February, 2015

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Presidential Seal of Approval: Chile’s President Makes State Visit to the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce

Friday, February 27th, 2015


PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES — “Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome the President of the Republic of Chile, Her Excellency, Michelle Bachelet.” And with those words the Chilean presidential retinue was led into the Bellevue Stratford ballroom by the Chamber’s President Robert Palaima. This is the first time a sitting Chilean president made an official state visit to the Chamber and she had extraordinary words of praise, encouragement and appreciation.

The unprecedented official state visit was commemorated with a sold-out awards dinner where over three hundred business leaders and guests saw President Bachelet receive the 2015 Friendship Award of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. Together, Chile and the Chamber have been major engineers of Chile’s rocketing rise to prominence as a world food supplier. After a hearty and lengthy standing ovation, President Bachelet commended the special fellowship between the Delaware Valley and her country.

“I am so happy to be in the Greater Philadelphia Region, because we have so many important contacts here. Our relationships are fantastic. This award is a great honor for me. We all know of the strong bonds between our countries for so many years and I think they will be even stronger and more productive in the future. …As a child, I lived in the U-S, I went to school here and learned the history of Washington crossing the Delaware. So for me it’s also very symbolic to be here.”

The history of Chile’s success with their partner, the Greater Delaware Valley region, hinges on Chile’s reverse growing season, which, last year, brought in winter and year-round produce of more than 750,000 metric tons (MT), with grapes, apples, blueberries, cherries, citrus fruit and avocados” topping the list, according to Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) president, Ronald Bown, who was also part of the presidential delegation. In the 1970’s when this highly nutritional import-export effort first began, it was a revolutionary step-up in American food availabilities and profoundly changed the American dining table and cuisines.

President Bachelet had a special message for the Chilean & American Chamber:
“To congratulate them for all their work because many of the results are a product of their work and the job they do. Also to thank them, because thanks to their efforts, we were able to approve the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] of 2004 and now we have eleven years that this trade agreement has been working very well for both countries. As a matter of fact, here in Philadelphia, many of the things we’re doing related to the fruits have not only created new businesses, but also jobs. And that is so important for the Americans. So I would say this is a win-win relationship and we want to enhance it.”

President Bachelet’s award was presented by Martin Welch, Chief Operating Officer for Aramark’s Emerging Markets. Aramark is one of Chile’s largest single employers, creating over 20,000 jobs there. Knowing how long this official state visit was being worked on, Welch observed, “It speaks volumes on President Bachelet’s interest in expanding the partnership between our two countries in promoting commerce and job growth. It’s incredibly beneficial for her to be here, to see what we have here and to exchange information about opportunities in Chile.” Asked about Aramark’s part in rescuing Chile’s trapped miners and the Pennsylvania-led effort through-out all aspects of the rescue, Welch said, “That’s the true test of genuine caring and friendship. Business is more than just a job, it’s how you can have an impact on society and advance the people in a community. It was very gratifying to be able to help in that rescue effort. It was incredible to see all the resources that came out of this region and see how they can be applied to help people in other parts of the world.”


Bachelet’s unprecedented presidential mission to the Chamber throws more high-beam spotlights on the highly acclaimed, extraordinary alliance between the Greater Philadelphia Region and Chile and the jobs they’ve created together: over 100,000 Chilean jobs and some 12,000 jobs in the Delaware Valley.

In the person of Leo Holt, President of Holt Logisitics, we find representation of four generations of the people on the United States’ side of this winning equation. Holt’s grandfather worked with the pioneers of this international success story, the visionary trailblazers like the Kopke’s, Vandenberg’s, Schiro’s, David Del Curto and all the other groundbreaking leaders who irrigated a desert, turned it green, created award-winning grapes and produce and then built the Chilean economic powerhouse from the Copiapó Valley to the Ports of the Delaware River.

“This is not like any other day,” said Holt. “That the president has honored us with a full state visit to Philadelphia and Delaware really signals the importance of the relationship with the tri-state region and Chile. We are four generations with the ‘Chilean Miracle.’ Over 50 years for us as a single company and there are many companies like us, who have managed to feed thousands of people from the opportunities that have come from the Chilean growth. And here at the forums today, we spoke of not only the agricultural growth, mining and fishing but also of healthcare, science innovation, really electric opportunities for the people of the Delaware Valley to continue to grow along with the people of Chile.”

The Delaware Valley leads the way bringing in about 70% of all of Chile’s fruits and produce. The remaining 30% is split between ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Miami.

During her whirlwind tour this past Tuesday, President Bachelet visited the Port of Wilmington, her countryman Roberto Diaz who directs the world famous Curtis Institute of Music, was featured at a business forum chaired by Leo Holt and then on to the Bellevue, escorted by Chile’s Consul for the Tri-State area, Benjamin Leavenworth. “CACC Executive Director Ricardo Maldonado and I worked on this for years,” said Leavenworth. “This is a great victory for our region, for Chile. It’s proof of our powerful and very special relationship with this very special country.”

Miriam Borja-Fisher of Western Industries said, “This visit is crucial for President Bachelet and for the Delaware Valley. Seeing our contributions to her country in person is so very important and we’re ecstatic that’s she’s here. She said in her speech, that our partnerships are going to achieve even more. Chile and Philly – perfect together.”

Years in the making, outgoing CACC Executive Director Ricardo Maldonado helped put the machinery in motion to make the Bachelet presidential state visit a reality. Chamber President Robert Palaima said, “It’s wonderful that Ricardo is moving forward with his career New York, but I am sad, for myself, to see him go. Over the years I’ve come to depend on Ricardo’s leadership, energy and organization skills, so it’s going to be a big loss for us. Tonight’s presidential visit is a culmination of all that he and the Chamber have worked toward and achieved.”

by Wynne Alexander


A Conversation with the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Presented by the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce
January 20, 2015
Hyatt at the Bellevue