Opinión de Nuestro Presidente
A Letter FromAmCham’s President
At this point, we are all in agreement that the most significant effect of signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States does not come exclusively from lower tariffs and increased trade, but from the window of opportunity we have obtained towards achieving international recognition as a world-class trading nation. We recently celebrated our first anniversary of life playing in the major leagues of hemispheric trade, and the preliminary results have surpassed the most optimistic predictions: commerce between Chile and the U.S. grew more than 30% while, at the same time, Chile’s GDP expanded by 6.1%.
So, bottom line, it looks like we are doing great and should just continue doing more of the same. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?Unfortunately, it is not that simple. To start with, if we look more closely at bilateral trade figures, we see that they are significantly affected by the increased prices of metals and, specifically, copper. Furthermore, these numbers show that we have continued to develop our identity as an economy driven by exports. That is good, but these exports are mainly raw materials and commodities, and there is still much room for diversification. It is now also clear that we need to take advantage of this window of opportunity in which we are one of few to have obtained special trading status with the U.S. and to pave the road for the future long-term development of Chile.
Speaking at a recent event to celebrate the first anniversary of the FTA, Karen Poniachik, executive vice president of the Foreign Investment Committee, stated that, “Chile sees attracting service-related industries as a priority given the country’s potential to become a regional pole for services.” I think she’s right. Without leaving aside the permanent development of our raw materials and commodity products, we also need to reinvent ourselves in order to develop our capacity to provide services to the region and to the world. This, of course, is easier said than done and the question of “how?” immediately comes to mind. The obvious answer is (like when trying to eat an elephant) “a bite at a time”, and together. But opportunity and time go hand-in-hand. And for this reason, the challenge of developing the conditions to succeed as a “platform country” has an additional component: it should be approached decisively and now.
At AmCham, we have already taken the first step in this direction by initiating a project, in conjunction with Hernán Somerville and the Confederation of Industry and Trade (CPC), to analyze the problems that foreign investors have when looking to establish their regional business in Chile. Some of the initial findings are already out and indicate that we need to work on complex issues that include our tax structure, labor legislation, customs operations, English language skills, and intellectual property protection. So, our mission at AmCham for the next couple of years becomes clear. In order to promote trade between our two countries, we will continue working to identify business opportunities arising from the FTA, much as we did last year with our study related to the beef market. And, in order to promote investment, we will develop our “out of the box” talents and work towards creating the infrastructure that will allow Chile to become more oriented towards services. I am certain that AmCham’s members and working groups will make a great contribution in these areas. And, of course, we won’t forget that AmCham is also about having fun and promoting goodwill and friendship between our countries. I look forward to doing all of the above with all of you.