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Chile deputy trade minister seeks to reassure investors over unrest

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By Reuters
Chile deputy trade minister seeks to reassure investors over unrest
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators take aim with their slingshots during protests against Chile's government, in Santiago, Chile November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado   -   Copyright  IVAN ALVARADO(Reuters)

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Chile’s deputy trade minister sought on Tuesday to reassure foreign investors who might be spooked by weeks of civil unrest rocking his country, saying the country had a longer term track record of stability.

Chile has seen a month of both peaceful protests and violent riots over low pensions and salaries, the high cost of living, and security force abuses.

The unrest has left at least 23 dead, hobbled public transportation networks and wrought billions in losses to private businesses, according to authorities and rights groups.

“Investors look at it on a medium and long term,” Vice Trade Minister Rodrigo Yanez said in an interview.

“Of course this situation puts many of them in a watch-and-see sort of mode, but also we have a very important track record of stability and rule of law in the past decade,” said Yanez, who was visiting Jakarta and other parts of Asia on a trade mission.

Yanez said he had met in Tokyo with Japanese investors in Chile and they were interested in “how the opposition and the government are able to build an agenda so that they can also find a new base of stability over the next decades to come”.

Chileans will vote in April on whether to re-write the country’s dictatorship-era constitution, a referendum that is bound to give investor the jitters, according to many marketwatchers.

“Uncertainty and risks for the macro business environment will be considerable as the constitutional reform process unfolds,” said Maria Luisa Puig, of consultancy Eurasia Group.

Yanez said a survey by the Chilean investment promotion agency showed only 6% of investors were considering stopping investment due to the unrest, while the rest were closely following developments.

“It’s important to address stakeholders in terms of investment and …to inform them on the institutional way through which we are addressing this crisis,” he said, adding that the government was trying to improve pensions, control living costs and apply more taxes on the richest.

In respect to trade, even though in the first few weeks of the civil unrest logistics had slowed down, ports and airports were functioning to allow productive sectors to deliver, he said.

Chile is the world’s top copper producer and Yanez said while there had been some incidents affecting the mining sector in the early weeks of the crisis, such as impacting access to pits, “the situation generally speaking is pretty normal”.

(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Bernadette Christina Munthe and Ed Davies, additional reporting by Dave Sherwood in Santiago; editing by Philippa Fletcher)