BEIJING - Chile has always been at the forefront of China's relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday in Beijing, when meeting with Chile's President Gabriel Boric.

Xi told the Chilean leader, who is in China to attend the Belt and Road Forum, that he attaches great importance to the development of China-Chile relations, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said.

Xi praised Chile for being the first South American country to establish diplomatic relations with China, and for being a pioneer in cooperation on the Belt and Road initiative in Latin America.

"China-Chile cooperation in various fields has promoted the development and revitalization of both countries and brought substantial benefits to our people," Xi added.

In a joint statement from both countries, Chile invited Chinese firms to participate in the development of the country's lithium mining industry and green hydrogen projects, CCTV reported.

Boric said on Monday that China's Tsingshan Holding Group will invest $233.2 million to set up a plant in Chile to produce lithium iron phosphate (LFP), used to power electric vehicles, which is expected to create 668 jobs when it reaches full capacity.

(Reporting by Liz Lee and Ella Cao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Sharon Singlton)