Ever since they established formal diplomatic relations through the Treaty of Friendship in 1897, Japan and Chile have continuously found new ways and fresh fields in which to strengthen a very valuable partnership. Despite the separation of the vast Pacific Ocean, Japan has looked beyond physical hurdles and Chile’s challenging topography, to recognize the potential of its South American partner.
As of 2019, there are about 100 Japanese companies in Chile, all operating in roughly three sectors: mining in the north, forestry in the central region and fisheries in the south. Resource-rich Chile has become clearly a vital source of products to power the world’s third-largest economy.
Abundant in copper, molybdenum and lithium, the region of northern Chile has some of the world’s richest mines, including Sierra Gorda Copper Mine (operated by Sumitomo Corp., Centinela Copper Mine run by Marubeni, Dona Ines de Collahuasi Copper Mine by Mitsui Corp. and Escondida Copper Mine, a joint venture with Mitsubishi.
While in central Chile, forestry reserves managed by Volterra, Forestal Tierra Chilena and Forestal Anchile have found very profitable markets in Japan. Seafood-loving Japan have also relied on high quality salmon, sea urchin and other marine products fished from the southern tip of Chile by Selmac, Salmones Antartica, Emdepes and Nippon Ham, among others.
Besides these, water, energy and agriculture are also establishing themselves as one of the next pillars of the Chilean economy.
In a meeting with GMI Post, Japanese Ambassador Yoshi “Jose” Hiraishi said that while ties between the two countries have remained mainly trade-focused over the past 122 years, the two countries are evolving into a more strategic one.
When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed then Chilean President Michelle Bachelet for a summit in Tokyo in February 2018, the two leaders discussed ways to further build on their current economic frameworks following the signing of the Japan-Chile Economic Partnership Agreement in (EPA) in 2007, and the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
They also discussed the Chile-Japan 2030 Association Program, which sets out a new strategy to work more closely on sustainable development with a particular focus on food security, agriculture, renewable energy and climate change.
“Japan as a whole is going to be the trustworthy partner of Chile, not just in business, but also in politics and overall relationship,” Hiraishi said.