For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Republic of Chile
Area: 756,945 sq. km. (302,778 sq. mi.); nearly twice the size of California.
Cities: Capital--Santiago (metropolitan area est. 6.25 million). Other cities--Concepcion-Talcahuano (840,000), Viña del Mar-Valparaiso (800,000), Antofagasta (245,000), Temuco (230,000).
Terrain: Desert in north; fertile central valley; volcanoes and lakes toward the south, giving way to rugged and complex coastline; Andes Mountains on the eastern border.
Climate: Arid in north, Mediterranean in the central portion, cool and damp in south.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Chilean(s).
Population (2007): 16.5 million.
Annual population growth rate: 1.0%.
Ethnic groups: Spanish-Native-American (mestizo), European, Native-American.
Religions: Roman Catholic 89%; Protestant 11%.
Education: Years compulsory--12. Attendance--3 million. Adult literacy rate--96%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.9/1,000. Life expectancy--71 yrs. for men, 78 for women.
Work force (6.94 million); employed 6.45 million: Community, social and individual services--26%; industry--14.4%; commerce--17.6%; agriculture, forestry, and fishing--13.9%; construction--7.1%; financial services--7.5%; transportation and communication--8.0%; electricity, gas and water--0.5%; mining--1.2%.
Independence: September 18, 1810.
Constitution: Promulgated September 11, 1980; effective March 11, 1981; amended in 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2005.
Branches: Executive--president. Legislative--bicameral legislature. Judicial--Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, court of appeals, military courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 14 numbered regions including two recently numbered and made operative October 8, 2007--Region XIV Los Rios and Region XV Arica-- and the Santiago metropolitan region, administered by appointed "intendentes." Regions are divided into provinces, administered by appointed governors; provinces are divided into municipalities administered by elected mayors.
Political parties: Major parties are grouped into two large coalitions: 1) the center-left "Concertacion", which includes the Christian Democrat Party, the Socialist Party, the Party for Democracy, and the Radical Social Democratic Party; and 2) the center-right "Alliance for Chile", which includes the National Renewal Party and the Independent Democratic Union. The Communist Party joined the Humanistic Party and a number of smaller parties to form the "Together We Can" coalition in 2004, but none of these leftist parties have recently elected congressional representatives. A new center-left party, "Chile-First," was established in October 2007.
Suffrage: Universal at 18, including foreigners legally resident for more than 5 years.
GDP (official exchange rate): $162.5 billion.
Annual real growth rate: 5.2%.
Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity): $13,900.
Forestry, agriculture, and fisheries (6% of GDP): Products--wheat, potatoes, corn, sugar beets, onions, beans, fruits, livestock, fish.
Commerce (8% of GDP): Sales, restaurants, hotels.
Manufacturing (17% of GDP): Types--mineral refining, metal manufacturing, food processing, fish processing, paper and wood products, finished textiles.
Electricity, gas, and water: 3% of GDP.
Transportation and communication: 7% of GDP.
Construction: 8% of GDP.
Financial services (12% of GDP): Insurance, leasing, consulting.
Mining (13% of GDP): Copper, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, and molybdenum.
Trade: Exports--$66.6 billion: copper, fishmeal, fruits, wood products, paper products, fish, wine. Major markets--U.S., Japan, China, Netherlands, South Korea, Brazil, Italy, Mexico. Imports--$46.2 billion: consumer goods, chemicals, motor vehicles, fuels, electrical machinery, heavy industrial machinery, food. Major suppliers--EU, Argentina, U.S., Brazil, China, South Korea.
The northern Chilean desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. This area also is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. The Andes Mountains are located on the eastern border.
About 85% of Chile's population lives in urban areas, with 40% living in greater Santiago. Most have Spanish ancestry. A small, yet influential number of Irish and English immigrants came to Chile during the colonial period. German immigration began in 1848 and lasted for 90 years; the southern provinces of Valdivia, Llanquihue, and Osorno show a strong German influence. Other significant immigrant groups are Italian, Croatian, Basque, and Palestinian. About 800,000 Native Americans, mostly of the Mapuche tribe, reside in the south-central area. The Aymara and Diaguita groups can be found mainly in Chile's northern desert valleys.
