California, Chile Continue to Build Up Growing Trade/Investment Relationship

Aspects of the growing trade and investment relationship between Chile and the United States, as well as California, were discussion topics at the annual Chile-California Council meeting last week.

The April 20–21 agenda included presentations by the U.S. ambassador to Chile and the Chilean ambassador to the United States, plus panel discussions on emergency management and entertainment.

(From left) U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Perez; Isabel Garreton of Isabel Garreton, Inc.; Susanne T. Stirling, CalChamber vice president of international affairs; and Tatiana Molina of the American Chamber of Commerce in Chile.

Growing Partnership

U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Perez discussed the growing trade and investment between Chile and the United States; the partnerships being created in numerous areas, including disaster assistance and environmental issues; the expansion of academic and scientific exchanges; and the security and protection of Americans in Chile.

Approximately 50,000 Americans live in Chile, and about 240,000 Americans visited Chile last year. Americans generally feel safe and secure traveling in Chile.

Ambassador Perez went on to say that the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement is the cornerstone of the U.S.-Chile partnership. Jobs are not leaving the United States as a result of the agreement, she stated; in fact, the United States has a trade surplus with Chile.

The Ambassador is making a big push for involvement in the SelectUSA summit to be held in June with an emphasis on investment (see

In addition to devoting half of her time to trade and investment issues, Ambassador Perez said she also is focused on supporting women microentrepreneurs and promoting English language among the Chilean population.

Less than 5% of Chileans speak English, which is the lowest figure in the hemisphere. In particular, there is an emphasis to educate at the university level, so academic works can be published in English.

Ambassador Perez concluded by saying that Chile is a model country in the hemisphere, both in developing democracy and anti-corruption efforts.

Value for Chileans

Chilean Ambassador to the U.S. Gabriel Valdés explained why Chileans value the Chile-California Council. Regardless of changes in administrations, both in the United States in 2016 and with the upcoming 2017 Chilean presidential election, the relationship is built on friendship, cooperation and stability which transcends politics or social movements, Ambassador Valdés said.

Chile still believes in the principles of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Ambassador commented. He pointed out that the Chilean Navy recently participated with the U.S. Navy in peace-keeping exercises.

Ambassador Valdés concluded by saying that the relationship between our civil societies in the areas of business, academics, the arts and culture, and science are most important.

Emergency Management

A session on emergency management collaboration between Chile and California was moderated by Tracy Katelman of ForEverGreen Forestry. Panelists were:

• Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES);

• Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE);

• Aaron Cavieres, director of CONAF, The National Forestry Corporation, a private law entity whose main task is to manage the forestry policy of Chile, and which is moving to be a public agency under the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture; and

• Ricardo Toro, director of Chile’s ONEMI, the National Emergency Office of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security.

ONEMI Director Toro discussed how Chile faces emergencies from the national to the municipal levels, the new reality of high exposure to multi hazards, the continuation of improvement in Chile’s emergency system, especially its early warning methods, and the office’s relationship and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Californa.

Since 2010, Chile has had more emergencies and fewer victims due to building on capacities and improved systems.

CONAF Director Cavieres discussed the “sixth generation” fire which took place in January to February 2017 for 18 days, burning nearly 3 million acres, affecting 2,288 homes with 11 casualties and a cost of US $32,934,225. This firestorm followed a prolonged drought and actually changed the local weather.

CalOES Director Ghilarducci spoke of the standardized emergency system California has built around laws with a structure starting at the local level. The California emergency system is designed around supporting the local emergency area, with the help of the regional, and last the state level.

CAL FIRE Director Pimlott described how the 100 million acres of California land are one-third under federal jurisdiction, one-third under local jurisdictions with the assistance of approximately 1,000 fire departments ranging from Class 1 to volunteer fire departments, and one-third under the jurisdiction of the state/CAL FIRE, which are “trust lands” or “private watershed” lands.

In the state one-third, there are about 75,000 homes that are assessed fees to assist with fire prevention. Unfortunately, 95% of the fires in California are started by people.

The session concluded with the signing of an MOU between Chile and California, bringing closer the two territories in their efforts to tackle shared emergency concerns, including earthquakes, fires, mudslides and tsunamis.


Marketing professional Francisco Letelier moderated a panel on the entertainment industry—shared challenges and opportunities for Chile and California. The speakers were Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association; Gary Shapiro, an American producer; Loreto Caro, a Chilean director; Pedro Pablo Cabrera, representing Shoot in Chile; and Juan de Dios Larraín, a Chilean producer.

Shapiro began by summarizing the importance of the entertainment industry to the global economy. He commented that 70% of entertainment business revenue comes from outside the United States (especially growing in China and Russia) and only 30% from within the U.S. This is the reverse of 10 years ago.

Specialized lower-budget films are becoming more popular in the United States. A recent example is La La Land, which has made $700 million around the world with an initial investment of less than $20 million.

Caro focused on the need for education and training in film making in Chile. Students still need to travel abroad to pursue graduate-level studies. There also is a need for Chile to work on intellectual property protection for creative works.

Soria discussed the major challenges as constantly evolving technology changes the entertainment landscape. An example is the new interest in binge watching. Soria also reported that the Golden Globes had 400 English titles (films) to review this year compared to 150 just five years ago.

De Dios Larraín suggested that Chile should develop incentives to attract filmmakers and create a Chilean brand to be recognized in Hollywood and internationally. Although Spanish language films have not brought Latin America together, de Dios Larraín said, perhaps new shows for television will.

Cabrera concluded by saying Chileans need to learn to speak more English and create a marketing plan for shooting films in Chile.

Best Practices

The meeting also gave an opportunity for discussion and sharing of best practices between the CalChamber and the American Chamber of Commerce in Chile (AmCham Chile) representatives.

An MOU between AmCham Chile and the CalChamber, together with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, was signed in Santiago, Chile, on September 28, 2009 to encourage and promote trade and investment between the chambers.

More Information

The Chile-California Council is an international nonprofit organization that promotes mutually beneficial relationships and knowledge sharing between Chile and California in both the private and public sectors.

For more information, see the council website at or the CalChamber portal at

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling