Chile Time Zone UTC-03:00
Capital City Santiago
Currency Chilean peso
National Day September 18
CHILE’S NEW AMBASSADOR David Gallagher declares: “there have been three hats to my life’s work.” Firstly, his literary hat began after he graduated from Oxford University. He worked for The Times Literary Supplement, also writing for The New York Review of Books throughout his career and contributing a fortnightly column to El Mercurio newspaper in Chile. He’s also the author of a number of published works, including Modern Latin American Literature published by Oxford University Press.
Secondly, Mr Gallagher has been on the board of Chile’s leading think tank Centro de Estudios Públicos since its foundation in 1982, with the major task of trying to identify the best public policies for the government. The third hat is business. After working as an investment banker with Morgan Grenfell, he founded investment banking boutique, ASSET-Chile in 1984 specialising in mergers and acquisitions, financings, restructurings and corporate strategy, advising major corporations in Chile and overseas. Retiring at the end of last year, he sold his stake to younger partners, freeing himself up for a new career…
“So now I’m a diplomat, but only since 2 August.” His arrival in the capital with his wife Sara has been a (European) family reunion of sorts, as one of their daughters already lives in London, and they have a son in Madrid.
It’s been “an intense” start to the job, with various activities including an annual ceremony to celebrate the birthday of Chile’s liberator and founder Bernardo O’ Higgins, plus the 60th anniversary of a brigade of firefighters founded by the British. “Honorary member Prince Edward hosted a wonderful celebration in St James’s Palace.” Then as well as a National Day celebration, Mr Gallagher hosted Chile Day. “300 people arrived from Chile to meet their counterparts in the city. The FCO, the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the British Embassy in Santiago were all involved. It was very successful!” he remarks.
“But I had a good base from which to start the job,” he remarks. “Chile and the UK have had excellent relations for 200 years. And I plan to deepen the already complicit strategic alliance between the two countries.”
Mr Gallagher’s business hat, and the fact he’s the former Chairman of the British Chilean Chamber of Commerce mean that he’s still naturally drawn to business. “Investment flows in two ways these days. In Chile we have no exchange controls; Chilean companies can invest as much in the UK as they’d like, and likewise, the UK can invest in Chile as much as they’d like, and they do.” Also, with around 1,000 students from Chile involved in post-graduate studies in the UK, education is a huge priority. “The UK is by far the most popular destination country for our students.” He continues: “we are also exploring twenty-first century topics of artificial intelligence, science and technology together.”
His literary hat ensures he supports all the Embassy’s cultural activities with “huge enthusiasm.” Chile was a guest country at the recent Raindance Film Festival, and the Embassy is currently showcasing an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Queen’s 1968 State Visit to Chile. “This was a key moment in the bilateral relationship, so we are happy to remind visitors with various stories, photographs and interviews.”
Does the Ambassador anticipate potential opportunities for the UK-Chile relationship post-Brexit? “It’s not for me to analyse Brexit. But yes, there will always be opportunities between Chile and the UK. We’re on the same page on so many issues.”
Mr Gallagher declares that Chile has the diplomatic disadvantage of being a small country. “With about 17 million people, that’s tiny by many standards. We like to have a seat at the table and a voice, and that’s not always easy. But we believe we can exercise influence and be heard if we conduct our own business well.”
Part of this, he says, is working as much as possible with other Latin American countries. “The potent Pacific Alliance between Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile is a much stronger body than any of its parts. All these countries can do more together than any one individually.”
Likewise, Chile is a key member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “When the US decided to opt out, Chile took the lead in keeping other countries together. That is obviously a huge market. These alliances are things we can offer in our diplomatic efforts to countries who host our Ambassadors.
“But most importantly,” he says, “Chile has opted for free trade and an international order subject to the rule of law. We will always take the lead or join leaders in defending these principles.”
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