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Indians settled in fertile valleys and along the coast of what is now Chile. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the area's barrenness prevented extensive settlement. The first Europeans to arrive in Chile were Diego de Almagro and his band of Spanish conquistadors, who came from Peru seeking gold in 1535. The Spanish encountered hundreds of thousands of Indians from various cultures in the area that modern Chile now occupies. These cultures supported themselves principally through slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting. The conquest of Chile began in earnest in 1540 and was carried out by Pedro de Valdivia, one of Francisco Pizarro's lieutenants, who founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541. Although the Spanish did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile's central valley, and Chile became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The drive for independence from Spain was precipitated by usurpation of the Spanish throne by Napoleon's brother Joseph in 1808. A national junta in the name of Ferdinand--heir to the deposed king--was formed on September 18, 1810. The junta proclaimed Chile an autonomous republic within the Spanish monarchy. A movement for total independence soon won a wide following. Spanish attempts to reimpose arbitrary rule during what was called the "Reconquista" led to a prolonged struggle.
Intermittent warfare continued until 1817, when an army led by Bernardo O'Higgins, Chile's most renowned patriot, and José de San Martín, hero of Argentine independence, crossed the Andes into Chile and defeated the royalists. On February 12, 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic under O'Higgins' leadership. The political revolt brought little social change, however, and 19th century Chilean society preserved the essence of the stratified colonial social structure, which was greatly influenced by family politics and the Roman Catholic Church. A strong presidency eventually emerged, but wealthy landowners remained extremely powerful. Toward the end of the 19th century, the government in Santiago consolidated its position in the south by suppressing the Mapuche Indians. In 1881, it signed a treaty with Argentina confirming Chilean sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan. As a result of the War of the Pacific with Peru and Bolivia (1879-83), Chile expanded its territory northward by almost one-third and acquired valuable nitrate deposits, the exploitation of which led to an era of national affluence. Chile established a parliamentary democracy in the late 19th century, but degenerated into a system protecting the interests of the ruling oligarchy. By the 1920s, the emerging middle and working classes were powerful enough to elect a reformist president, whose program was frustrated by a conservative congress. In the 1920s, Marxist groups with strong popular support arose.
Continuing political and economic instability resulted with the rule of the quasi-dictatorial Gen. Carlos Ibanez (1924-32). When constitutional rule was restored in 1932, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. It became the key force in coalition governments for the next 20 years. During the period of Radical Party dominance (1932-52), the state increased its role in the economy.
The 1964 presidential election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei-Montalva by an absolute majority initiated a period of major reform. Under the slogan "Revolution in Liberty," the Frei administration embarked on far-reaching social and economic programs, particularly in education, housing, and agrarian reform, including rural unionization of agricultural workers. By 1967, however, Frei encountered increasing opposition from leftists, who charged that his reforms were inadequate, and from conservatives, who found them excessive. At the end of his term, Frei had accomplished many noteworthy objectives, but he had not fully achieved his party's ambitious goals. In 1970, Senator Salvador Allende, a Marxist and member of Chile's Socialist Party, who headed the "Popular Unity" (UP) coalition of socialists, communists, radicals, and dissident Christian Democrats, won a plurality of votes in a three-way contest and was named President by the Chilean Congress. His program included the nationalization of private industries and banks, massive land expropriation, and collectivization. Allende's program also included the nationalization of U.S. interests in Chile's major copper mines.
Elected with only 36% of the vote and by a plurality of only 36,000 votes, Allende never enjoyed majority support in the Chilean Congress or broad popular support. Domestic production declined; severe shortages of consumer goods, food, and manufactured products were widespread; and inflation reached 1,000% per annum. Mass demonstrations, recurring strikes, violence by both government supporters and opponents, and widespread rural unrest ensued in response to the general deterioration of the economy. By 1973, Chilean society had split into two hostile camps.
