Cantwell Joins Delegation to Chile, Strengthening Ties with Expanding Market for Washington Products

Cantwell to meet with new Chilean president, discuss Washington trade with fast-growing economy in S. America

This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will be in Chile – one of the fastest growing market-based economies in South America – to strengthen ties for Washington exports and innovation economy, as part of a Congressional delegation. Chile is Washington state’s largest trading partner in South America, with $1.3 billion in Washington exports going to Chile in 2013.

The visit to South America is being led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Harkin and Cantwell will also be joined by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rush Holt (D-NJ). The group will meet with newly elected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Chilean Congressional members, and business and tourism leaders. Cantwell will also meet with a leading Chilean Senator about renewable energy opportunities.

As part of the trip, Sen. Harkin and Rep. Miller will be presented the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins Award by Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz. The award is the highest civilian honor awarded to non-Chileans.  The delegation will visit the former site of Villa Grimaldi, a detention center used by the military junta that is now a peace park. They also plan to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights.

During her visit, Cantwell will meet with top executives at LATAM Airlines, the largest air carrier in South America. She will also meet leaders of Chilean operations for Washington state companies including Microsoft and Itron, and with Chilean partners for Washington-based fruit growers. Also, Cantwell will promote Washington state as a tourism destination, during meetings with tour operators and Chilean travel press.

Washington exports to Chile have grown by 118% since 2011. This growth was supported by the export of aircraft to Chile; Chile’s LAN Airlines was the first airline in the Americas to receive the Boeing 787 in 2012. LAN merged with Brazil’s TAM Airlines to form LATAM in 2012.

Chile is also a significant market for Washington products, tourism, and technology. In 2013, Microsoft announced plans to open a Microsoft Innovation Center in Chile, an incubator for early-stage Information and Communications Technology (ICT) businesses.

“Chile is a critical Pacific trading partner for Washington state,” Cantwell said. “The growing economy in Chile represents a major opportunity for Washington exports. From airplanes to smart grid technology to software to small business exports, Washington products are in demand across the world. I look forward to meeting with President Bachelet and Chilean business leaders to further this growth in trade, support job creation in Washington state, and to partner on innovation.”

Cantwell, the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, will also host a discussion with Chilean importers from U.S. small businesses about how to increase small business exports. Reauthorizing the State Trade and Export Program (STEP) for small business exports is one of Cantwell’s top priorities as Chair.

“In 2007 Pinnacle began extending its reach of product offering and knowledge into Chile,” said Jon Boswell, owner of Pinnacle Sales Associates, a Wenatchee small business that represents manufacturers of precision cutting tools for the woodworking industry. “The primary decision for coming to Chile was because of the vast extent of the size of the wood industry here. To our Chilean customers we introduce quality products, manufactured in the USA, as well as new technology not yet seen in the South American marketplace. We find the Chilean market to be open minded and recognize the quality and the service of U.S. products and manufacturers.”

International travelers from countries like Chile, along with visitors from others states, spent $13.2 billion at Washington state businesses in 2011. Tourism supports 103,000 jobs in Washington state and for every $1 million spent in Washington by tourists 8 travel jobs are created. 

“Approximately 20 percent of visitors to Seattle and the region come from other countries,” said David Blandford of Visit Seattle. “International tourism growth is stronger than domestic and, during the past five years, Asian and European flight service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has grown 50 percent to catch up with demand. Recognizing that overseas visitors stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors, sustained destination marketing is essential to leveraging this vital tourism business for Seattle and Washington State.”

Cantwell will also talk with Chilean tourism officials about attending the upcoming 2015 U.S. Open Championship in Pierce County.

“Pierce County is getting ready to serve as host of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay,” said Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive. “Our golf course sits on the scenic shores of Puget Sound and will offer one of the toughest tests in golf to the world’s best players. More than 150 million people will watch the Championship on television, and millions more will read the coverage by 2,000 members of the media. It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase the Puget Sound region’s amazing assets, including Mount Rainier National Park, world-class museums, the best salmon on the planet, and more. We look forward to welcoming visitors from around the world.”

On her visit to Chile, Cantwell will meet with businesses and leaders to detail how they can strengthen partnerships in several key areas:

  • Aviation: Cantwell will meet with top officials at the LATAM Airlines Group during her trip. Latin America is expected to need nearly 3,000 new commercial aircraft by 2032, leading to over $3 billion in sales. LATM is the largest airline in South America, operating over 330 aircraft and a hub in Santiago, Chile. 
  • Agriculture: Cantwell will meet with Chilean partners who work with Washington state growers – including Gebbers Farms in Brewster and Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee. The U.S. exported $891 million worth of agriculture products to Chile in 2013.
  • Technology: Cantwell will also discuss growing ties between tech communities in Chile and Washington state. In 2013, Microsoft announced a new innovation center in Chile to work with entrepreneurs.
  • Small Businesses & Exports: Small businesses like Pinnacle Sales Inc. based in the United States are expanding operations into Chile as well, introducing new products and technologies into the South American market. Cantwell will join a discussion with importers at the United States Embassy to discuss how more products from businesses in Washington state can be sold in Chilean markets.