Chile and California Continue Building Strong Relationship

On April 17 and 18 the Chile-California Council gathered for its annual event and Board Meeting at the California Chamber of Commerce. The opening session on Wednesday focused on Clean Energy and Opportunities, Challenges, Policies and Programs for a Sustainable Grid and Electrification Transport.

In opening remarks to the nearly 100 attendees, CalChamber Vice President of International Affairs Susanne T. Stirling reminded listeners that just 10 years have passed since the inception of the Chile-California Plan. Chile President Michelle Bachelet visited California, including an address at the CalChamber. Shortly thereafter, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the CalChamber, the Los Angeles Area Chamber and the American Chamber of Commerce in Chile during a California trade mission to Chile.

Carol Perez

Speaking next were Chile-California Council Chair Tu Jarvis, a professor in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis, and Carol Z. Perez, U.S. ambassador to Chile. Ambassador Perez discussed the energy pillars of trade and investment together with joint research and innovation which are so important as Chile develops its 2050 National Energy Policy. To this end, she has created the U.S.-Chile Council on Science, Technology and Innovation. The strategic objective of the U.S.-Chile Council on Science, Technology and Innovation isto connect the producers and consumers of science, technology, and innovation (STI) in order to advance mutually beneficial policies and programs that catalyze sustainable economic growth. The Council’s specific objective is to identify and disseminate lessons learned and best practices related to STI policies and programs.

Ken Alex, senior policy adviser to California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

The day-long conference started with an introduction to California energy policy by Ken Alex, senior policy adviser to California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.  Alex outlined the 7 prong approach to California reducing energy use by 40% from the 1990 levels by the year 2030.

Tu Jarvis, Chile-California Council Chair 

The first panel discussion about utility scale shortage was moderated by Juan Pablo Carvallo, senior scientific engineering associate in the electrical markets and policy group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Panelists included Ken Zagzebski, president of AES US; John Zahurancik, chief operating officer for Fluence; Juan Pedro Alonso, innovation manager for ENEL; and Tom Georgis, senior vice president of development for SolarReserve.

The second panel examined distributed energy resources and was moderated by Cristián Sjogren, cofounder of Solarwatt. Panelists were Cecilia Aguillon, president of Aguillon Enterprises LLC; Vic Shao, founder and chairman of Engie Storage; Lillian Mirviss, project manager for OhmConnect; and Alex Portilla, principal product manager, Distributed Energy Resources Management System, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

Enrique Barriga, Consul General of Chile in San Francisco

Luncheon attendees enjoyed welcome remarks from the Consul General of Chile in San Francisco, Enrique Barriga. He gave an overview of the Chilean trade and investment relationship, together with a description of the long history between Chile and California, dating back to the 1700s.

Immediately following lunch, the electrification of transportation, particularly self-driven cars, was the subject for speaker Dan Sperling, Blue Planet professor of civil and environmental engineering and environmental science and policy, founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University California, Davis, and a member of the California Air Resources Board.

The panel on electromobility, industry and regulatory innovation was moderated by Juan Spiniak, vice president of product at Ample. Panelists included Patrick Duan, vice president, BYD Motors Inc.; Carla Peterman, commissioner with the California Public Utilities Commission; and Alberto Escobar, head of mobility and public policy of the Automobile Club of Chile.

A discussion on the energy system, market and regulatory framework evolution in California was moderated by Rafael Friedmann, clean energy research and policy consultant. The panelists included Lucas Davis, professor, Institute of Energy, Haas Business School, UC Berkeley; Andrew McAllister, commissioner of the California Energy Commission; and Mary McDonald, director of government affairs for California Independent System Operator (ISO).

The final panel of the day on the Chile market and its regulation was moderated by Bernardo Busel, professor of electricity law and regulation at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez Law School; and included panelists Marcelo Tokman, CEO, Chilean National Oil Company and former minister of energy of Chile; Ernesto Huber, operations manager, National Electric Coordinator.

The closing session was a reception at the Leland Stanford Mansion.

Chile-California Council

The Chile-California Council is a binational nonprofit organization established in 2011. Its 35 members from the public and private sectors support bilateral cooperation to promote scientific research, entrepreneurship, social innovation and public leadership. See and the Chile-California Council website,

The CalChamber has been a member of the council since its inception.

Chile-California Statistics

Chile has signed free trade agreements with all the nations of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, plus the United States.

Since the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was implemented on January 1, 2004, bilateral trade between Chile and the United States has nearly quadrupled and both trade and investment opportunities abound.

Two-way trade in goods between the United States and Chile was approximately $24.16 billion in 2017. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. goods exports to Chile increased 474 percent in the 14 years since the FTA went into effect, from $2.7 billion in 2003 to $13.6 billion in 2017. Since 2003, there has been a marked increase in U.S. exports to Chile of petroleum, transportation equipment, chemicals, and computer and electronic products.

Chile is the United States’ 21st largest export destination with $13.6 billion in exports in 2017. Top imports from Chile to the United States include primary metal manufacturing, agricultural products, other animals, and wood products. Nearly 12,000 U.S. firms export approximately 5,000 products to Chile. More than 2,000 Chilean firms exported as many different products to the United States.

U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Chile totaled $29.4 billion in 2016, and Chilean FDI into the United States totaled $2.6 billion in the same year. This makes Chile the fifth fastest-growing source of FDI in the U.S., which supports about 2,000 workers in the United States.

Chilean FDI into the U.S. includes $456 million in research and development and $86 million into expanding U.S. exports. The top industries that received FDI from Chile were metals, real estate, food and tobacco, financial services, business services, and wood products.

Chile is nearly twice the size of California and home to nearly 18 million people and renowned copper mines.  According to the most recent figures, Chile has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $247 billion. Chile has the most stable and fastest-growing economy in the region, which puts it in the best position to promote democracy and political freedom. Chile has about 60 bilateral or regional trade agreements in effect, more free trade agreements than any other country.

In 2017, Chile was California’s 26th largest export destination with $1.35 billion in exports. Top exports from California to Chile include petroleum and coal products, computer and electronic products, beverages and tobacco, and nonelectrical machinery. Top imports from Chile to California include agricultural products, food manufactures, wood products, and fish.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

Susanne T. Stirling
Susanne T. Stirling, senior vice president, international affairs, has headed CalChamber international activities for more than four decades. She is an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Export Council, and serves on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy Committee, the California International Relations Foundation, and the Chile-California Council. Originally from Denmark, she studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, where she served as a regent from 2012 to 2021. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. See full bio.