A military coup overthrew Allende on September 11, 1973. As the armed forces bombarded the presidential palace, Allende reportedly committed suicide. A military government, led by General Augusto Pinochet, took over control of the country. The first years of the regime in particular were marked by serious human rights violations. A new Constitution was approved by a plebiscite on September 11, 1980, and General Pinochet became President of the Republic for an 8-year term. In its later years, the regime gradually permitted greater freedom of assembly, speech, and association, to include trade union activity. In contrast to its authoritarian political rule, the military government pursued decidedly laissez-faire economic policies. During its 16 years in power, Chile moved away from economic statism toward a largely free market economy that fostered an increase in domestic and foreign private investment. In a plebiscite on October 5, 1988, General Pinochet was denied a second 8-year term as president. Chileans voted for elections to choose a new president and the majority of members of a two-chamber congress. On December 14, 1989, Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 political parties called the Concertacion, was elected president. Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994 and was succeeded by another Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (son of Frei-Montalva), leading the same coalition, for a 6-year term. Ricardo Lagos Escobar of the Socialist Party and the Party for Democracy led the Concertacion to a narrower victory in the 2000 presidential elections. His term ended on March 11, 2006, when President Michelle Bachelet Jeria, of the Socialist Party, took office.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Chile's Constitution was approved in a September 1980 national plebiscite. It entered into force in March 1981. After Pinochet's defeat in the 1988 plebiscite, the Constitution was amended to ease provisions for future amendments to the Constitution. In September 2005, President Ricardo Lagos signed into law several constitutional amendments passed by Congress. These include eliminating the positions of appointed senators and senators for life, granting the President authority to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, and reducing the presidential term from six to four years.
Presidential and congressional elections were held December 2005 and January 2006. In the first round of presidential elections, none of the four presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote. As a result, the top two vote-getters--center-left Concertacion coalition's Michelle Bachelet and center-right Alianza coalition's Sebastian Piñera--competed in a run-off election on January 15, 2006, which Michelle Bachelet won. This was Chile's fourth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All four have been judged free and fair. The President is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms. President Bachelet and the new members of Congress took office on March 11, 2006.
The next round of presidential and congressional elections are scheduled for December 2009. President Bachelet is constitutionally precluded from running again. Sebastian Piñera, a member of the National Renewal Party (RN), will again be the presidential candidate of the Alianza coalition. Former president Eduardo Frei is the leading candidate for the Concertacion.
Chile has a bicameral Congress, which meets in the port city of Valparaiso, about 140 kilometers (84 mi.) west of the capital, Santiago. Deputies are elected every 4 years, and Senators serve 8-year terms. Chile's congressional elections are governed by a unique binomial system that rewards coalition slates. Each coalition can run two candidates for the two Senate and two Deputy seats apportioned to each electoral district. Historically, the two largest coalitions (Concertacion and Alianza) split most of the seats in a district. Only if the leading coalition ticket out-polls the second-place coalition by a margin of more than 2-to-1 does the winning coalition gain both seats.
In the December 11, 2005 congressional elections, the Concertacion coalition won a majority in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. In the 38-member Senate, the Concertacion coalition holds 19 seats and the Alianza opposition holds 17. There are two independents. In the 120-member Chamber of Deputies, the Concertacion coalitions holds 62 seats and the Alianza holds 53. There are five independents.
On October 26, 2008, elections were held nationwide for municipal offices. Widely seen as a bellwether of the national political mood, they delivered mixed results. The center-right coalition, Alianza, made significant gains in the number of mayoral posts it holds, exceeding the number held by Concertacion for the first time in two decades and capturing the most important municipal position in the country: mayor of Santiago. However, in the city council races, which are seen as a more reliable indicator of party strength, Alianza failed to significantly close the 10-point lead Concertacion enjoyed after the last municipal election.
