Chile received even more good news this week when it learned that it had a current trade surplus of more than $334 million through mid-May in comparison to a deficit of $62.2 million for the same period last year. World market prices for some key Chilean exports including copper, fruits and fish meal have been stronger than expected.
An optimistic mood also prompted by Chile’s democratic presidential elections earlier this year pervaded an economic seminar held at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Atlanta this week.
Coordinated by Pedro Pablo Diaz, Chile’s Honorary Consul in Atlanta, the conference brought together boosters of the country from both the U.S. and Chilean governments as well as their private sectors.
Mr. Diaz, also director of communications for Coca-Cola International’s Latin America Group, said Chile has experienced 10 consecutive years of economic growth. Since 1985, annual gross domestic product growth has averaged 6.1%, and unemployment in 1993 was 4.5%, the lowest in 30 years.
Chile also has benefited from foreign investment which has been averaging more than $1 billion per year since 1983, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures. Last year, investment rose to $1.7 billion, with the U.S. remaining Chile’s principal foreign investor.
At the same time, Chile has been maintaining some of the most stringent controls on incoming capital including a requirement that funds invested in the Santiago bourse may not be repatriated for at least a year.
The country is continuing its pursuit of bilateral, preferential trade agreements (PTAs) with neighboring nations under the new administration of President Eduardo Frei, Jr.
This week it backed Brazil’s proposal to use the planned Mercosur common market, which groups Brazil with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as a building block to a South American free trade area. Meanwhile, Chile is expected to continue to negotiate its entry into the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta).
Mr. Diaz may be reached at (404) 676-2121.