lies in its confidence in unfettered trade, he added.
"Another factor that seemed very important to us is that the plan bets on open trade and integration -- not on protectionism, and that seems to us an absolutely fundamental outlook, when there are protectionist tendencies in various parts of the world," said Munoz.
"China is opening up to the world, and inviting us to bet on greater trade, greater investment and greater connectivity in all of these aspects. I can't recall another scheme like it," said the minister, a former ambassador to the United Nations and assistant secretary general of the UN Development Program.
Today, China is Chile's leading trade partner, with trade volume amounting to nearly 32 billion U.S. dollars.
Chile's exports of fruits, wine and other non-copper products to China are on the rise.
As a result, "China's market is absolutely essential for us," said Munoz.
"What we want now is to take another step so that (the relationship) is not just about commerce, which is very important, but also about investment. That's why we say China is the future."