Connecting Philly and Chile through trade
Though it is lesser known, The Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia has important role in the region’s economy, says Christina Lista, director of the organization.
“It isn’t a chamber a lot of people know about unless you’re within the fresh fruit industry or you’re associated with the ports or you do logistics,” said Christina Lista, director of the organization. “But in actuality, without all these people coming together, we wouldn’t have fruit in the wintertime and we wouldn’t have this great relationship that we have with the country of Chile.”
A non-profit organization, the Chilean and American Chamber is an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. It seeks to foster and improve commercial and trade relations between Chile and the Greater Philadelphia Region which supports over half a million jobs in Chile. Primarily, trade between the region and Chile comes from the agricultural industry. Over half a million metric tons of Chilean fruit are imported at ports along the Delaware River annually.
On Thursday, the chamber held its annual Friend of Chile award luncheon at Hyatt at the Bellevue. This event honors people in the region who have helped with the chamber’s mission.
Derrick Jenkins, vice president of produce and floral with the New Jersey-based Wakefern Food Corporation received this year’s Friend of Chile award. Ralph Hackett of Dayka and Hackett LLC received the lifetime achievement award.
“We have built a very strong partnership with all the exporters and companies involved with trade with Chile, but also with the country of Chile,” said Lista. “We actually hosted Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile back in January. That just shows how important a relationship there is between our region and Chile.”
Benjamin Leavenworth, the honorary consul of Chile in Philadelphia, explained the economic relationship between Chile and the region, and in larger part the country, was built over the years through personal relationships.
“You’re talking about an economic partnership built entirely on people knowing each other,” he said. “We live in this age where we talk about Facebook friends, but those aren’t the kind of relationships that allow us to build these kinds economic relations.”
It was mostly Chilean and American agriculture trade pioneers, Leavenworth said, who built a partnership which made the United States, Chile’s second biggest trading partner. The companies and agriculture entrepreneurs took risks to establish importing companies at their own cost, said Leavenworth.
“They had no government subsidies or things like that, but they made it happen,” he said. “Today we kind of take that for granted.”
While it is not the biggest trading partner in Latin America, Leavenworth said Chile has historically had a favorable trade relationship with the U.S.
“It’s one that is very positive,” he said. “It’s also a very serious one which is anchored at both sides by organizations like this on the business and political level.”