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Chile, Economy

The Chilean economy has, since the early 20th century, been dominated by the production of copper. Since the 1940s the industrial sector has expanded rapidly, largely due to government efforts at diversification. Today Chile is one of the leading industrial nations in Latin America as well as one of its largest mineral producers. In the 1970s efforts were made to boost the output of the neglected agricultural sector and to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food; after a slow-down in the production of major crops in the early 1980s, agricultural output improved later in the decade.

Since the leftist administration was deposed in 1973, the government has played a less dominant role in the economy, and most nationalized companies have been returned to private ownership. In 1999 the national budget anticipated $15.2 billion in revenues and $16.2 billion in expenditures. Chile’s estimated gross domestic product (GDP) in 2000 was $70.5 billion.

By the 1990s Chile’s economy was one of the strongest in South America, earning the country invitations to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chile also became an associate member of MERCOSUR, or the Southern Cone Common Market, which also includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Approval of Chile’s NAFTA membership was held up in 1995 and 1996 by resistance in the U.S. Congress.

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