AmCham president: “We have to progress from being the flashlight to the laser pointer”

Carey rejects the notion that the administration of US President Trump will alter relations between the two countries and he trusts that the American Senate will pass the Avoidance of Double Taxation Treaty drawn up by both nations. And his priorities? To focus on concrete and targeted measures that promote the development of businesses in specific industries, while also firmly embedding future topics such as big data, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity on the agenda. In addition, he aims to strengthen the areas of sustainability and energy. Carey’s goal is to take business missions to a new level and to emphasize actions that add value to both the members of the Chamber and society in general.

In January 2017, the reigns of the Chilean American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham Chile, were taken over by the lawyer Guillermo Carey. Carey is a well-known face within the Chamber due to his active involvement over the past two years on its board of directors and his influential participation on the Innovation and Intellectual Property Committee.

Although his management will largely continue on from that of Kathleen Barclay, who was Chamber president for two consecutive periods, Carey will seek to imprint his own mark on AmCham Chile. His overriding premise is to focus on, “issues that are central to current global debate, but which are still regarded in Chile as relating more to the future than the present”.

In particular, his gaze is set on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, for which he will be closely monitoring discussions in the Chilean Congress related to the bill to reform the personal data act.

The trained lawyer from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile will be in his post until 2018, a period during which he states the desire to, “progress from being the flashlight to the laser pointer”: rather than illuminating and covering all challenges facing Chile today, he wishes to specifically focus on those which are capable of adding the greatest value to Chamber members and the wider business environment.

– AmCham Chile has moved on from being led by an American to a Chilean. Does this imply a change of outlook in terms of the relationship between the two countries?

Not necessarily. We have worked over the last few years to strengthen AmCham Chile’s new institutional framework, via good corporate governance and a modern code of ethics. We are prepared to oversee the continuity of a long-term project that reflects the deepest values and mission of the Chamber. As a result, I do not foresee extensive changes, although there will be certain distinct emphases.

Regarding the trade relationship with the United States, we will also maintain continuity with what has been achieved over recent years. For example, we will continue with strategic investment programs in the US, such as Look North, an area in which Kathleen (Barclay), as a former president of AmCham Chile, is now leading, and we will also be working towards the passage of the Avoidance of Double Taxation Treaty.

– What are your management priorities?

We are going to work even harder on pursuing our mission: promoting free trade between Chile and the United States and adding value to our members and society by generating dialogue and building bridges with different stakeholders in Chile. Furthermore, we will position certain themes that are currently being addressed in other countries but which in Chile are still perceived as being more relevant to the future, such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, big data and cybersecurity. The world is changing at an incredible speed and developments in technology are posing significant ethical and human capital-related challenges. We cannot marginalize ourselves from that debate. We have to ask ourselves important questions and we must consider how we are going to address these issues as a country.

-Until now, focus has been on areas such as energy, biotechnology, trade and innovation. Will other issues be included under your management?

We will continue to focus on these areas but we are particularly keen to delve deeper into issues such as sustainability and community relations, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the aforementioned technological challenges. Our strategy will be to emphasize the subjects that are most relevant to the here and now, which are only just starting to emerge in Chile but that, undoubtedly, will revolutionize our way of life, as well as our economy and society.

A good metaphor to explain our strategy is that we want to act like a laser pointer to search for and focus on the specific areas which mark the difference in terms of the development of certain sectors, and then support them through efforts towards that end. That is why we will not only be concentrating on the most important national issues. A recent example of this new approach we are looking to apply at AmCham Chile was the staging of a working group that brought together representatives of companies from the medical equipment sector within the Chamber in order to add value to the work they are undertaking.

A further area of particular importance to our members, and us as an organization, is the challenge posed by the new labor law in Chile. This legislation will provide a unique opportunity to embrace certain new aspects, such as the corporate governance of trade unions. This will help to generate increased transparency with regard to the sources of trade union funding and the interests that they are representing. This is an area in which we can learn from the best practices applied in the United States, where business owners and/or managers work in conjunction with employees to seek joint solutions for the respective company. These are the kinds of practices that we would like to import.

– Does your agenda include any new or concrete actions?

The best way to understand the US ecosystem is by undertaking business missions, which have always been highly valued by our members. In the past, the missions were framed as relatively isolated activities but following extensive analysis, we now realize that there is huge potential to enhance them further. To expand on the previous metaphor, we were highly focused on being the flashlight, in illuminating and touching on a wide range of issues in a broad manner. Conversely, this year we want to focus on missions that add clearer, more specific and more direct value: the laser pointer, if you will. We want to take these business missions to the 2.0 level, creating ecosystems that generate a greater impact on the national stage.

Specifically, we have already undertaken a public-private mission to New York and Boston on electric power distribution, in light of certain challenges facing the country in this area. We are also planning two further missions: one on biotechnology and the other on sustainability, which are both key issues on our agenda.

We are also interested in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. A few years ago, we began working on the Look North program, which aims to assist Chilean entrepreneurs to learn about and then commence operations in the US market. This initiative consists of various aspects but, to date, the main focus has been on conducting missions. However, we believe that work still needs to be done on creating a sound ecosystem, which involves the promotion of success stories that can be used as examples and a guide to encourage new entrepreneurs.

– In addition to the Look North program, what other initiatives will you be promoting to strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship?

Our main focus is Look North and to help create the aforementioned ecosystem. We will also place emphasis on everything related to financing, an issue that we began to address last year. Chile has a number of early-stage financing programs but funds are not available for the subsequent phases.

That is why it is important to generate debate around the issue of gap funding, which stretches from the early stage to a first or second round of capital raising, in order to enable company scaling. In this regard there is the Corfo program, Scale, but authorities need to define whether this scheme will provide resources to all projects or simply focus on those capable of generating the greatest impact.

We need success stories so that Chilean investors learn and dare to take the plunge. Venture capitals in Chile are very conservative and risk averse; they are not willing to lose. Therefore, we have to create an ecosystem in which players become, to a certain extent, used to losing, and when they win, they win big.

-How are you planning to promote this shift in the national ecosystem?

Via missions that include the participation of both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Entrepreneurship is highly developed in the United States, in which there are funds specializing in particular stages of financing. For example, in biotechnology there are funds that are only invested in the preclinical phase, and then others which focus on phase one or two. We would like to import these kinds of practices, while also generating contacts from which we can build bridges.

We do not wish to compete for entrepreneurs, but we are interested in identifying who is entering the United States or those who have the potential to make it there but have not, as yet, done so. To date, we have focused mainly on US companies that come to Chile. We would like the switch this around and strengthen Chilean companies to explore and begin operations in the US market, which is why we are going to expand our membership base for local businesses.

Finally, we want to provide education on innovation. We believe that our goal should be to help create a change in the DNA of Chilean companies in terms of the way their leadership works. This will automatically expedite innovation. If we are able to change the mindset of CEOs, introduce measurement parameters and reward innovation, a virtuous cycle and fertile territory for innovation will undoubtedly emerge.

THE TRUMP EFFECT

– Is the Trump administration a hindrance to engendering trade relations between Chile and the United States?

Nobody can say for certain what will happen in the future. The relationship between Chile and the United States is strong. Trade between the two countries has been beneficial to both, growing by the factor of ten between 2004 and 2016 alone. I therefore doubt that there will be any significant change in this regard.

Furthermore, the United States is Chile’s largest import market, and in terms of exports, it purchases more services from Chile than any other country. Evidence exists to show that the Free Trade Agreement has been highly positive for both countries and so I would be very surprised if this were to change. On the contrary, I believe that new opportunities will arise from president Trump’s goal of promoting infrastructure investments and revitalizing the US economy. Accordingly, Chilean companies have a good opportunity to increase their presence in the US, which is why we are more interested than ever to enhance the Look North program.

– AmCham Chile has been an advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). At this point in time, the treaty seems to be stalled. How do you see it?

AmCham Chile promotes and supports free trade in all its forms, which is why we deem the TPP, which is a latest generation treaty, to be of benefit to the country. However, this issue needs to be assessed from two different perspectives. Objectively, from the trade point of view, Chile has already signed treaties with all other signatories of the TPP. I do not think that the withdrawal of the United States from negotiations will affect Chilean trade opportunities with the other member countries. Therefore, I do not foresee the possible failure of the TPP as leading to any significant problems for Chile.

On the other hand, it is also important to consider the fact that multilateralism, based on the European Union model, is convenient because it ensures that all member states are treated as equals, rather than as small, medium and large countries. This aspect is especially valuable for a small economy like Chile.

The most important thing, given these two provisos, is that AmCham Chile will continue to support all free trade agreements.

– One pending task is the Avoidance of Double Taxation Treaty currently awaiting passage in the US Congress. How are you approaching this topic and what is your perspective?

This is a priority issue for AmCham Chile and we will be working to highlight the benefits that the treaty’s ratification would have for both countries. Its ratification is a long-standing desire of many US companies that are investing in Chile. Given the growing volumes of trade between the two nations, an agreement of this nature is absolutely vital. We are in contact with the US Chamber of Commerce to provide them with all the information they require in order to explain the benefits of the agreement to members of Congress.

However, it should be noted that Chile is not the only country waiting for the US Congress to resume discussions regarding this type of treaty. With the change of government in that country, the draft was returned to the Committee on Foreign Relations and we have to wait for the new legislative priorities of the Senate to be defined. As a result, there is no confirmed date as yet. We are confident that the treaty will be approved soon because its postponement could have an impact of up to 10% in terms of the profits repatriated by US companies in Chile.

– Finally, what mark do you hope your leadership will leave?

We want to position AmCham Chile as a platform from which its members become involved in the most pressing issues facing the country. Today in Chile, the general environment is highly polarized and the only way to overcome this situation is by means of joint participation between all actors.

We want to act as a meeting place in which constructive debates are held across all our committees and whereby the Chamber is able to generate open dialogue with authorities to bring about the unity and development of the nation as a whole.

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