Chile, U.S. Complete Free-Trade Agreement

By Agence France-Presse Chile and the United States successfully wrapped up talks on a free-trade agreement between the two countries, Chile President Ricardo Lagos announced Dec. 11. After years of negotiating "we have obtained a good agreement with the United States, the world's leading economic power," he said. Former president George Bush -- father of the current U.S. president -- invited Chile in 1994 to join in free-trade talks that had begun with Canada and Mexico. Formal free-trade talks opened in 2000, and the final round of top-level talks began in Washington on Dec. 1. At a press conference in Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick called Chile "an ideal free-trade partner for the U.S." Zoellick said all bilateral industrial and agriculture tariffs would be reduced to zero within 12 years, with 85% of trade on "consumer and industrial products" becoming tariff-free immediately. In the agricultural sector, more than 75% of U.S. farm goods will enter Chile tariff-free within four years, Zoellick said. Zoellick added that the lack of a free-trade agreement with Chile had cost U.S. exporters $800 million per year, citing a study from the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association. Chile sold $3.45 billion worth of products to the United States in 2001, one-fifth of its exports, according to Chilean officials, who put the bilateral trade figure at $6.34 billion. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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