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Chile Says it is Ready for Trade Pact With U.S.

   © EFE: By Rosendo Majano
Washington, May 30, 2001


Chile has reached the level of economic and social development necessary to sign a free-trade pact with the United States, Chilean Ambassador in Washington Andres Bianchi said Wednesday before the International Trade Commission.

Such a pact would help pave the way for the creation of the Free- Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), he noted in remarks to the ITC, an independent, non-artisan body.

Bianchi cited several factors as evidence of Chile's preparation to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States, including the country's economic and social development on both a regional and international level in the last 15 years, as well as its "honesty, transparency and economic freedom."

In order to provide U.S. officials with "a more accurate vision of Chile's current state," Bianchi described the benefits his country could offer U.S. trade, noting that Chile has increased the number of products it imports from the United States.

The ambassador underscored the "catalytic effects of a  (Chile-United States) pact on the Free-Trade Area of the Americas," which has Washington's full support.  He also warned - given "Chile's exceptional standing" in the region - that if negotiations between the two countries failed, it would complicate the United States' ability to forge trade pacts with other Latin American countries.

Bianchi said complaints about unfair trading practices by the Chilean wine industry are coming from "very small sectors" in the United States, primarily in the California wine country.

The complaints focus on Chile's alleged dumping, or sale of products at prices lower than the cost of production, he noted, adding that although they have not hurt negotiations "it would have been better if they had not come up."

Such problems are normal in these negotiations and publicly outlining the pros and cons "is part of the democratic process," the ambassador said, adding that he would be against including trade sanctions in a future trade pact.

The ITC is currently reviewing the creation of a free-trade agreement between the United States and Chile and its final report, due in October, could significantly influence the U.S. position in the talks.

Chile currently has bilateral free-trade agreements with all of the countries in the hemisphere with the exception of the United States and Cuba.

Also participating in Wednesday's meeting were representatives of U.S. federal institutions and agricultural and business organizations, who pushed for the agreement to be just in all aspects, especially on  labor and environmental issues.
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