Guidance

Doing business in Chile: Chile trade and export guide

Updated 9 October 2015

1. Chile export overview

Chile is the fifth largest economy in South America and has the highest level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the region. Its economy has more than doubled in size since 2004.

Contact a Department for International Trade (DIT) Chile export adviser for a free consultation if you are interested in exporting to Chile.

Contact UK Export Finance (UKEF) about trade finance and insurance cover for UK companies. You can also check the current UKEF cover position for Chile.

Chile ranks seventh in the Index of Economic Freedom. It is Latin America’s top ranked country in World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. A business can be set up in a single day in Chile.

Over 100 British companies have direct operations in Chile, with many more exporting through local partners.

Benefits for British businesses exporting to Chile include:

  • a growing middle class
  • good political relations with UK

Strengths of the Chilean market include:

  • an open economy with no net national debt
  • commitment to free trade
  • a well developed financial market and economic structure

2. Challenges doing business in Chile

There are some unique challenges to doing business in Chile. These include:

  • travel time is about 15 hours, with no direct flights
  • Spanish is the national language, you should not assume negotiations can take place in English
  • work needed on enforcing intellectual property rights

3. Growth potential

GDP growth dipped to 1.9% in 2014 but since 1990 has averaged 5.3% per annum. Expectations for growth in 2015 are around 3%.

Chile ranks seventh globally in the Index of Economic Freedom. In other rankings such as Ease of Doing Business, World Competiveness and Business Environment, it is ranked either first or second in Latin America.

3.1 Free trade agreements

Chile’s free trade agreements make the country an attractive export platform as well as a regional headquarters. Chile has signed over 20 Free Trade Agreements with 50 countries and its trade network provides access to almost 1.2 billion consumers worldwide.

The majority of goods from the UK enter Chile at 0% tariffs.

4. UK and Chile trade

The UK is the sixth largest foreign investor in Chile and its exports of goods and services to Chile were over £1.5 billion in 2013. Chile is the UK’s second largest export destination in South America despite having only the sixth largest population.

The UK has a trade surplus with Chile with the main UK exports being:

  • crude oil
  • industrial machinery
  • cars
  • beverages
  • pharmaceuticals

5. Opportunities for UK businesses in Chile

DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Search for export opportunities.

5.1 Mining

Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper, which provides 50% of export earnings and 13% of GDP. Other mining products are gold, silver and molybdenum.

There will be an estimated USD70 billion investment in Chile’s mining sector up to 2021.

There are opportunities for UK companies in the following areas:

  • water efficiency and management solutions
  • energy efficiency solutions
  • environmental consultancy and technology
  • equipment suppliers (mostly cost reduction and productivity gains)

Contact scott.bennett@fco.gov.uk for more information in the mining sector.

5.2 Power

Chile’s 19,100MW power generation capacity has to increase in order to service the approximate 5% annual demand growth. By law renewable energy has to supply 20% of generation by 2025. There are opportunities for UK companies in:

  • thermoelectric generation construction, component supply and services
  • emission controls
  • wind, solar, tidal, biomass, and geothermal generation
  • supplies to new transmission projects
  • energy efficiency

Contact trevor.hines@fco.gov.uk for more information on the power sector.

5.3 Retail

Chile’s retail and consumer market is strong. According to global research in 2015 Chile was the third best emerging global market for retail opportunities. It is the second best emerging market for retail opportunities, according to global research in 2013. There are considerable opportunities for British consumer and retail goods in Chile. These cover a wide range of sub sectors, including:

  • clothing and footwear
  • health and beauty
  • home and kitchen appliances
  • food, especially convenience foods
  • alcoholic beverages, especially high quality whisky

Contact the Commercial Officer jolanta.polk@fco.gov.uk for more information on the retail opportunities sector.

5.4 Education and training

Education spending has doubled in real terms since 1990 and today represents 4-5% of GDP. The percentage of students undertaking further education has doubled in the last decade.

There are opportunities for UK companies in areas such as:

  • hardware, eg laboratory equipment and interactive whiteboards
  • software and platform-based learning, especially for English language learning
  • simulators for technical training

Universities are actively seeking collaboration in research and teacher and student exchanges. The UK has attracted one third of all Masters and PhD candidates studying abroad on a Chilean government grant scheme over the last 6 years.

Contact the Commercial Officer jolanta.polk@fco.gov.uk for further information on education and training opportunities.

5.5 Infrastructure

The Chilean government’s commitment to infrastructure development continues to push the construction industry’s growth. Chile requires USD 9 billion of further investment to reduce its infrastructure deficit.

There are specific opportunities for UK companies in:

  • port engineering and construction
  • hospital Board of Trustees (BOT) contracts and procurement
  • airport design and construction
  • bridge and road engineering and construction
  • equipment suppliers

Contact the Commercial Officer scott.bennett@fco.gov.uk for further information on the infrastructure sector.

6. Start up considerations

Most UK companies export to Chile through an established local partner or directly to clients. Most do not create a local business.

UK companies that wish to establish direct operations in Chile should refer to the Chilean government’s Foreign Investor’s Guide.

Chile has a single national law applicable to all citizens. There are 2 duty free zones, one in Iquique and the other in Punta Arenas. Tax considerations differ from the rest of the country in these areas. Iquique is a particularly good base to re-export to regional countries.

UK companies entering into agreements in Chile should undertake professional advice.

8. Tax and customs considerations

The principal taxes in Chile are:

There are also taxes on:

8.1 Customs

Most imports to Chile that are subject to customs duties are charged at the 6% for countries outside of free trade agreements. Chile’s free trade agreements cover 62% of the world.

It is advisable to employ a customs agent for importing and exporting to Chile.

You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database (MADB).

8.2 Documentation

Customs agents must send a completed Customs Destination Admission Declaration (DIN) to the National Customs Service. The following documents are required for its completion:

  • original commercial invoice
  • certificate of origin
  • original transport document, stating the importer and consignee
  • packing list, for containerised goods
  • original insurance certificate (if goods are insured)
  • inspection certificates indicating compliance with pertinent legal regulations on specific goods such as fuel, firearms and seafood

For imports originating in trade agreement areas you will need a certificate about goods have transited through other nations. The certificate must show that they have not been subject to operations other than unloading, reloading or maintenance.

9. Entry requirements

British nationals do not need a visa to visit Chile.

If you’re travelling to Chile for business check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice beforehand.

10. Contacts

Contact the DIT team in Chile for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Chile.