Bolivia should make the most of doing gas business with Chile

Jul 09, 2002 02:00 AM

The head of a Chilean business organization said that Bolivia should "make the most" of the chance to do business with Chile and should not lose it as a customer over some "patriotic yearning." "I think that Bolivia has a spectacular opportunity in the gas business; it should open itself up to the world and not waste it, least of all for a patriotic yearning which in the end is bad business," said Chilean Production and Trade Confederation chairman Ricardo Ariztia.
He was referring to opposition in Bolivia against exporting its gas to North America through northern Chilean ports, a region Bolivia lost to its neighbour along with its outlet to the Pacific Ocean in the war of 1897. Due to Bolivian pressure to gain an outlet to the Pacific via northern Chile, diplomatic relations between the countries were broken off in 1962, with a brief resumption between 1975 and 1978.

Nevertheless, the countries are attempting to work toward integration in trade matters. The Chilean ports of Mejillones, Iquique and Arica and the Peruvian port of Ilo all hope to be the shipping port for Bolivian gas exports, a project calling for a $ 5 bn investment.
Ariztia said it was better to wait until the turmoil of the Bolivian presidential elections died down before even discussing the issue further. "I think it is better for the election storm to die down and then to issue an opinion based on economic and feasibility studies of the effects which such an agreement would have on both nations, but I do hope the gas will be exported through Chile," he said.

In early August, the Bolivian Congress will choose a president from between the two top vote-getters in the June 30 general elections, in which nobody emerged with an absolute majority. Chilean and Bolivian technical teams have met twice to discuss the gas export project, most recently on June 15 in Santiago, but no official report was made regarding that meeting.

Source: EFE
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