Chile, Japan sign mining deals, share earthquake science

SANTIAGO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sealed a series of deals on a visit to Chile Thursday in areas ranging from mining to minimizing damage from earthquakes.

Abe is on a five-country Latin American tour that comes just after rival Asian giant China's President Xi Jinping wrapped up his own visit to the region.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she wanted her country, with its long Pacific coastline and abundant ports, to be Japan's gateway to the region.

"I want to show you that Chile is a great partner and an enormous entryway to the Latin American region," she said during meetings with Abe at the presidential palace.

The pair oversaw the signing of a series of deals on science and technology, mainly centred on the mining sector.

Chile is the world's top copper producer, and 90 per cent of Japan's investments there - which totalled US$4.5 million (S$5.6 million) in 2011 - are in the copper mining industry.

Japanese firm Mitsui signed a deal with Chile's state copper company Codelco on developing new uses for copper and more efficient and sustainable technologies for mining it.

The two leaders also concluded agreements on transferring science and technology on reducing the risk from earthquakes and tsunamis.

Both countries are prone to earthquakes and have suffered major disasters in recent years.

"We're united by shared traits that are not very enviable but around which we can build shared knowledge: we have suffered the worst earthquakes this century," said Bachelet.

The two countries signed an agreement to train 2,000 Latin American specialists in disaster risk reduction over the next five years.

Both Chile and Japan are among the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the United States, a vast trade agreement that would cover about 40 per cent of the global economy.

Talks on the TPP are currently blocked over disagreements on Japan's tightly controlled agriculture and auto sectors.

Government sources said the two leaders had discussed the TPP but that it was not central to their talks.

Abe next travels to Brazil, Latin America's largest economy and the last stop on his nine-day tour.