A small shipment of Chinese cars that arrived in Chile on Wednesday set the stage for an expected surge of imports made possible by a free trade agreement that takes effect in October, Reuters reported.
A shipment of 379 Corsa Sail cars (based on a previous-generation Opel Corsa hatchback line) made by a General Motors joint venture plant in Shanghai arrived in the port of Valpariso and GM will sell the vehicles through its Chevrolet brand, which is already sold in Chile, the report said.
“Undoubtedly the signing of the free trade agreement has opened the possibility of importing different Chinese-made cars to Chile,” Augusto Contreras, general manager of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce in Chile, told the news agency.
Chile, one of the world’s most open economies, imports cars from all over the world, with General Motors and Toyota dominating the market. Peugeot Citroen, Hyundai and Nissan Motor also have substantial market shares.
Reuters noted that Chinese manufacturers until now have been left out of Chile’s booming market for imported cars, which has been supported by strong consumer demand and an appreciating peso currency.
The free-trade agreement is the first China has signed with a non-Asian country. It provides for an immediate cut in import duties on 92% of Chilean exports to China, the South American country’s most important trade partner after the United States, the report said.
It also reduces duties on Chinese machinery and automobiles entering Chile to zero from the current rate of 6%.
“Obviously the lower duty is a great help in competing in the market,” Cristian Scheib, owner of the Motorrad motorcycle dealership in Santiago, told Reuters.
Scheib controls about 80% of Chile’s market for motorcycles, most of which are imported from China. He hopes to extend this success to automobiles.
“We plan to start importing Chinese cars in December, specifically a line of trucks we believe are capable of competing in the local market,” said Scheib, who already has advertising for the Chinese truck on display.