SANTIAGO – The governments of Chile and Guatemala last week signed a protocol agreement as part of a bilateral implementation of a free-trade agreement signed eight years ago between Santiago and the governments of Central America, a Chilean official said Sept. 14.
The negotiations had been resumed in May as a result of talks between Guatemalan President Oscar Berger and Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet, during the latter’s March visit to the Central American country.
Andres Rebolledo, an official in the economic-relations department of the Chilean Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the agreement provides his country with “privileged access to a dynamic market.”
Guatemala is “Chile’s largest market in Central America, with a broad range of factories and great appeal for medium and small companies,” he said.
According to R ebolledo, the agreementwith Guatemala is one of the key elements of Chile’s efforts to bolster ties with the countries of that region.
“The agreement with Guatemala is in line with the work we’ve carried out in recent years to make the network of trade agreements with Central America a reality,” he said.
Chile signed a free-trade deal with Central America in 1999, but for the agreement to take effect bilateral protocols needed to be negotiated separately between Santiago and the different Central American countries. Costa Rica and El Salvador were the first to do so, with their bilateral protocols with Chile taking effect in 2002.
The definitive agreement with Guatemala was postponed on two occasions due to discrepancies over some sections of the freetrade treaty, while the negotiations with Honduras are in the final stages and those with Nicaragua remain pending, according to Rebolledo.
Last year, Chilean exports to Guatemala totaled $151.7 million, while imports from that country amounted to $6.5 million. Bilateral trade has quadrupled since 2000.