EXPANDING REACH

Costa Rica 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Costa Rica has FTAs with countries that represent two-thirds of global GDP. Throwing mega infrastructure projects and bigger roles for PROCOMER into the mix is strengthening its case as a base for exporters and manufacturers.

Pedro Beirute Prada
BIOGRAPHY
Pedro Beirute Prada has been CEO of PROCOMER since January 2015, when he returned to Costa Rica after 14 years of occupying corporate positions in Europe, Latin America, and the US. He has a law degree from Universidad de Costa Rica and a degree in business administration from the Universidad Internacional de las Americas. He completed his MBA at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid.

What are some of your expectations for the business environment in Costa Rica for the coming years?

We are excited about the vision and the energy of the new administration, and it is a great sign that the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), and PROCOMER are working on a joint agenda. We all promote openness, diversity, and inclusion. We expect exports to continue to grow around 6%, more than twice the growth of the economy. Exports represent more than 35% of GDP, and we passed the USD20-billion mark in 2018, representing 600,000 jobs across the country. Linkages continue to grow, and our strategy remains the same: to strengthen efforts to promote economic growth in rural areas, which is a priority of the new administration. We also continue to work on the diversity of our markets, which now number 150. However, we still see an uneven focus on the US, therefore, we want to expand more. For example, our performance in Chinese and other Asian markets is growing by 60-70%.

Which markets are witnessing higher demand for Costa Rican products?

We have signed FTAs with more than 50 countries, and 94% of our exports go to one of those countries. There is no need to proactively pursue new FTAs, since we have agreements with countries that make up two-thirds of global GDP and represent 2.5 billion people; however, we want to maintain a strategy of diversification in Asia and the Middle East. In those regions, we see double-digit growth, whereas in the rest of the world, we see healthy single-digit growth. As a result, we will target them going forward.

How do you expect mega infrastructure projects such as the Moín Container Terminal Project to influence trade dynamics?

We are excited about this USD1-billion project, which will be an inflection point for Costa Rica's trade. It is growing from a public port with limitations and challenges to a private port. In terms of the quality and modernization of our offering, we also expect the Port of Limón to become a hub. It will mean that more products can come, not just from Costa Rica, but from Nicaragua and Panama. We are also modernizing our borders through a regional plan with Central America, and soon, all of our borders will have modern infrastructure that will facilitate trade.

How do you help SMEs comply with the standards they need?

SMEs appreciate our 360-degree service; we do not have one specific service or solution but rather the ability to adapt our services to different needs. We have a diagnostic and assessment tool for every type and size of company. Once complete, we identify the gaps and place our efforts accordingly. For example, some companies lack soft skills, and we have a team of people focused on that. Some companies do not have enough customers, and we help them find customers abroad. Others have great products but require help with acquiring finances, for which we have a team that helps companies source financing from banks or angel investors.

How do you promote and help companies in Costa Rica become “Esencial?"

According to the latest study done in 2017, the “Esencial" country brand had the highest growth and has translated into a boost in tourism, trade, and investment. In 2018, the brand turned five years old, which is still young when it comes to branding. However, that trend continues to be positive. We now have over 300 companies certified as Esencial Costa Rica, and they see the benefit of the brand even without investment or subsidy from PROCOMER. We see companies of all sorts and sizes wanting to join us. We offer them our slogan and image, a network that is relevant to them, consistent knowledge through seminars or events, discounts, and so on. It is extremely important for any country's brand to build up the pride of its citizens.