Elected unanimously by AmCham’s Board of Directors on March 16, Kathleen C. Barclay, founding owner of Asesorías KCB Ltda., will chair the Chamber for the next two years. A director of a number of Chilean companies and previously president of AmCham between 2001 and 2003, she brings with her close connections to organizations such as the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA). In this interview, she talks to bUSiness CHILE about her plans for building on and developing the Chamber’s current activities and, particularly, how it can help to give members an edge on business opportunities for their companies.
I know it’s only a week since your election but should AmCham members expect changes in the services they receive?
The Chamber is always looking for ways to improve the value members obtain and, this year, we’ll be focusing our efforts on four areas. The first, given the Chamber’s mission of promoting trade and investment between Chile and the US, is Trade, of course, and then there are Networking and Alliances, Communications and Best Practices, and Innovation.
On Trade, we’re going to be organizing missions and have the Chile-California and Chile-Massachusetts agreements to work with while, in Networking and Alliances, we want to strengthen our members’ ability to relate to each other within Chile and, more importantly, the US. Working together with AACCLA and the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization, we hope to strengthen our relations with Chambers across the United States. That will, I hope, be important in adding value to our members.
In Innovation, we’re looking at the possibility of developing new business opportunities in areas such as renewable energy, biotechnology and venture capital.
Will these four areas be addressed through AmCham Committees? How will members participate?
Yes, through Committees. And we’ll be contacting members to see where their interests lie so they can participate accordingly. We’ll also be incorporating the good work done in the Committees of previous years and expect several, which have been operating successfully, to continue under the umbrella of this sharper four-area focus.
What about the team you’ll be working with? For example, your Executive Committee?
One of AmCham’s strengths has always been the commitment and seniority of its directors and, this year, we have an extraordinarily strong Board, composed of very important US companies with people who are willing to commit time, effort and vision to AmCham. On the Executive Committee, we have Carolina Valdivieso of Kimberly-Clark, Sandra Guazzotti of Oracle, Pablo Achurra of Aramark and, as past president, Javier Irarrázaval of The Walt Disney Company, all of whom have shown incredible commitment.
What are your immediate priorities?
In the coming weeks, we’ll be focusing on a series of very interesting events. The Governors of Pennsylvania and Florida will be visiting, accompanied by trade missions, and AmCham will also be co-sponsoring a key energy industry event, IFT Energy 2013, which includes a roundtable with a mission of US renewable energy companies that we hope will stimulate opportunities for new business between Chile and the United States.
When you were previously president of AmCham, the key task for the Chamber’s mission was to obtain the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Chile and the US; what are the key tasks now?
The FTA has been one of the world’s most successful trade agreements, with a more than 300% increase in bilateral trade since its inception in 2004. But there’s more that can be done on trade and, particularly, bilateral investment in areas like renewable energy, biotechnology and venture capital. The other thing that’s important is to think how we can help Chilean companies to invest in the US. In fact, during the Governor of Florida’s visit, we hope to launch our first guide to investing in the US, which we think will be particularly useful for small and mid-sized enterprises.
There are two unresolved issues there – approval of the Chile-US double taxation treaty and intellectual property…
We’re hopeful that both governments will submit the tax treaty for legislative approval. We understand there’s been more expeditious movement in that direction in the US. We think it’s absolutely fundamental, particularly for promoting investment in the US by Chilean companies.
Intellectual property is also important to Chile because ideas are the business opportunities of the future. Our March breakfast is with Fernando Fischmann of Crystal Lagoons, a clear example of how intellectual property and Chilean ideas can grow into global opportunities.
How can AmCham contribute to bilateral trade and investment in a way different from the US Embassy in Santiago and the Chilean Embassy in Washington?
Of course, both embassies do a very important job but we believe that AmCham and our member companies have something special to contribute because they are actually doing the business between the two countries, living the day-to-day problems and have the best intelligence for strengthening that business relationship. That’s why we think AmCham’s value is unique and enhances the work being done by the two embassies.
Looking beyond AmCham Chile, how do you see relations between the US and Latin America developing over the next couple of years?
The relationship of the US is with different sovereign states, rather than with the region. There is a group of countries, like Chile, that have benefited from working to develop that relationship in a positive way, generating prosperity – jobs and opportunities – for their peoples. One initiative with several of those countries is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There is, of course, another group of countries that have their own internal challenges; with those countries, the US should maintain relationships for opportunities in the future. And, then, there’s Brazil, which has its own geopolitical importance beyond the region and its own unique relationship with other countries.
What do you see as the timetable for the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
There has been interest to see if it can be closed by October but, recently, Japan has been invited to participate. That’s an incredibly powerful new element in the process and it’s important it’s done correctly. That’s not to say it should take forever, but I do think it needs to be done well because it means such important benefits for the peoples of all the countries that participate.
Ruth Bradley is a freelance journalist based in Santiago and a former editor of bUSiness CHILE.