Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (曾俊華) and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera attended a ceremony on the eve of the APEC summit in Vladivostok yesterday to herald the signing of a free-trade agreement between their respective countries.
Pinera said it took only one year to reach an agreement and for the document to be signed. Tsang said it will “further strengthen our partnership and serve as a platform to turn our bilateral economic relations to a new level.”
According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the Chinese territory’s total exports to Chile totaled US$262 million in the first half of the year.
Hong Kong’s total imports from Chile — principally fruit and nuts, along with meat, seafood and wine — reached US$359 million in the same period, it added.
Elsewhere at the summit, Vietnam’s president warned that nations could soon be engaged in conflicts over access to water as he called for sustainable exploitation of the Mekong River.
Speaking during a seminar on water at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said water was likely to become a geopolitical flashpoint commodity like oil.
“It would not be over-exaggerating ... to view the water resources of the 21st century as the oil of the 19th and 20th centuries,” Sang said.
The exploitation of the Mekong River — the world’s 12th-longest river — has loomed as an increasingly divisive issue among nations through which it flows: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and its source country, China.
More than 60 million people rely in some way on the river, a vital transport waterway and the world’s largest inland fishery with an annual estimated catch of 3.9 million tonnes.
However, environmental groups warn the Mekong is threatened by over-damming.
Energy-hungry China has several planned or existing dams on the river but has rejected accusations they contributed to lower water-levels downstream.
Laos, one of the world’s most underdeveloped nations, promised in July to postpone building its Xayaburi Dam, but refused to cancel the US$3.8 billion project.
Sang called for greater international cooperation to ensure the “sustainable exploitation and utilisation of water resources, particularly those running through different territories.”