The latest United States Ambassador to Chile, Carol Perez, lays out the guiding principles of her new administration in the country.
I begin my post with tremendous passion, energy and optimism. Nothing less would suffice given that Chile and the United States have a bilateral relationship that is diverse, broad and extremely important. We are friends and partners and work together on issues that not only affect the lives of our citizens, but also people right around the world. We collaborate closely in areas that range from environmental protection and joint economic prosperity, to the promotion of human rights.
During my time as Ambassador I will focus on four key areas
First, I will prioritize efforts to foster the shared economic prosperity of our countries. The United States is proud to be the largest source of foreign direct investment in Chile and the second most important trade partner.
American businesses provide investment across all sectors of the Chilean economy. In fact, it is almost impossible to name an industrial sector in which there are no significant investments from the US. This is particularly important, not only due to the significance of the billions of dollars invested in Chile, but also because of the contribution of these investments in the creation of jobs, the promotion of innovation, economic diversification and the entrepreneurial spirit that defines Americans.
But when we speak about investment, we do not only refer to the flow of capital from the United States to Chile. Foreign direct investment from Chile to the US has also increased rapidly and now ranks second worldwide in terms of the growth rate of direct investment. I hope to see this rise even further.
We also enormously value cooperation with Chile in the promotion of small businesses, especially in regard to strengthening companies whose work is directed towards women, as well as the integration of small and medium enterprises into the global trade network. Entrepreneurship is important for both economies because it helps us to build participatory, innovative and healthy societies; encouraging gender equality in business leadership brings numerous benefits that go far beyond just the economic and trade-related.
My second area of interest will be to strengthen existing cooperation and to create new partnerships. This includes working with civil society to promote LGBTI rights, peacekeeping missions, joint exercises, and training activities to tackle natural disasters. I will be searching for ways to boost our efforts to confront the global challenges that affect people across the planet.
Third, I will forge the ties of friendship between the Chilean and American people, especially through educational exchange and joint scientific research. In his visit to Chile in 2011, President Obama stressed the importance of academic exchange when he launched “100,000 Strong in the Americas”, an initiative that aims to increase exchange programs involving students, researchers and academics between the US, Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada. Five years later and relationships at the educational level between our countries continue to grow and deepen. The number of Chileans studying in the United States has grown by over two thirds in the last decade, while the number of Americans who studied in Chile from 2014-2015 was 3,100.
Educational exchange programs benefit us all in every way. This is because the security, stability and economic vitality of our countries is increasingly more complex and globalized, and which depends significantly on having citizens whose education includes knowledge of foreign languages and an understanding of other cultures.
As in other aspects of our bilateral relationship, there are mutual benefits in our joint collaboration in relation to the environment and scientific research. Chile today hosts approximately 40 per cent of the world’s astronomical infrastructure, a figure which is estimated to grow to 75 per cent by 2025. A large part of this infrastructure and its operations is supported by the US Government, as well as America’s universities and private sector.
This collaborative work is replicated across a broad range of research related to seismology, oceanography, robotics, clean energy and Antarctic investigation.
Finally and, as always, the main priority of the US Government is to protect the wellbeing of its citizens. Generally speaking, about 50,000 Americans live in Chile and thousands more visit the country every year. In 2015, 220,000 US citizens visited Chile for tourism or business, a record figure. And, largely thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, increasing numbers of Chileans travel to the US every year, further strengthening the ties between our governments and people.
I am incredibly proud to be the first women US Ambassador to Chile. Over the course of my life I have witnessed great progress, but there is still a long way to go in terms of generating opportunities that genuinely contribute to gender equality. I firmly believe that our workplaces should be inclusive, with reasonable expectations for us to feel fulfilled professionally but still have time to spend with our loved ones. This work-life balance can often be difficult to bring about. This is not only true for women, but also for men. However, when we achieve this balance, the whole of society benefits.
To conclude, in light of the election of the new President of the United States, I am confident and optimistic that the new administration, which reflects the will of the American people, will look for a new and dynamic form of leadership. I am honored to represent my country in Chile and am greatly interested in continuing to work together for a bilateral relationship that endures over time.