Chile's judiciary is independent and includes a court of appeal, a system of military courts, a constitutional tribunal, and the Supreme Court. In June 2005, Chile completed a nation-wide overhaul of its criminal justice system. The reform has replaced inquisitorial proceedings with an adversarial system, similar to that of the United States.
Principal Government Officials
President--Michelle BACHELET Jeria
Minister of Interior--Edmundo PEREZ YOMA
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Alejandro FOXLEY Rioseco
Ambassador to the United States--Mariano FERNÁNDEZ
Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS)--Pedro OYARCE Yuraszeck
Ambassador to the United Nations--Heraldo MUNOZ Valenzuela
Chile maintains an embassy in the United States at 1732 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036; tel: 202-785-1746, fax: 202-659-9624, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chile's Armed Forces are subject to civilian control exercised by the President through the Minister of Defense. The President appoints to four-year terms and has the authority to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces.
The commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army is General Oscar Izurieta Ferrer. The Chilean Army is 45,000 strong and is organized with an Army headquarters in Santiago, seven divisions throughout its territory, an Air Brigade in Rancagua, and a Special Forces Command in Colina. The Chilean Army is one of the most professional and technologically advanced armies in Latin America.
Admiral Rodolfo Codina directs the 23,000-person Navy, including 2,500 Marines. Of the fleet of 29 surface vessels, only eight are operational major combatants (frigates). Those ships are based in Valparaiso. The Navy operates its own aircraft for transport and patrol; there are no Navy fighter or bomber aircraft. The Navy also operates four submarines based in Talcahuano.
Air Force (FACH)
Gen. Ricardo Ortega Perrier heads a force of 12,500. Air assets are distributed among five air brigades headquartered in Iquique, Antofagasta, Santiago, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas. The Air Force also operates an airbase on King George Island, Antarctica. The FACH took delivery of the final 2 of 10 F-16s, all purchased from the U.S., in March 2007. Chile also took delivery in 2007 of a number of reconditioned Block 15 F-16s from the Netherlands, bringing to 18 the total of F-16s purchased from the Dutch.
After the military coup in September 1973, the Chilean national police (Carabineros) were incorporated into the Defense Ministry. With the return of democratic government, the police were placed under the operational control of the Interior Ministry but remained under the nominal control of the Defense Ministry. Gen. Eduardo Gordon is the head of the national police force of 30,000 men and women who are responsible for law enforcement, traffic management, narcotics suppression, border control, and counter-terrorism throughout Chile.
Chile has pursued generally sound economic policies for nearly three decades. The 1973-90 military government sold many state-owned companies, and the democratic governments since 1990 have continued privatization, though at a slower pace. The government's role in the economy is mostly limited to regulation, although the state continues to operate copper giant CODELCO and a few other enterprises (there is one state-run bank). Chile is strongly committed to free trade and has welcomed large amounts of foreign investment. Chile has signed trade agreements with 58 countries, including a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, which was signed in 2003 and implemented in January 2004. A new FTA with Australia will come into effect in 2009. Over the last several years, Chile has signed FTAs with the European Union, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, China, and Japan. Chile reached a partial trade agreement with India in 2005 and began negotiations for a full-fledged FTA with India in 2006. It continued negotiations with Malaysia, and Turkey in 2008 and worked with China to expand an existing agreement beyond just trade in goods. As a member of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, or P4 (Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, and Brunei), Chile strongly supported the U.S. Trade Representative’s September 2008 announcement that the U.S. will explore joining this agreement in 2009.
At present, the consensus among Chilean economists is that the global economic downturn will have a significant effect on Chile. Economic growth is expected to slow further in 2009, trade is likely to decline, and domestic economic activity will decrease, creating higher unemployment. The global financial crisis has affected liquidity in the Chilean banking system, making it harder for some companies to maintain access to capital. Demand for Chilean exports decreased toward the end of 2008. A dramatic decline in copper prices in the latter half of 2008 (copper hit its lowest price in three years in November 2008) also acted as a drag on growth in Chile’s economy. Copper exports accounted for more than half of Chile’s total exports in 2007. These factors caused many companies to reduce investment plans, cut costs, and begin layoffs toward the end of 2008.
