The Republic of Chile occupies the west ern foothills of the Andes Moun ains in South America. It shares its northern bor der with Peru while its eastern neighbors are Bolivia and Argentina. Chile has 756,000 km², excluding the Antarctica, it is 4,300 km long and just 177 km wide on average. The estimated population of the country is about 14.5 million people and about 4.5 million live in Santiago, the na tion's capital. Other important cities are Concepcion, Valparaiso, An ofagasta and Temuco.
Chile has a free market economy, with an important foreign investment participa tion. During 1996 Chile's gross domestic product (GDP) was US$ 72 billion, which represents a per capita income of USD 5,000. Perhaps mos importan is the fact that the Chilean economy has been growing steadily since the mid 1980s, with an average annual growth rate of the GDP of about 7%, a low inflation rate (6.6% in 996), a low unemployment rate, a continuous flow of capital into the country investments and loans), positive trade balance in he past years, and high revenues.