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2014 Santiago Blog: Chile's Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz and Opening Remarks

Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz. (Image: Jesus Inostroza)

Friday, June 27, 2014

At AS/COA's annual Santiago conference, President and CEO Susan Segal remarked that she has been associated with Chile for over 30 years and throughout this time had been a witness to many moments of reflection. These moments have always resulted in consensus and the country doing the right thing in terms of its economy, she said. AS/COA's president noted she was confident this time, the country will reach a consensus again allowing it to go to the next level in terms of economic growth and social inclusion.

Heraldo Muñoz, Chile’s minister of foreign affairs and former ambassador to the UN, discussed both the changes and continuity that President Michelle Bachelet’s government will bring to Chile over the next four years. While the country made important efforts in combating poverty over the past decade—poverty dropped from around 39 percent in 1990 to close to 13 percent today—it still must overcome sharp equality, said Muñoz. For this reason, it’s important to improve educational standards and access. A better-educated population brings value to a country’s output, said Muñoz, and raises its position in supply chains.

Chile traded $40.9 billion worth of goods and services in 2003. Ten years later, this figure had reached $157 billion, said Muñoz. While the new administration will continue to expand trade with traditional partners such as the Asia-Pacific region, Canada, the European Union, and the United States, it will also broaden its focus to include its own neighborhood, said Muñoz.

“This is our natural setting, it’s what we are,” Muñoz said about Latin America, noting Chile will seek to deepen and intensify regional relationships. Furthermore, the country’s policies will be pragmatic and not ideological. Chile, said Muñoz, doesn’t want division between the Pacific and Atlantic countries of Latin America, but  would like to be a "bridge" between the Atlantic countries and the Pacific, including in terms of trade. It will also seek to mature its relationship with big trading partners like the United States and Brazil.