Chile Is Searching for Fast Track to NAFTA Status
William Flannery Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
When the North American Free Trade Agreement was approved in 1994 by the United States, Canada and Mexico, the first South American nation invited to join was Chile.
But Chile is still waiting, said Fernando Ayala, the consul general of Chile in Chicago.
"Chile is the most natural addition to NAFTA, because we have the most stable economy and political position," Ayala said. "We were invited to join by President Clinton in 1994 . . . but the problem is now in the Senate of the United States. The Senate must approve, but we need fast-track authorization." Unfortunately, Ayala said, due to the election year and concerns over the Mexican financial crisis, the Republican majority denied fast-track approval. Ayala is hopeful the new Senate will move after the election. Ayala was in St. Louis last week developing business contacts. The United States is already a major economic player in Chile, Ayala said. "The United States is the largest foreign investor in Chile - 38 percent. . . . Last year there was $3.6 billion in foreign investment in Chile, and 58 percent was from the United States," Ayala said. "In 1995, the United States exported $3.6 billion in goods to Chile, while Chile exported $1.9 billion to the States," Ayala said. "So the U.S. is running a $1.7 billion trade surplus." By joining NAFTA, Ayala argues this trade will only increase and the NAFTA free trade provisions will eliminate Chile's current tariff barriers. …