High domestic savings and investment rates helped propel Chile's economy to average growth rates of almost 8% during the 1990s. The privatized national pension system (AFP) has encouraged domestic investment and contributed to high gross domestic savings rates, almost 26% of GDP in 2007. However, the AFP is not without its critics, who cite low participation rates (only 55% of the working population is covered), with groups such as the self-employed outside the system. There has also been criticism of the inefficiency and high costs due to a lack of competition among pension funds. The Bachelet administration still plans to reform the AFP during its last year in office.
Unemployment stubbornly hovered in the 8%-10% range after the start of the economic slowdown in 1999, well above the 5%-6% average for the 1990s. Unemployment finally dipped to 7.1% at the end of 2007, due more to the fact that fewer Chileans were entering the workforce rather than any substantial and sustained creation of new jobs. This decrease in unemployment can also be attributed to a limited increase in jobs caused by foreign direct investment. By 2008, however, unemployment began to increase again, with many experts predicting a significant increase in 2009, largely as a result of the global economic downturn. Most international observers place some of the blame for Chile's consistently high unemployment rate on complicated and restrictive labor laws. Wages have risen faster than inflation as a result of higher productivity, boosting national living standards. The percentage of Chileans with incomes below the poverty line--defined as twice the cost of satisfying a family of four's minimal nutritional needs--fell from 46% in 1987 to around 18.2% by 2005.
Chile's independent Central Bank currently pursues an inflation target of 3%. However, in 2007, inflation inched towards 8%--the first time inflation had exceeded 5% since 1998. In 2008, inflation increased further, hitting a high of 9.9% in October 2008, before moving lower again at the end of the year. In recent years, the Chilean peso's rapid appreciation against the U.S. dollar had helped dampen inflation. However, as the global financial crisis accelerated toward the end of 2008, the Chilean peso depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar. Most wage settlements and loans are indexed, reducing inflation's volatility. Under the compulsory private pension system, most formal sector employees pay 10% of their salaries into privately managed funds.
Total foreign direct investment (FDI) was only $3.4 billion in 2006, up 52% from a poor performance in 2005. However, 80% of FDI continues to go to only four sectors: electricity, gas, water and mining. Much of the jump in FDI in 2006 was also the result of acquisitions and mergers and has done little to create new employment in Chile. The Chilean Government has formed a Council on Innovation and Competition, which is tasked with identifying new sectors and industries to promote. It is hoped that this, combined with some tax reforms to encourage domestic and foreign investment in research and development, will bring in additional FDI to new parts of the economy. As of 2006, Chile invested only 0.6% of its annual GDP in research and development (R&D). Even then, two-thirds of that was government spending. The fact that domestic and foreign companies spend almost nothing on R&D does not bode well for the Government of Chile's efforts to develop innovative, knowledge-based sectors. Additionally, on January 8, 2007, Chile was placed on the U.S. Trade Representative's Priority Watch List due to its poor record on protecting intellectual property rights. Chile is only the second U.S. FTA partner ever to be placed on the Priority Watch List. Chile has a poor record of protecting copyrighted music, films, and software. Combined with this is its institutional structure allowing local companies to produce and market pharmaceutical generics that violate existing patents.
Beyond its general economic and political stability, the government also has encouraged the use of Chile as an "investment platform" for multinational corporations planning to operate in the region, but this will have limited value given the developing business climate in Chile itself. Chile's approach to foreign direct investment is codified in the country's Foreign Investment Law, which gives foreign investors the same treatment as Chileans. Registration is simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital. While Chile and the EU have signed a double taxation treaty, no such agreement exists between the U.S. and Chile. The lack of such a treaty is due largely to concern over existing banking secrecy laws in Chile. These laws have also proven to be an obstacle to Chile’s aspirations to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to which Chile formally applied for membership in 1995. In 2007, the OECD approved a “roadmap to accession” for Chile, which is still in process. The Government of Chile has indicated its willingness to revisit bank secrecy laws.
