MEMBERS REPRESENT 30% OF ECUADOR GDP

Ecuador 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Patricio Alarcón, President of Quito Chamber of Commerce, on training students, improving Ecuador's image abroad, and new trade agreements.

How has the Quito Chamber Commerce positioned itself as a promoter of a market-friendly economy in Ecuador?

The Quito Chamber of Commerce is more than 100 years old, and was the first business organization founded in the city, initially representing all sectors of the Ecuadorian economy. Our members represent around 30% of Ecuador's GDP. Chambers of commerce in the country went through changes when the mandatory affiliation was waived, and we then focused on bringing added value to our members through our services and projects. Currently, one of our projects is the centre for commercial studies, that trains students in different areas every year. There is also a research area, that is in charge of analysing macroeconomic data and carrying out research on specific topics or sectors. The Chamber also provides legal consulting to our affiliates. We lead the National Ecuadorian Committee, a large organization that has 97 business organizations as affiliates. The Quito Chamber is also the only Ecuadorian representative of the International Chamber of Commerce, which is the largest business organization in the world. We have some commissions within the ICC programme, including an integrity and transparency commission, the first in the private sector. Our team works on analysing the legislative framework affecting business in Ecuador, lobbying to propose changes that best match the needs of the business community. At the moment, we are working closely with the government on the plans for Ecuador to join the Pacific Alliance. We are also conducting negotiations for a free trade agreement with the US. We are happy to say that we are not only a valuable organization for our represented stakeholders, but also for the country a whole.

Which services are tailored by the Chamber to guarantee a soft-landing of international companies coming into the country?

Our chamber has collaborated with the Municipality of Quito and business organizations to create Quito Invest, which is an agency dedicated to ease the process for any investor coming to Ecuador and choosing Quito as base for their operations. At the same time, we liaise regularly with the Secretary of Productive Development and Competitiveness of Quito to analyse the city's regulations with regard to FDI, and how it can be improved to raise the profile of Quito as a business hub within the Andean region.

What are the challenges for Ecuador to consolidate a positive image outside of the country?

The current government has done a great job, and many institutions are independent again after 10 years . The country is back on track, on a democratic path where we can finally breathe the air of freedom and rule of law; however, the economy needs further liberalization. Ecuador is inheriting an oversized administration, which is slowly adjusting, and reducing expenditure. The great challenge to the private sector is support the economic growth of the country, in order to become that, regulatory changes are still due, as for example, according to our constitution, the private sector should operate in strategic sectors only if the state requires it specifically. We need faster and more efficient legal mechanisms for building new hydroelectric plants for example. We need to speed up environmental permits to promote responsible mining. Bilateral investment treaties need to resume in order to create certainty for investors, the pension fund in Ecuador needs management that that better serves workers. These are changes that the country needs to make internally, and that this Chamber firmly advocates for. If we consolidate our internal market and we make it efficient and dynamic, that will be our best presentation toward the world.

What is your evaluation of the new commercial policy of the country, and what are the priorities for new trade agreements?

The commercial policy of the country is very well managed, and the current administration has a clear roadmap. Ecuador decided to open to international trade. The country is going from isolation and protectionism to promoting open trade. In 2017, a treaty with the European Union came into effect, which yielded positive results and provided space for a more ambitious commercial policy. Now, Ecuador is in the process of joining the Pacific Alliance, which offers an entrance to Asia. It will allow us to negotiate better with the US. In order to enter as an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, an agreement will be required with Mexico, boosting bilateral trade between the two countries. Ecuador also signed an agreement with the European Free Trade Association. New regions for trade are under consideration. Ecuador is now more aware of the need to reach further and promote our exports. Trade can help relieve poverty in the country, while also raising living standards.