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California and Chile, Agricultural Soulmates

Vida en el Valle, News Report, Martin E. Martinez Posted: Jun 24, 2008

SACRAMENTO -- Claudia Negrn knows exactly what she'll do after she graduates from the University of California at Davis: return to her country, Chile, to put in practice the lessons she's learned about agriculture.

She's confident that with this knowledge she can contribute to the growth and development of the Chilean countryside, and that will help strengthen her country's economy.

"Chile and California are such similar regions with regard to climate, vegetation and the agricultural products we grow; that's why the knowledge I've acquired here will really benefit my country," said Negrn, who is majoring in agriculture and agronomy at UC Davis.

Negrn is one of almost 200 students who arrive from Chile every year to study at UC Davis, thanks to academic partnerships between the local university and various Chilean universities.

These educational ties will be further strengthened thanks to a visit to California last week by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Together with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bachelet signed a new educational agreement, as well as three other pacts regarding agriculture, environmental protection and technology.

"This educational accord will allow talented young Chileans of lower incomes to come to California on scholarship and return to Chile to help keep ours the most solid economy in Latin America," Bachelet said in a ceremony at UC Davis during which various memoranda of understanding between the two countries were signed.

This is the second educational agreement signed by California and Chile. The first was drafted in 1963 when then-President John F. Kennedy signed into being the first student exchange program between the two nations, through which hundreds of Chileans have attended universities in this state to learn new agricultural techniques.

Thanks to the accord signed by Kennedy, Chile began a new era of development that would help the country establish one of the most powerful emerging economies in Latin Amrica.

Bachelet commended California's agricultural development, especially in the fields of viniculture (wine-making), technological development and environmental protection, areas in which the Chilean government has also been working hard.

"We've made great strides in Chile so now we're in a position to be a developing country and that is why we want to learn from the successful experience of California," said Bachelet.

Schwarzenegger said that these agreements will enable strengthening ties of cooperation between the two regions, which will help into economic well-being, especially now that California faces a budget crisis.

"There are many things that unite us to Chile ... and though we are competitors in several economic aspects, we share practices and joint working on a Free Trade Area, " said Schwarzenegger.

He added that this agreements is a perfect example of development among countries and, since it was signed in 2004, both countries have improved the mutual economy and the exports doubled to 250 per cent.

"This is why North American Free Trade Agreement is a good example to urge the U.S. Congress to continue signing agreements like these with other countries. Unfortunately agreements like this with other countries are stagnant so far."

Before this meeting, Bachelet was presented at the California Legislature member where he was received by Fabin Nez, a former speaker of the Assembly.

In her speech to the Assembly, Bachelet said that the United States and Chile shared respect for freedom, human rights and free trade.

"Our goal is to give a big step forward and become a developed nation within a generation. I have not come here to ask for help but a partnership for development," she says.

After this event, Bachelet, who was elected the first female president of Chile in 2006, along with Schwarzenegger visited the vineyards of the area of Hopkins.

In the afternoon, Bachelet was presented at the University of Berkeley in which she spoke about the challenges that will face Chile in the future and the importance of the agreements reached during her visit to California.

Bachelet invited Schwarzenegger to visit Chile and he responded that maybe soon he will be there. Bachelet just said 'hasta la vista', one of the most famous phrases of Schwarzenegger's movies.

Francisco Morn, president of the Chilean association of Northern California, said that the agreements signed are very favorable for the development of Chile and opens the door for future cooperation programs.

Morn gave Bachelet a written proposal which ask to bring to California the most outstanding Chilean students to continue the university and later they can return to Chile to implement there attained knowledge.

Bachelet took the proposal and said that she will review it.

California is the third most important trading partner of Chile, after Texas and Florida. Among the exports to this South American country include petroleum, coal, computers parts, machinery manufacturing and transportation products.

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