Chile: Continuity, change, consensus - with Alberto Van Klaveren

  • Freddy Nevison-Andrews

On Monday 15 April, Canning House was pleased to hold a breakfast roundtable with Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Van Klaveren.

Chile: Continuity, change, consensus - with Alberto Van Klaveren

On Monday 15 April, Canning House was pleased to hold a breakfast roundtable with Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Van Klaveren.

Attended by a mixture of senior diplomats, parliamentarians, businesspeople, academics and journalists, the meeting offered an opportunity to hear directly from the Foreign Minister on a variety of topics across Chilean foreign policy, politics, economics and more.

Mr Van Klaveren began with a wide-ranging overview of Chile’s current affairs and outlook, with an emphasis on Chile’s abiding sense of stability. Having narrowly avoided economic recession in 2023, the Minister explained that “very positive” performance in early 2024 has delivered a forecast for year’s-end of 2.5% GDP growth, with aims for greater dynamism in 2025.

Taxation reforms, with Chile’s current tax collections among the lowest as a percentage of GDP in the OECD, are intended to raise resources for pending changes to pensions and healthcare, and to fund recovery from damaging wildfires. However, with Gabriel Boric’s administration lacking a majority in Congress, the Minister described a delicate process of consensus building in these reforms’ implementation.

Another challenge defined by Mr Van Klaveren was Chile’s changing taxonomy of crime. The country has been increasingly exposed to currents of transnational organised crime and irregular migration, presenting what the Minister called a “major security challenge,” but one on which he assured consensus is approaching on next steps ahead.

Moving to foreign policy, the Minister explained a scenario of “continuity and change” in Chile’s approach, working to strike a balance between its Latin American neighbourhood, growing strong ties with Pacific countries like Japan, South Korea and India, and sustaining important relationships with global partners.

Overall, Mr Van Klaveren stressed that Chile seeks to maintain a diverse range of international economic relationships, “striking a certain balance between our major partners in the world.” Those most prominently include the United States and China, between which Chile has worked determinedly to maintain poise in economic and political ties.

He also highlighted the shared values between Chile and Europe, hailing the signing of a new association agreement between Chile and the European Union, and underlining the importance of the substantial volume of investment Chile receives from Europe.

Across all those relationships, Mr Van Klaveren emphasised, Chile takes a universal view on the importance of democracy and human rights, and expressed the Chilean government’s “concern” over the erosion of democracy and human rights consensus around the globe, and indeed in some parts of Latin America.

Moreover, he raised some “new issues” undertaken by his Ministry, namely in its application of feminist and gendered approaches to foreign policy, and its increased focus on environmental protection, including the green transition and ocean conservation.

The Foreign Minister gave comments on current international conflicts, acknowledging that Latin America, traditionally a region of abiding peace, has itself experienced some tensions in recent times. He expressed Chile’s concern over current circumstances in the Middle East, with mention given to Chile’s large Palestinian population, and re-stated his country’s tradition of support for a two-state solution there.

On Ukraine, Mr Van Klaveren made clear that, for President Boric, the current situation is a “war against Ukraine,” rather than “war in Ukraine,” making clear his government’s qualification of the war as one of aggression by Russia.

Finally, the Minister spoke on Chile’s relationship with the United Kingdom. An historic relationship, which he described as “integral,” Mr Van Klaveren hailed strong ties in investments, trade and values, and welcomed new frameworks of relations like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Following the Minister’s remarks, the table opened to questions. These touched on a wide range of topics, including Chilean investments across Latin America, coordinating strategies for tackling organised crime, the ongoing crisis in Haiti, Chile’s maintenance of stability and handling protest, Chile’s approach to Ukraine, long-term visions for the CPTPP, the constitutional reform process, and thoughts on the Asia-Pacific region after this year’s US election.

Canning House warmly thanks Mr Van Klaveren for his insights at this breakfast roundtable, and our attendees for their engagement and interest.

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