Successive Chilean governments have actively pursued trade-liberalizing agreements. During the 1990s, Chile negotiated FTAs with Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Chile also concluded preferential trade agreements with Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. An association agreement with Mercosur--Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay--went into effect in October 1996. Continuing its export-oriented development strategy, Chile completed landmark free trade agreements in 2003 with the European Union and 2004 with South Korea. Chile, as a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization, is seeking to boost commercial ties to Asian markets. To that end, it has signed trade agreements in recent years with New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, India, China, and most recently Japan. In 2009, an FTA with Australia will go into effect. Trade negotiations continue with Malaysia and Turkey. Chile is also working with China to finalize an expanded agreement, covering trade in services and investment. Chile is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and active in the WTO's Doha round.
The United States and Chile signed a comprehensive trade agreement in June 2003 that will lead to completely duty-free bilateral trade within 12 years. The U.S.-Chile FTA entered into force January 1, 2004 following approval by the U.S. and Chilean congresses. The bilateral FTA has greatly expanded U.S.-Chilean trade ties, with total bilateral trade jumping by 170% during the FTA's first four years.
Chile's overall trade profile has traditionally been dependent upon copper exports. The state-owned firm CODELCO is the world's largest copper-producing company, with recorded copper reserves of 200 years. Chile has made an effort to expand nontraditional exports. The most important non-mineral exports are forestry and wood products, fresh fruit and processed food, fishmeal and seafood, and wine.
Chile unilaterally lowered its across-the-board import tariff for all countries with which it does not have a trade agreement to 6% in 2003. Higher effective tariffs are charged only on imports of wheat, wheat flour, and sugar as a result of a system of import price bands. The price bands were ruled inconsistent with Chile's World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations in 2002, and the government has introduced legislation to modify them. Under the terms of the U.S.-Chile FTA, the price bands will be completely phased out for U.S. imports of wheat, wheat flour, and sugar within 12 years.
2006 was a record year for Chilean trade. Total trade registered a 31% increase over 2005. During 2006, exports of goods and services totaled U.S. $58 billion, an increase of 41%. This figure was somewhat distorted by the skyrocketing price of copper. In 2006, copper exports reached a historical high of U.S. $33.3 billion. Imports totaled U.S. $35 billion, an increase of 17% compared to the previous year. Chile thus recorded a positive trade balance of U.S. $23 billion in 2006.
The main destinations for Chilean exports were the Americas (U.S. $39 billion), Asia (U.S. $27.8 billion) and Europe (U.S. $22.2 billion). Seen as shares of Chile's export markets, 42% of exports went to the Americas, 30% to Asia and 24% to Europe. Within Chile's diversified network of trade relationships, its most important partner remained the United States. Total trade with the U.S. was U.S. $17 billion in 2007 as compared to U.S. $14.8 billion in 2006. Since the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement went into effect on January 1, 2004, U.S.-Chilean trade has increased by 170%.
Total trade with Europe also grew in 2006, expanding by 42%. The Netherlands and Italy were Chile's main European trading partners. Total trade with Asia also grew significantly at nearly 31%. Trade with Korea and Japan grew significantly, but China remained Chile's most important trading partner in Asia. Chile's total trade with China reached U.S. $8.8 billion in 2006, representing nearly 66% of the value of its trade relationship with Asia.
The growth of exports in 2006 was due mainly to a strong increase in sales to the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan. These three markets alone accounted for an additional U.S. $5.5 billion worth of Chilean exports. In 2007, Chilean exports to the United States totaled U.S. $8.4 billion, representing a 10% decrease compared to 2006 (U.S. $9.3 billion). Within the same year, exports to China were U.S. $9.9 billion. Exports to Japan and South Korea reached U.S. $7.1 billion and U.S. $3.8 billion respectively.
