By Michael Hammer, United States Ambassador to Chile
This week I had the honor to participate in President Bachelet’s productive visit to Washington D.C. In their Oval Office meeting, the presidents reviewed their prior work together and discussed how to strengthen our partnership in order to increase national prosperity and promote world peace, particularly through our work on the UN Security Council. President Bachelet and President Obama are committed to expanding our countries’ already close relationship and to advancing our shared interest in promoting democracy, protecting human rights, creating economic opportunities, ensuring energy security and confronting the world’s challenges.
Regarding our economic relationship, the presidents noted the significant benefits produced by the sizeable increase in trade resulting from our 10-year-old Free Trade Agreement. They discussed the state of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and their interest in reaching an agreement that will benefit both countries’ economies and sets high standards for the 21st century. During the visit, our countries signed an agreement to bolster economic growth and create jobs by supporting the creation of small business development centers in Chile, in keeping with an initiative President Bachelet announced on May 21 of this year. Officials from both nations also signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement, which will assist the transportation of goods between the U.S. and Chile while protecting against crimes related to duty evasion, human trafficking, proliferation, money laundering, and terrorism. In addition, with the intention of remaining competitive, both leaders stressed the need to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
Energy issues were also emphasized during President Bachelet’s visit. As Vice President Biden pledged to President Bachelet during her inauguration, the United States stands ready to assist Chile in meeting its security challenges. Moreover, to strengthen cooperation and explore solutions, our countries agreed on the importance of regular bilateral engagements and announced an annual senior-level dialogue on energy. This particular annual dialogue, one of only a handful in the hemisphere intended to take place at the Secretarial level, places Chile in the company of countries like China, India, the European Union, and Russia, where such dialogues already occur. We will explore prospects for renewable energy, energy efficiency, non-conventional oil and natural gas, as well as connectivity, smart grids and transmission systems. Consistent with this effort, the U.S. Overseas Investment Corporation (OPIC) recently provided loan guarantees that will enable the construction of the seventh solar power project in Chile. These projects create jobs, and solar power is the cleanest renewable resource for our environment. The United States is proud to be Chile’s largest lender for solar plant construction investment.
Chile and the United States are committed to leveraging our collective capacities to assist other countries’ development and pledged to expand our trilateral development cooperation here in the Western Hemisphere starting with the Caribbean. Trilateral agreements with the governments of Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic will provide a framework for development programs that will enhance the quality of life and provide economic and social opportunities for citizens of those countries. We will also explore trilateral cooperation in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
During President Bachelet’s visit, our nations also signed a joint statement on combating human trafficking as well as increasing cooperation in this issue, sharing lessons learned, and engaging with other countries, just as Chile has committed to hosting a regional conference next year.
During the visit, our leaders discussed the importance of education for our countries’ future and recognized that English opens doors for Chileans just as Spanish does for Americans. We pledged to continue to increase the number of academic exchanges, including under the 100,000 Strong initiative that President Obama launched in 2011.
Overall, our leaders have set a positive trajectory and have great expectations for the relationship between Chile and the U.S. This visit has further energized me, and I look forward to getting back to Chile, to traveling the country, and to continue promoting cooperation and creating opportunities for the benefit of our citizens. An even stronger partnership between our nations is a success for Chileans, for Americans, and for the rest of the world.
I am anxious to return to Santiago and to continue our efforts of mutual cooperation and to face the global challenges that lie ahead. I greatly appreciate the will of President Bachelet’s administration to further expand our diplomatic relations, and I am incredibly enthusiastic to start working on the many topics that our presidents and ministers have discussed. Additionally, as we are sadly no longer in the World Cup (despite how well #TeamUSA and especially Tim Howard played), I now have a little bit more time to dedicate myself to these important issues.