India-Chile PTA: An opportunity to raise the stakes

• The high income economy in the South American region is known for its copper and lithium reserves, deep trade liberalisation policies and fundamentally strong political and financial systems.
• Chilean economy with a population of 18.73 million (2018) is dominated by the service sector followed by manufacturing sector, which makes it an important market for India’s goods and services alike.
• The average MFN tariff in Chile is 5.98% (2017) while for India it is 13.8% (2017).
• In another expansion of India-Chile PTA, Chile has the motivation to ask for more and higher concessions compared to the existing version. India can look to expand the ambit to cover services trade.


Chile is one of the fastest growing and high income economies in the South American region. The economy is characterised by a high level of foreign trade which forms 28% of its GDP and is dominated by Copper exports (CIA World Factbook). Apart from copper, Chile is rich in gold and lithium, both of which are of interest for India.

Total trade between India and Chile crossed the US$ 1 billion mark in 2016. As per data from ITC Trade Map, the average annual growth rate of India’s exports to Chile between 2014 and 2018 has been 10% p.a. while imports witnessed a degrowth of 14% p.a. Trade flow from Chile to India has been dominated by a few products like copper ores, Molybdenum ores, fresh fruits like apples, pears, etc.. In terms of India’s exports to Chile, it is diversified and covers sectors like automobiles, iron and steel, pharma, chemicals, leather, apparel and textiles etc.

The first India-Chile trade agreement that came into force was in 2007. The PTA was a limited agreement to offer tariff concessions on a limited number of products. While India has offered to provide fixed tariff preferences ranging from 10-50% on 178 tariff lines at the 8-digit level to Chile, the latter have offered tariff preferences on 296 tariff lines at the 8-digit level with margin of preference ranging from 10-100%.

The products on which India had offered tariff concessions relate to meat and fish products, rock salt, iodine, copper ore, chemical, leather products, newsprint and paper, wood and plywood articles, some industrial products etc. Chile’s offer covered some agriculture products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, dyes and resins, plastic, rubber, leather products, textiles and clothing, footwear etc (DoC, GOI). Between 2007 and 2018, India’s exports to Chile have increased by 300% while imports from Chile have decreased by 10%. Leaving aside the side effects of the global recession of 2008 and slowdown in 2013, bilateral trade has been following the upward trend. Following the implementation of PTA in 2007, India’s exports to Chile increased by 29% between 2006 and 2007 and by 81% between 2007 and 2008.  On the other hand, imports from Chile increased by 22% between 2006 and 2007 and decreased marginally by 7% between 2007 and 2008 (ITC Trade Map).

This PTA was expanded in 2017 when India offered concessions on 1,031 products and Chile expanded its list of products to 1,798 tariff lines (which is now 1,034 tariff lines in Indian schedule and 2,099 in Chilean schedule as per HS 2017). The major product groups covered in India’s offer are meat & meat products, fish & fishery products, vegetable oils, iron ore & coppers ores & concentrates, organic & inorganic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, washing preparations, plastic & rubber articles, articles of iron & steel and articles of wood & paper. The major product sectors covered in the Chile’s offer are agricultural products, organic & inorganic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastic & rubber articles, textiles, apparel, articles of iron/steel & copper, machinery & equipment (DoC, GOI).

Following the implementation of the expanded PTA, India’s exports increased by 14% between 2016 and 2017, while imports increased by almost 40% during the same period. In 2018, India’s exports grew by 24% while imports fell by 0.3%.

At the HS code level of 6 digit, top products from the PTA where the value of trade is significant are as follows:

Product code Product label India’s exports to Chile (in US$ million) MOP
    Value in 2017 Value in 2018 In %
870322 Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons 147.887 169.168 80
300490 Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes 48.11 61.113 60-80*
730511 Line pipe of a kind used for oil or gas pipelines, having circular cross-sections and an external 3.37 35.281 100
870323 Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons 31.684 35.146 80
870321 Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons 28.181 33.632 80
870421 Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, with compression-ignition internal combustion piston 16.761 23.405 80
870332 Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons 17.573 22.589 80
420329 Gloves, mittens and mitts, of leather or composition leather (excluding special sports gloves) 19.971 18.373 80
870899 Parts and accessories, for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons 14.202 14.408 80-100*
630260 Toilet linen and kitchen linen, of terry toweling or similar terry fabrics of cotton 15.263 14.204 30-100*
Product code Product label India’s imports from Chile (in US$ million) MOP
    Value in 2017 Value in 2018 In %
260300 Copper ores and concentrates 1356.969 1266.993 100
261310 Roasted molybdenum ores and concentrates 29.516 72.827 80
280120 Iodine 57.945 57.288 80
470321 Semi-bleached or bleached coniferous chemical wood pulp, soda or sulphate 41.578 39.578 80
710812 Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought, for non-monetary purposes 0 22.084 80
470329 Semi-bleached or bleached non-coniferous chemical wood pulp, soda or sulphate 22.311 20.006 80
740311 Copper, refined, in the form of cathodes and sections of cathodes 1.999 17.578 50
81050 Fresh kiwifruit 7.543 14.189 50
760200 Waste and scrap, of aluminium 10.95 12.915 80
120991 Vegetable seeds, for sowing 17.702 9.605 50-80*