During 2006, Chile imported U.S. $26 billion from the Americas, representing 54% of total imports, followed by Asia at 22%, and Europe at 16%. Mercosur members were the main suppliers of imports to Chile at U.S. $9.1 billion, followed by the United States with U.S. $5.5 billion and the European Union with U.S. $5.2 billion. From Asia, China was the most important exporter to Chile, with goods valued at U.S. $3.6 billion. Year-on-year growth in imports was especially strong from a number of countries--Ecuador (123.9%), Thailand (72.1%), Korea (52.6%), and China (36.9%).
Chile's financial sector has grown quickly in recent years, with a banking reform law approved in 1997 that broadened the scope of permissible foreign activity for Chilean banks. The Chilean Government implemented a further liberalization of capital markets in 2001, and there is pending legislation proposing additional liberalization. Over the last ten years, Chileans have enjoyed the introduction of new financial tools such as home equity loans, currency futures and options, factoring, leasing, and debit cards. The introduction of these new products has also been accompanied by an increased use of traditional instruments such as loans and credit cards. Chile's private pension system, with assets worth roughly $70 billion at the end of 2006, has been an important source of investment capital for financial markets. Chile maintains one of the best credit ratings (S&P A+) in Latin America. There are three main ways for Chilean firms to raise funds abroad: bank loans, issuance of bonds, and the selling of stocks on U.S. markets through American Depository Receipts (ADRs). Nearly all of the funds raised through these means go to finance domestic Chilean investment. The government is required by law to run a fiscal surplus of at least 1% of GDP. In 2006, the Government of Chile ran a surplus of $11.3 billion, equal to almost 8% of GDP. The Government of Chile continues to pay down its foreign debt, with public debt only 2.25% of GDP at the end of 2007.
Since its return to democracy in 1990, Chile has been an active participant in the international political arena. Chile completed a 2-year non-permanent position on the UN Security Council in January 2005. Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean national, was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States in May 2005. Chile is currently serving on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, and serves as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) president pro tempore. The country is an active member of the UN family of agencies and participates in UN peacekeeping activities; Chile currently has the largest group of Latin American peacekeepers in Haiti. Chile hosted the Defense Ministerial of the Americas in 2002 and the APEC summit and related meetings in 2004. It also hosted the Community of Democracies ministerial in April 2005 and the Ibero-American Summit in November 2007. An associate member of Mercosur, a full member of APEC, a member of the Arco del Pacifico, and a member of the Pathways to Prosperity, Chile has been an important actor on international economic issues and hemispheric free trade. Chile will host the Americas Competitiveness Forum in 2009.
The Chilean Government has diplomatic relations with most countries. It settled its territorial disputes with Argentina during the 1990s. Chile and Bolivia severed diplomatic ties in 1978 over Bolivia's desire to reacquire territory it lost to Chile in 1879-83 War of the Pacific. The two countries maintain consular relations and are represented at the Consul General level. In January 2008, Peru submitted a case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague asking for a decision on a new maritime border with Chile.
In May 2008, President Bachelet announced government plans to significantly increase scholarships for Chileans to study abroad. The new Government of Chile scholarship program was launched with a goal of sending over 1,000 students/scholars overseas in 2008 and 2,500 in 2009. Program leaders estimate that approximately one-third may choose to study in the U.S.
Relations between the United States and Chile are better now than at any other time in history. The U.S. Government applauded the rebirth of democratic practices in Chile in the late 1980s and early 1990s and sees the maintenance of a vibrant democracy and a healthy and sustainable economy as among the most important U.S. interests in Chile. Besides the landmark U.S.-Chile FTA, the two governments consult frequently on issues of mutual concern, including in the areas of multilateral diplomacy, security, culture, and science.
In June 2008, President Bachelet and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the Chile-California Partnership for the 21st Century. The partnership will foster collaboration between individuals, government, and the private sector in areas such as agriculture, energy efficiency, environmental resource management, and education. A similar program existed from 1963-1970, and this renewed effort will seek to leverage the numerous economic and geographic similarities between Chile and California.
