Palacio de la Moneda
PRESIDENT PIÑERA: Good morning. I would like to give the most warm in the world’s welcome to the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden.
You know that he was elected senator when he was only 29 years of age (inaudible) the youngest senator in the history of the United States. He performed as a U.S. senator for more than 36 years, and now he’s the Vice President of the United States.
Welcome to Chile.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
PRESIDENT PIÑERA: We consider yourself and the country a very good and loyal friend of my country. So -- and I know that you have a very important voice to give and we are very pleased to have you here. Welcome to Chile once again, and I give you --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I -- despite some of the crises that are going on around the world, the President and I agreed that it was important that I be here in Chile because this -- our commitment to this relationship is real. It’s deep, and you’ve deepened in your term, Mr. President.
I had a great meeting with President-elect Bachelet this morning, and I’m looking forward to meeting with you after this brief comments to the press here. And I also look forward to meeting the other leaders in the region from Colombia, Peru, Mexico and elsewhere. So it’s an opportunity for me meet others as well.
The President and I believe that the hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere, and particularly the Southern Hemisphere has -- offers enormous, enormous potential. It’s the destination of 40 percent of all of America’s exports. It’s home to a growing middle class, and it’s quickly becoming (inaudible) quickly becoming a world energy center.
And we, for the first time, Mr. President, at least in my career, talk about how to achieve a hemisphere that is secure, middle-class and free. We’ve never been able to look at it that way before. From Canada through -- down through Chile and everywhere in between, And nowhere in the region is that more -- potentially more apparent than in Chile. (Inaudible) the United States you mentioned historic close ties. And that's why -- it’s why I’m here. That's why my delegation is here.
Mr. President, our two countries have worked well together. We’ve made significant progress through your leadership in the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. During your term, Mr. President, our two countries also strengthened our people-to-people ties through the Visa Waiver Program. I remember first meeting you, talking about that. Chile is the only Latin America country in the program that allows visa-free travel between Chile and the United States.
And as far as my visit, I’m happy to say that we’re not going to wait until May the 1st. We want to move that program up to begin on March the 31st. Again, thank you for your -- all your efforts.
The United States, Mr. President, looks forward to working with your successor, President Bachelet, on these and many more issues. I personally look forward to tomorrow’s inauguration. I’ve heard it described as the perfect example of democratic transfer of power. Chile’s economic, democratic tradition teaches us all that pragmatism, not ideology, is the secret to success. It’s no coincidence that Chile has used democracy and the open market to create new opportunities for her citizens. And we continue to look forward to working with the government of Chile, and I continue to look forward to seeing you as well in person.
Thank you for you hospitality.