Trade and Chile's privately administered social security system may be among the issues addressed by the two leaders in the Monday afternoon session.
A socialist, Lagos narrowly defeated his conservative opponent Joaquin Lavin for Chile's presidency in January 2000.
Bush will spend much of the rest of the week preparing for the Quebec summit scheduled to begin April 22, where he will meet with leaders from 34 countries. It will be his first major international event since taking office in January.
Free trade negotiations between United States and Chile have been under way since December 2000 with the latest round of talks held in Florida last month. The two countries are expected to meet again in Santiago in May.
In the first months of his presidency, Bush has concentrated on strengthening ties with Latin American countries and Canada in an effort to streamline trade among the nations of the Western Hemisphere. He made his first foreign trip as president to Mexico where he met with its leader Vicente Fox, and during the past two months, he has met with President Andres Pastrana of Columbia and President Francisco Flores of El Salvador, and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Under consideration at the summit and at Bush's meeting with Lagos will be the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, a planned expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, extending from the Artic to Argentina, encompassing 34 nations and more than 800 million people.
Efforts to establish the FTAA have already sparked criticism from those opposed to globalization, who are plan to stage massive protests at the summit.
But U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick earlier this month praised Chile for its role at the forefront of Latin American nations in liberalizing trade.
"It has also helped lead the hemisphere, setting an example to the world of a free people reclaiming their democracy and making the transition to a mature, developed economy. After years of political turmoil, Chile has also revived and strengthened its democracy," Zoellick said in his April 4 speech to the Chilean American Chamber of Commerce.
"I have noticed, with some envy, that while U.S. trade policy has drifted in recent years, Chile grew tired of waiting and struck a free trade agreement with Canada. We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. And there is a price to pay for our delay. U.S. exports to Chile face an 8 percent tariff. Canadian exports will eventually carry no tariff at all, thanks to Canada's free trade agreement with Chile," Zoellick said.
In 1999, Chile exported $3.2 billion in goods to the United States, with fruit among the largest products brought into the country. Zoellick said that ports in Philadelphia conduct so much business with the Latin America country, that it now houses its own Chilean-American Chamber of Commerce. Bilateral trade between the United States and Chile has more than doubled in the past decade to nearly $6 billion annually.
Also expected to be on the agenda is Chile's social security system. Bush has long advocated reform of social security in the United States along the lines of the privately-administered national system the Chilean government adopted in 1980. Under the new system, contributions from current workers are invested and managed by a selection of private companies, rather than being used to meet payments to current pensioners.
According to the International Pension Reform, a group that tracks how pensions perform around the world, Chilean pensioners now enjoy 50 to 100 percent higher returns than they did under the the pay-as-you-go system.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said he was unsure whether the two presidents would discuss social security, but said that Bush was "aware" of Chile's progress.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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