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Ecuador 2013 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to María Fernanda de Luca, Executive Director of PRO ECUADOR, on the country's unique qualities that make it perfect for doing business and forming partnerships.

María Fernanda de Luca
BIOGRAPHY
María Fernanda de Luca received her Master’s degree in Local Sustainable Development and Social Economics from the Universidad de Huelva in Spain. Prior to becoming Director of PRO ECUADOR, she worked as Director of Promotion of Exports and Investments. She also held the position of Minister of Political Coordination from 2008-2010.

How has PRO ECUADOR evolved since it was established?

The fact that the Ecuadorean government took a leading step in promoting its exports and investments was essential. PRO ECUADOR was created to strengthen the work of and interaction between the public and private sectors, as well as build up the country's presence and its exportable offer abroad. We have grown and consolidated our commercial offices network. In 2009, Ecuador had 14 commercial offices and nine commercial sections, with only one member of staff working at Ecuadorean embassies abroad. Nowadays, PRO ECUADOR has 31 offices in key markets, and we have at least four officers in each country, which allows us to provide a better response to exporters and investors. We also are continuing to create a network of national companies that want to be international. We can offer information, training, and commercial opportunities. We have taken a look inside our work, making our services more effective. For example, PRO ECUADOR is now targeting specific needs, identifying what type of information is relevant for companies and whether or not they are receiving it.

Where does Ecuador have commercial offices operating, and what markets offer the most potential for the near future?

We have 31 commercial offices in Latin America, Central America, the US and Canada, and in Europe in markets such as Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Russia. We also have three offices in China, one in Japan, Korea, Singapore, and India, as well as a new office in Dubai.

What are your main activities planned for 2013, and what is the operating budget for the year?

The national budget assigned $18 million to our institute, which includes two investment projects in institutional strengthening and to accompany Ecuadorean companies when doing business abroad. This project is called Exporta País, and seeks to diagnose the national foreign trade situation, identify who is involved in the process, evaluate how we can strengthen Ecuador's presence abroad, and then implement a correct strategy. The objective is to create efficient PRO ECUADOR services in technology and knowledge. The other project was created to target specific investment opportunities at a national level.

What investment opportunities does Ecuador offer to foreign investors?

In this context, the industry and petrochemicals sectors offer many opportunities, because the government is encouraging a change in the country's production matrix. Ecuador's focus is set on industrial development, investing in new energies, and long-term investments. Sectors such as metallurgy, shipbuilding, agricultural production, and tourism offer very interesting opportunities for investors. In tourism, we want the presence of international companies seeking our diversity in climate and habitat. At the same time, we continue to encourage the export of signature products such as bananas, coffee, cocoa, and shrimp. We see market niches in our region for textiles, electromechanical activity, services, and the automotive sector—new production with high possibilities in the international market.

What role does the private sector play in boosting Ecuador's economic growth?

It is essential. The role of public institutions is to facilitate these activities. We have to set rules and help with services and guidelines, so that the work of exporters work can be easier. As we work on being more effective, we will see short-term results. We have also worked on presenting Ecuador as a place to do business, where people can buy and invest, see the wonders of the country, and live our reality. Another role is to organize business events and fairs such as the Andean Business Meeting in partnership with the four countries of the Andean Community, the Business Matchmaking Ecuador, and Aromas del Ecuador, specialized in coffee and cocoa.

What trade agreements could the country sign in the near future, and how would they contribute to boosting foreign trade?

We have many agreements in discussion, and there are high expectations for all of them. Our efforts are focused on regional markets, especially Mercosur, and we are keen to start negotiations. We have signed an agreement with Guatemala, where many companies are seeking new opportunities. We are also looking to hold meetings with China and Korea. We think it is essential to continue negotiations with Europe. In the case of Turkey and Central America, we are waiting for the final agreements.