Rodrigo Diaz Worner, Intendant of the Bio Bio Region of Chile, just finished his third visit to China since he assumed office in 2014. The region, with its capital city Concepcion, the second largest city in Chile, is an active trading partner with China. In an interview with Shanghai Daily last week, Worner discussed moves from the Chilean side to further explore the booming Chinese consumer market and to push for cultural exchange between Chile and China.
Q: What does Bio Bio have in store to woo Chinese consumers?
A: Bio Bio is known for its high-quality agricultural products. One reason is that it’s part of the one percent of the world that’s under a Mediterranean climate.
Rather large gaps of temperatures day and night mean that our fruit have especially nice flavors and healthy sugar. Our major fruit produces are blueberries, cherries and apples. Chile is currently the largest exporter of “Mediterranean fruit” to China and the second largest fruit exporter after Thailand.
I should mention that our agricultural products are ecologically friendly, too. Both pests and the usage of pesticide are minimal due to our geological location.
Bio Bio is also a huge player in the wood and furniture industry, and we have some high-quality endemic tree species. And of course our region exports huge amounts of seafood, too.
Chile signed a free trade agreement with China 11 years ago, and Chilean governments have always been keen on supporting our exports.
Q: Chinese economic growth has been slowing down. Are you confident about the prospect of exploring the Chinese market?
A: Although China is growing more slowly than in previous years, its growth rate still stands out from other countries. It’s true that consumers will buy “more wisely” when the economy is less steamy, but they still have to eat. We believe that Chilean agricultural products will hold a place in the Chinese market with their high quality.
Q: China has been looking out for business chances. Are Chile, and Bio Bio in particular, trying to attract more Chinese investors?
A: In terms of the presence of Chinese companies in Chile, most of them are based in Santiago, the capital city of our country.
But last year, three regions in Chile, including Bio Bio, were included in a series of trial policies and programs that aim to attract more foreign investors.
In Bio Bio we implemented policies to simplify the procedures for foreigners to establish companies in our region. We recommend foreign investors invest in our wood, architecture and food industries.
Q: I read about a new project in Bio Bio which gives training in the Chinese culinary tradition. Could you tell us more about that initiative?
A: Yes, we signed the deal with our Chinese partners just 45 days ago, and cooking teachers sent by the Confucius Institute and China’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office will soon be giving classes to cooks from some of the most famous hotels in Bio Bio.
The program is a cooperation between Santo Thomas University and the Confucius Institute.
There are many Chinese restaurants in Chile, but the Chinese food they cook is not really authentic.
The Chinese are now building a port — Port San Vicente — for us at the moment, and they have brought about 300 employees to our country.
And besides the workers, cooks too.
I want to say that we not only want to sell our products to China, we also want to learn things from China to help the Chinese who live in Bio Bio enjoy their lives here and make more want to come and invest in us.
Besides Chinese food, we intend to learn more about Chinese traditional medicine. By learning Chinese culture, we’re building up our culture resources, too. I’m also interested in the exchange of students with China.
I signed agreements in this regard with Hubei and Sichuan provinces during my first visit to China in November 2014.