Geography strongly influences Chile’s territorial reach. With the Andes Mountains forming a wall along the eastern side of the country, the Atacama Desert at the northern region of the country and the South Andean Ice Field to the south, there are natural boundaries shaping the country’s territory. Chile is one of the few countries in the world that has such clearly defined natural protection from outside invasion. The western boundary is the Pacific ocean and that is the only easy approach to Chile and the direction from where the Spanish originally invaded.
Food and Population
In a territory so clearly defined and protected by natural boundaries, population growth is directly tied to food supply. This territory, or any other territory, supports a population to the extent that it can produce food or produce other products that can be traded for food. Only 2.62 percent of Chile’s land is arable, but Chile imports very little food. With the longest north-south sea coast in the world, and access to the Pacific Ocean, Chile is also a country with a fishing fleet. Chile produces enough food to feed itself and export fruit, fish and wine. Due to its wide range of agricultural conditions from desert to steep mountains, both the extent and intensity of Chile’s agriculture are limited. Yet even with these unique geographic conditions Chile produces a substantial crop of: apples, pears, grapes, peaches, wheat, oats, corn, garlic, onions, asparagus, beans, along with fish, poultry and beef.
Since the 1980s economic liberalization in Chile, export of agricultural commodities has grown significantly, especially huge quantities of salmon, Chilean wine, berries (blueberries and cranberries) and fruit. Chile’s far southern region has, over the last hundred and fifty years become a large sheep herding territory. There are approximately two million sheep in this area and they are distributed among about 300 farmers.
Chile’s fertility rate is below the replacement level, which means the territory is not currently having to support a growing population. Instead, Chile’s food supply is ample to support the existing population and the demographics are relatively stable, with a less than one percent growth rate (0.84 %). Currently there is some immigration since Chile switched to a democratic government in the 1990s after Augusto Pinochet stepped aside. Chile seeks to attract high skilled immigrants and since 2002 immigration has move than doubled. Chile also has needs for people in both agriculture and construction.
The population of over 17 million people are 90 percent urban based. The capital city, Santiago is home to over 6 million people. So, while only 13 percent of the labor force is involved with agriculture, Chile’s modest agricultural land provides most of the urban markets with fish, beef, lamb, fruits, wine, grain and vegetables. Chile’s territory is stable and abundant for the demographics it currently contains.
Foreign trade plays a large role in Chile’s economy. In an overall 282 billion dollar economy, exports represent 78 billion dollars or about 28 percent. Chile is one of he largest copper mining and exporting countries in the world and also exports the food products mentioned above – fruits, fish and wine, as well as paper and pulp and chemicals. To support and promote this trade Chile has entered into 22 trade agreements involving 60 other countries. In 2004 Chile deepened its long-standing commitment to free trade by signing a free trade agreement with the United States. Chile also has trade agreements with China, the European Union and Mercosur – the South American trade union.
Chile’s economic growth and continued development depends on foreign investment coming into Chile and exporting of Chile’s products and commodities. With such a large part of Chile’s economy tied to these two economic areas, Chile is firmly committed to internationalization. What that means in terms of domestic policies are a continuous effort to increase domestic productivity, improve environmental norms to international standards and seek higher quality jobs and better labor conditions in Chile.
As a self-sufficient food producing territory, Chile doesn’t turn to the global economy for food so much as they seek higher economic growth and better lifestyles. Rising above an agricultural economy to successfully embrace an industrial and service oriented economy requires Chile to respect international law, hold treaties (like their trade treaties) inviolable, support juridical and peaceful resolutions to controversies and observe non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.
Chilean foreign policy fully adheres to the principle of open regionalism, which considers trade agreements as mechanisms for the expansion of commerce and investment, all within the context of increasingly liberalized world trade. In that context, Chile promotes free trade at every level, through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff measures. Fundamental in this context is the implementation and compliance with Uruguay Round multilateral trade agreements. Proof of Chile’s commitment to the achievement of free trade is the unanimous approval given by the Chilean Congress to the establishment of the World Trade Organization.