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Mexico 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, on the importance of Chilean-Mexican relations.

Michelle Bachelet
BIOGRAPHY
Michelle Bachelet is the President of Chile, and was first elected in 2006. As President, she has concentrated on three major reforms: education, tax and a new constitution. These reforms aim to solve substantive inequality gaps. She was also the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, and prior to becoming President, served as Chile’s Minister of Defense as well as the Minister of Health.

Chile and Mexico signed a FTA in 1999. What have been the milestones of this agreement and how has it benefited those Chilean companies to have done business in Mexico over the years?

Since the signing of NAFTA in 1999, Chilean companies have achieved expanded access to the Mexican market. Far beyond trade in goods, the FTA includes subjects such as investment, intellectual property, air transport services, trade in services, public procurement, and financial services. The signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2006 came to strengthen and deepen the bilateral relations. The EPA has three pillars: a political dialogue, which is channeled through the Commission for Political Affairs and Association Council; a business relationship, whose centerpiece is still the FTA; and cooperation, implemented by the Commission on Cooperation and Joint Cooperation Fund Chile - Mexico.

In your speech at the 24th Ibero-American Summit, you pointed out that inequality is the main threat for social cohesion and economic growth in Latin America. In what areas could Mexico and Chile work together to close that gap?

Inequality is undoubtedly the biggest obstacle in our societies to achieving development. Both Chile and Mexico are actively working to reduce inequality and generate social inclusion through reform of our domestic policies. The main transformations are taking place in education, health and gender equality. This requires an increase in public spending, such that both countries are implementing tax reforms backed by fiscal sustainability. Educational reform has also taken center stage in the fight against inequality, and we are working on a reform that provides citizens with a less-segregated and higher-quality education, especially by strengthening the public system. Concerning gender, both Chile and Mexico are developing active policies as part of international organizations such as UN Women, Commission on the Legal and Social Status of Women, and the Equal Future Partnership Initiative, among others. In this context, our country recently established the Ministry of Women, committed to moving towards balanced gender participation in the areas of political and economic decision, in order to reduce underrepresentation while improving economic autonomy. The struggle against inequality is an arduous task, which is all the more reason for countries to work in tandem, both in the exchange of experience in public policies and modalities of South-South Cooperation.

Chile and Mexico are part of the APEC forum, and are both strong exporting economies. What will be the importance of the Pacific Rim in terms of foreign trade?

Chile has a strong interest in the Pacific region, for its current importance and future potential. It is the most dynamic economic region in the world, with 40% of the world's population, 57% of global GDP and 49% of global trade. Asia, both for Chile and Mexico, is an increasingly important market. This is reflected in the active participation of the two in various initiatives such as the PA and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). We have also signed trade agreements with several regional countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei. Chile will continue to strengthen economic and trade links with Asia Pacific. It is currently negotiating a trade agreement with Indonesia and deepening the partial agreement with India. With the joint efforts of 12 countries in this region, including Chile and Mexico, toward concluding negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Economic Strategic Agreement (TPP), we will have access to the wide coverage of products and disciplines covered, as it is the most important and ambitious trade negotiation. In this regard, we must consider that the TPP will cover over 500 million people, representing about 7% of the world's population, and with whom Chile currently has a trade of nearly $46 billion.