The U.S. Chile Equal Opportunities Scholarship Program, inaugurated in 2007, was established to sponsor English and academic studies for Chilean PhD students who come from disadvantaged and rural areas that have not traditionally had access to English language schools or study abroad opportunities. The program has been quite successful, becoming a model for other international scholarships programs with Chile.
U.S. Embassy Functions
In addition to working closely with Chilean Government officials to strengthen our bilateral relationship, the U.S. Embassy in Santiago provides a wide range of services to U.S. citizens and businesses in Chile. (Please see the embassy's home page for details of these services.) The Embassy also is the locus for a number of American community activities in the Santiago area.
The Public Affairs Section cooperates with universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on a variety of programs of bilateral interest. Of special note are extensive U.S. Speaker, International Visitor, and Fulbright academic exchange programs. Themes of particular interest include energy and environmental issues, trade, intellectual property rights, international security, democratic governance in the region, educational quality, law enforcement, and the teaching of English. The Public Affairs Section works daily with Chilean media, which has a keen interest in bilateral and regional relations. It also assists visiting foreign media, including U.S. journalists, and is regularly involved in press events for high-level visitors. The Public Affairs Section, largely through the Information Resource Center, disseminates information about U.S. policies, society, and culture.
Attachés at the Embassy from the Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) work closely with the hundreds of U.S. companies who export to or maintain offices in Chile. These officers provide information on Chilean trade and industry regulations and administer several programs intended to support U.S. companies' sales in Chile.
The Consular Section of the Embassy provides vital services to the more than 10,000 U.S. citizens residing in Chile. It assists Americans who wish to vote in U.S. elections while abroad, provides U.S. tax information, and facilitates government benefits/social security payments. Besides those U.S. citizens resident in Chile, about 170,000 U.S. citizens visit Chile annually. The Consular Section offers passport and emergency services to U.S. tourists during their stay in Chile. It also issued about 66,000 visitor visas in FY 2008 to Chilean citizens who planned to travel to the United States.
The Consular Section carefully monitors three email accounts and responds to questions:
Non-immigrant visa questions - Santiagovisa@state.gov
Immigrant visa and U.S. residency questions - email@example.com
Questions about American Citizen Services - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Paul E. Simons
Deputy Chief of Mission--Carol Urban
Public Affairs Counselor--Laurie B. Weitzenkorn
Management Counselor--Eric Khant
Commercial Counselor--Mitchell G. Larsen
Economic and Political Counselor--Timothy Stater
Consul General--Christian Bendsen
Defense Attaché--Captain Richard W. Goodwyn, USN
Military Group Commander--Colonel Mark Stratton, USAF
Agricultural Counselor--Joseph López
APHIS Attaché--George Ball
Legal Attaché--Stanley Stoy
Drug Enforcement Administration--Dave Horan
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Santiago are located at 2800 Andres Bello Avenue, Las Condes, (tel. 562-330-3000; fax: 562-330-3710; website: http://chile.usembassy.gov). The mailing address is 2800 Andres Bello Avenue, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile. The Embassy Facebook link provides useful information to U.S. and Chilean youths interested in overseas education opportunities: www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Condes-Chile/US-Embassy-Santiago/92125180021
Other Contact Information
American Chamber of Commerce in Chile
Avenida Presidente Kennedy 5735, Oficina 201
Torre Poniente, Las Condes
Website: http://www.amchamchile.cl (Spanish)
Comite de Inversiones Extranjeras (Foreign Investment Committee)
Andres Culagovski, Acting Executive Vice President
Teatinos 120, P. 10; Santiago, Chile
Chilean Government Agencies
U.S. Department of Commerce
Trade Information Center
International Trade Administration
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Additional information regarding U.S. and U.S.-Chile trade can be found at the following websites: http://www.export.gov/ and http://www.buyusa.gov/chile/en/.