A FRIEND INDEED

Colombia 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, on the importance of regional alliances, trade between Chile and Colombia, and the importance of the peace process.

Michelle Bachelet
BIOGRAPHY
Michelle Bachelet has been the President of Chile since March 11, 2014. She is now serving her second term, and was President of Chile from 2006 to 2010. She is the first woman to hold this position in the history of her country and the first President to be reelected since 1932. In 1970 she began her studies at the Medical School at the University of Chile. She was also the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. She also holds ministerial portfolios in the Chilean Government as Minister of Defense and Minister of Health.

What are the main pillars of trade between Chile and Colombia, and in what are areas of industry and trade is Chile is looking to develop further with Colombia in the coming years?

The bilateral relations between Chile and Colombia have reached extraordinary levels, especially in the economic and commercial fields. To achieve this, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed in 2009 has contributed decisively. This agreement broadened and deepened the subjects of exchange between both countries. Every year, the number of Chilean goods and services exported to Colombia is increasing as well as the number of companies involved in these operations. And this incidentally has allowed reducing the traditional deficit in the trade balance we have with that country. We see many areas with a great potential for growth in Colombia that are interesting to Chile, such as the services sector, including information technology and software, mining and hydrocarbons, infrastructure, and biofuels.

What diplomatic and economic assistance is Chile offering to Colombia toward the peace process?

Chile has a tradition of contributing to regional peace, which has motivated us to be a companion country in the Colombian peace process. We have appointed a representative and a deputy representative who have actively participated in this cause. We also want to contribute together with regional countries in the post-conflict era, especially given our experience in transitional justice; that is to say, the set of policies that were taken after the military regime to repair the effects of human rights violations.

The Pacific Alliance has emerged as one of the region's most promising unions. How do you plan to expand Chile's contribution to the Alliance, and its ability to work with neighboring Peru to grow the region's exports?

Chile will continue to work on strengthening the Pacific Alliance through the main features of this mechanism of regional integration, namely a high degree of flexibility and pragmatism. From convergences between the four countries, Chile will look to succeed in issues that go beyond the purely commercial, but that nonetheless have clear commercial consequences. Likewise, we are working to strengthen technical cooperation with the 32 observer states by developing projects related to the pillars of the PA (free movement of persons, goods, services and investment, and cooperation); and looking to link these projects to the 18 existing technical groups, including the newly established groups for Education and Mining Development. Regarding working with Peru, in the long-term, we are deepening intraregional trade, first through bilateral trade agreements and then through the initiatives of the PA and TPP. This will encourage regional trade and generate greater opportunities for our investors.