Chile to join China´s Belt and Road Initiative

FILE PHOTO - Chile's Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero Espinoza attends the World Economic Forum on ASEAN at the Convention Center in Hanoi, Vietnam September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kham

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile will join China´s Belt and Road initiative, Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said on Thursday, in a move to deepen economic and political cooperation with the Asian powerhouse in a zone of strong U.S. influence.

Ampuero said in a statement that joining China´s global infrastructure initiative would make Chile more attractive to Chinese investors and position the Andean nation as the “landing point for investments in Latin America.”

The agreement is set to be signed on Friday, the statement said.

China is Chile´s top trading partner, and the two countries are deepening ties. Last week, Chile and China signed a trade deal to streamline customs controls and widen access to the Chinese market for Chilean products.

China has increasingly taken a more aggressive foreign policy position throughout Latin America as the United States, under President Donald Trump, has opted for a more protectionist stance.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, proposed in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, promotes expanding links between Asia, Africa and Europe, with billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

China has sought a bigger role overseas since Trump was elected, presenting its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the United States has abandoned.

The country is already testing U.S. dominance in Latin America, offering the region $250 billion in investment over the next decade. It is the top trading partner of many other countries in the region, including Brazil and Argentina.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by David Gregorio