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Free trade pact: Follow Chile’s lead

Free Trade Pact: Follow Chile’s Lead

MAY 31, 2006
by Sun-Woo Kim (

Alicia Frohmann, head of the FTAA, advised Korea, which is expected to launch Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations on June 5, saying, “During the FTA negotiations with the U.S., Chile persuaded domestic interests groups through the ‘rooms next door policy.’” During the negotiations, the Chilean government set aside several rooms for the representatives of interest groups next to the negotiation venue to explain the content of ongoing negotiations to them.

During the FTA negotiations with the U.S., she served as a coordinator of the entire negotiation groups and a chief negotiator in the labor field. She is now visiting Korea to promote Chilean agricultural produce. Your reporter interviewed her in the Shilla Hotel, Seoul on May 30.

Q: “What’s your advice for Korea, which will start negotiations with the U.S. over an FTA soon?”

A: “The U.S. negotiators are not flexible on the negotiation table because they have given very detailed directions from interest groups and politicians in the U.S. I felt like I was negotiating with U.S. interest groups, not with the U.S. government. So my advice is not to try to solve every problem on the table. It is important for you to lobby and persuade interest groups and politicians in the U.S. first.”

Q: “What did you do to persuade the U.S. interest groups?”

A: “We hired a PR agency in the U.S. And during the initial stage of the negotiations, we published PR materials and communicated good things about Chile such as its national image, human rights and employment conditions to politicians and opinion leaders. Chilean politicians joined our efforts, visiting the U.S. to contact U.S. congressmen. In particular, the Chilean ambassador to the U.S. met with every senator in person. Through these efforts, we succeeded in forming favorable public opinion about the FTA in the U.S.”

Q: Anti-FTA sentiment is running high in Korea now. How about Chile?

A: “Before starting the FTA negotiations, the government tried to reach a national consensus on the issue. We made it clear to the public that without free trade, a small nation like Chile has a limit to its economic growth. The academia and business as well as the political circle put great emphasis on the FTA. Many Chilean people seemed to understand the need to make regulations in line with international standards, thereby blocking anti-reform forces both at home and abroad.

Q: We heard that your government made significant efforts to persuade the congress and the public even during the negotiations.

A: “We reported to the congress the results of the negotiations on a regular basis. In addition, employing the ‘room next doors policy’, we kept persuading interest groups. We prepared three rooms next to the negotiation room for the representatives of big companies, SMEs and the labor. And we kept them informed on the negotiations underway.

Q: What is your evaluation on the Korea-Chile FTA?

A: “Korea is located on the opposite side of Chile. There is 13 hour of time difference and it takes 36 hours to get here from Chile by plane. However, with the FTA, we have bridged such gaps across the Pacific. I think both countries are happy with that.”