Building on a successful investment strategy
For Chile, international integration is not a passing fashion. It is a strategic project that determine the country’s capacity for ongoing growth and development. And foreign investors have a key place in this project.
Chile has many natural advantages. Our long, narrow country is an immense source of wealth, ranging from the vast, mining-rich Atacama Desert to the fertile agricultural lands of central and southern Chile and the imposing glaciers and water resources of Patagonia.
The Chilean people are also a key asset. Developing our human capital is one of the pillars of our growth strategy. Experience shows that we score well on this point. Educational coverage is extremely high; some of Latin America’s best universities and business schools are in Chile; and, according to a National Census, over 16% of the population, up from just 9% a decade ago, has a higher-education qualification.
But if smaller economies, like Chile are to take full advantage of their natural wealth, they must integrate into, and compete on, international markets. That is imperative for successful development.
Chile no longer seems as remote as it once did. Over the last decade, modern transport infrastructure, advanced logistics and world-class telecommunications services have helped to demolish the barriers of distance between our country and the rest of the world. And, because Chilean firms have expanded internationally, our businesspeople and executives have the advantage of hands-on experience of markets around the world.
At the same time, Chile has successfully opened its own markets to foreign investors. They are not only welcomed and assured of freedom from discrimination, but also find an attractive business environment, anchored in Chile’s political and social stability, its solid macroeconomic fundamentals and its tradition of integrity and transparency.
Today, as a result of these policies, Chile is widely identified as an obvious first choice for foreign investors seeking to expand into Latin America and, indeed, other world markets. This is, we believe, one of the keys to the future of foreign investment in Chile. A growing number of overseas companies are already using Chile as a base from which to export to – or provide services for – regional markets. But we are not resting on our laurels. Instead, the Chilean Government is actively seeking to encourage this new trend by, for example, eliminating tax barriers to the use of Chile as a platform for investments in other countries.
Chile is also deeply committed to free trade. Since 1990, we have developed an expanding network of free trade agreements, including Mexico and Canada. The trade agreements signed with China, the European Union, the United States, South Korea and the European Free Trade Association, as well as the Strategic Transpacific Economic Association Agreement with New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei, have not only opened up many more foreign markets to Chilean goods; they have also led to more dynamic cultural and social exchange among these countries and international cooperation in the area of science and technology.
These agreements, combined with others in Latin America – including Chile’s associate membership of the MERCOSUR bloc – have helped businesses in our country to escape the constraints of a small domestic market. Instead of targeting only Chile’s 15 million inhabitants, they now enjoy privileged access to over 800 million consumers around the world, a figure that will rise to almost 1.2 billion, once our country’s free trade agreements with the United States, South Korea and the EFTA come into force.
But competitiveness is not only the result of export diversification and international integration; it also requires the joint efforts of all members of society, not just the government and the business sector. That is the only way to tap into a country’s full potential and, by promoting social cohesion, that is also what the Chilean Government is seeking to achieve.
The progress in the quality of education, a new unemployment insurance scheme, a reform of criminal justice and a plan to improve the efficiency and response time of healthcare services point in this direction, as do the efforts to deepen democracy and strengthen civil liberties. In a bid to guard against a digital divide within the country, the government is also sponsoring a network of public Internet centers and is also, for example, opening school computer laboratories, out of class hours, to communities, especially in poor and rural areas.
Since 1990, the number of Chileans living below the poverty line has halved, but much still remains to be done. In 2002, the Chilean Government launched a targeted program that seeks to reach those who still fall outside the state welfare net and, through this initiative, which benefits 225,000 families, eradicating extreme poverty. In addition, a number of adult education programs and workplace training schemes – in line with Chile’s policy of building labor skills – provide our less-qualified citizens with opportunities to better their employment prospects.
Chile offers a secure environment for its business investors and their employees. A low crime rate is just one of the elements that make up a high quality of life, which is widely appreciated by foreign investors. And Chile not only has an open economy, it is also open to social and cultural change.
Achieving stable and sustainable progress is not easy. But, through its steady economic growth and the increasing participation of its citizens in the benefits of that growth, Chile has shown that it is possible.
We know that, for all these reasons, Chile is attractive to foreign investors. But we also know that, in this new century, building on Chile’s advantages is crucial for the future of our country’s relationship with the rest of the world. That is why we are constantly seeking to improve the business environment we have created.