(* indicates that there are multiple tariff lines at the corresponding HS code in the PTA schedules and hence we have taken the range of the MOP – margin of preference offered on the HS CODE).

# (Subject to a quota of maximum 5,000 MTs per annum and above this at MFN rates.)

Source: ITC Trade Map

Recently, it has been decided to review the PTA and expand it further to widen its product coverage. This seems to be in interest of both countries because India’s concessions to Chile are narrower than Chile’s concessions. Chile gives tariff concessions to India on around 1,800 tariff lines while India’s list of products is nearly half of that, limited to 1,000 products only.

A few products in the table below have been identified that can be included in the expansion of Chile’s concession list to India and result in increase in India’s exports to Chile. These products, as per the trade data, are being exported by India to the world and LAC region and Chile also imports on these lines.

HS code Product description India’s exports to Chile in 2018 Chile’s Imports from World in 2018 India’s exports to World in 2018 India’s exports to LAC (excl. Mexico) in 2018 Equivalent ad valorem tariff faced by India Number of non-tariff requirements faced by India
390110 Polyethylene with a specific gravity of < 0,94, in primary forms 0.29 234.78 791.61 11.46 6 N/A
850212 Generating sets with compression-ignition internal combustion piston engine “diesel or semi-diesel 2.71 34.74 84.61 13.11 6 1
190531 Sweet biscuits 0.20 34.43 163.23 14.62 6 7
840890 Compression-ignition internal combustion piston engine “diesel or semi-diesel engine” 0.08 23.92 612.52 23.60 6 1
380899 Rodenticides and other plant protection products put up for retail sale or as preparations 1.35 20.32 514.97 166.38 6 8
901831 Syringes, with or without needles, used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences 0.01 20.13 33.84 11.62 6 2
521142 Denim, containing predominantly, but < 85% cotton by weight 6.59 11.38 153.33 38.58 6 1
890110 Cruise ships, excursion boats and similar vessels 0.00 5.97 167.47 10.29 3 N/A
520942 Denim, containing >= 85% cotton by weight and weighing > 200 g/m², 2.80 4.00 252.01 27.58 6 1
240220 Cigarettes, containing tobacco 0.28 3.60 88.67 16.61 6 2

(Methodology: HS codes where India’s exports to world are greater than US$ 30 million, to LAC region greater than US$ 10 million and Chile’s imports from world are greater than US$ 3 million, Source: ITC Trade Map)

However, given that Chile’s tariffs are lower and it has given more concessions, the Chilean side would expect more concessions on Chilean exports. Alternatively and/or simultaneously, the expansion could seek to cover other important areas of bilateral trade i.e. services and non-tariff barriers that were not included in previous expansion.

The service sector being India’s strength in global market, enhanced service trade via the PTA should be an area of deliberation in the expansion of the PTA. In 2018, Chile had a services trade deficit of US$ 3.7 billion against India’s services trade surplus of US$ 28.5 billion (ITC Trade map).

Lastly, as per the non-tariff measures data available on WITS, Chile has more products affected by NTMs than India in sectors like machinery, chemicals, plastic and rubber etc. On the other hand, India has more products affected by NTMs than Chile in sectors like textiles, food products, metals etc. It may turn out to be beneficial for both the countries if attention is given to such hurdles in trade.

It is also found that in around 1,800 HS Codes which are not a part of the existing PTA, India faces non-tariff barriers while on around 3,000 HS Codes not in PTA, the average tariff faced by India in Chile is 6%. Any opportunity for mutual gains should be seized, with sustained efforts to overcome the presence of distance barriers, language barriers and huge transportation costs between the two countries.

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