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Chile

A long and narrow coastal Southern Cone country on the west side of the Andes Mountains, Chile is the longest (N-S) country in the world (over 4,200 km) , plus also claims 1,250,000 square kilometers of Antarctica as part of its territory. However it is only 430 kilometers at its widest point east to west (3% is arable). At 756,950 km2, Chile is the world's 38th-largest country (after Turkey) with a stable population of around 16 million people. The northern Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper and nitrates. The relatively small Central Valley, which includes Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fiords, inlets, canals, and small islands. The Andes Mountains are located on the eastern border. Chile controls Easter Island, Sala and Gomez Island, the easternmost islands of Polynesia, which it incorporated into its territory in 1888, and Robinson Crusoe Island, more than 600 kilometers from the mainland, in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago.

Economy

2009 2010 2011 (estimate)
Population (million) 16.9 17.1 17.4
GDP (U$S billion) 162 204 243
GDP per capita (US$) 9,600 11,900 14,000
Real GDP growth (%) -1.7 5.2 6.2
Inflation (%) 1.7 1.5 3.3
Unemployment (%) 9.7 8.3 7.4
Exports (US$ billion) 54 71 86
Export growth (%) -19 +31 +21
Imports (US$ billion) 40 55 73
Import growth (%) -31 +38 +32
Exchange rate: US$1 to 483.36 Chilean pesos on 14 February 2012

Chile has pursued sound economic policies for three decades. The 1973-90 military government sold many state-owned companies, and the three democratic governments since 1990 have continued privatization. The government's role in the economy is mostly limited to regulation, although the state continues to operate the copper giant Codelco with copper reserves of 200 years plus a few other enterprises. Chile is strongly committed to free trade and has welcomed foreign investment. Over the last several years, Chile has signed FTAs with the United States of America, European Union, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and the People's Republic of China. High domestic savings and investment rates also helped propel Chile's economy to average growth rates of 8% during the 1990s.

Unemployment has hovered in the 8%-10% range in recent years. Chile's independent Central Bank pursues a policy of maintaining inflation between 2% and 4%. Both foreign and domestic investment in Chile now appears to be growing strongly. The government also has encouraged the use of Chile as an "investment platform" for multinational corporations planning to operate in the region. Chile's welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment is codified in the country's Foreign Investment Law, which gives foreign investors the same treatment as Chileans. Registration is simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital. The U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement offers a number of other investor protections.

Asia has been the fastest-growing export market in recent years. For example, Chile’s number two, three, and four trading partners are China, Japan, and South Korea, respectively. Chile’s recent FTAs with Asian trading partners and plans to sign more in 2006 underscore the growing importance of Asia to Chile’s trade portfolio.

Chile's financial sector has grown faster than other areas of the economy over the last few years; a banking reform law approved in 1997 broadened the scope of permissible foreign activity for Chilean banks. The Chilean Government implemented a further liberalization of capital markets in 2001. Chile maintains one of the best credit ratings (S&P A+) in Latin America. There are three main ways for Chilean firms to raise funds abroad: bank loans, insurance of bonds, and the selling of stocks on U.S. markets through American Depository Receipts (ADRs). Nearly all of the funds raised through these means go to finance domestic Chilean investment. The government continues to pay down its foreign debt. Combined public and private foreign debt was roughly 50% of GDP at the end of 2004—low by Latin American standards.

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