TBY talks to María Fernanda de Luca, Executive Director of PRO ECUADOR, on the agency’s main achievements since its establishment and product diversification.
TBY What have been PRO ECUADOR’s greatest accomplishments in its first year of operations?
MARÍA FERNANDA DE LUCA We have worked mostly on the creation of a database of exporters, and have the support of a public institution called SENAE, the customs services operator, which provides us with information about who is exporting. Not necessarily everyone in that database is a constant exporter, and so that information needed to be validated. PRO ECUADOR has done that, and now we have more than 700 validated contacts. We have launched our website and are now able to provide statistics and commercial information to exporters and reach them with our services. We have also worked hard to associate ourselves with other promotion institutions, joining RedIbero, an export organization that links the activities of trade promotion organizations in 21 Latin American states as well as Portugal and Spain. We have to work fast and learn quickly, as we don’t have long to improvise.
Where has PRO ECUADOR looked for inspiration?
We have worked a lot in Latin America because we feel that the models under which other institutions were created are similar to ours. We have been to Chile, Colombia, and Peru, and that has allowed us to learn from their experiences and implement some of their ideas. I think this international positioning has been interesting for us and has allowed us to stay up to date with what’s happening in Latin America and create possibilities for cooperation. In March 2012, we hosted the first Andean Entrepreneurial Meeting in order to strengthen the commercial relations between these countries, given that the Andean Community of Nations’ goal is to generate trade possibilities between these countries.
Is diversification the main concept when talking about PRO ECUADOR’s functions?
Yes, this is another very important aspect that we work on; diversification in terms of actors, products, and markets. We are an active actor in many markets, but it also depends a lot on the areas of trade negotiation where they look for rapprochement with international markets. For market diversification we have been working a lot at a regional level here in South America and also with Asia and the Middle East. In terms of product diversification, we have tried to organize promotional events to introduce new actors who have the capacity to export.
What budget size is PRO ECUADOR working with to achieve its goals?
Our budget for 2011 was about $7 million, which is very limited because we were just starting, and our projection for 2012 is around $15 million. The government has a budget for current expenses, but it also has investment projects, and trade matters and trade offices are seen as investments for the government. There’s a lot of investment going on in many sectors, and the government is generating possibilities and changing the framework. We had a number of issues, such as health and education, that were being overlooked, though we also can’t neglect export and trade matters, which are essential for the country. We aspire to complement our work with external projects and cooperation with foreign institutions that may provide us with material assistance.
What do Ecuadorean products offer to the international market?
Our main component is quality. When we created the brands “Love Life” and “Made with Values,” our vision as the government was to represent what our country is about. Ecuador is a small country with four different regions, and it is considered one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. We need to project these elements abroad so that our products can be related to our overall vision. The geographic and climate advantages we have need to be among the elements to project to overseas buyers so that they can relate the quality of our products to our vision. We also have to be able to represent our cultural diversity in the products that we promote externally. One possibility is to promote the products of indigenous communities in the Amazon region and from the Andes. These products have specific characteristics that can be projected abroad, as besides being of high quality, consumers are acquiring a story of the production of that specific good that involves social responsibility, community redistribution, and local development. These are the elements we want to project through our country brand positioning. Through all of our campaigns, we want to represent the diversity of our country.
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