How will the new investment law change the investment landscape, especially in the industrial sector?
The law sends an important message to local and foreign investors because we are moving from an economic model based on public to private investment. Ecuador has many resources, and these hold great potential; however, we should focus more on our people. Confidence is the most important element in human interactions, and this law is a message of confidence to the community of investors. In addition, we hope to benefit greatly from the opening up of our economy; since January 2017, we have had an FTA with the EU, and we are currently in negotiations with the US to join the Pacific Alliance. By improving our productivity and adding more value to our products, we can start considering exports. Already, Guayaquil's economy is centered on the port, and with the investments in the Posorja Deep Sea Port, developed in collaboration with Dubai-based DP World, we have an opportunity to strengthen our geographic position as hub for maritime transit in the region. That will move a great deal of commerce and also has potential to boost our productive output.
Is the role of the chamber to move these industries up in the value chain?
The agricultural sector in particular offers opportunities to improve productivity because it is relatively low there, though the land is fertile. In our chamber, 40% of our industries are related to food and agriculture: shrimp and tuna farming, cocoa, and bananas. A new trend is tropical fruits and super foods such as quinoa, for which global demand is booming. It is essential that we move these industries up in the value chain and use all our resources—Guayaquil has 3 million people and the Polytechnic University—to work on innovation and launch R&D programs with industry players.
What is your vision to attract more foreign investment and activities into the industrial sector?
We now have the legal framework to provide reassurance to foreign investors and help Ecuador move on the international indexes. We are analyzing our competitiveness and working with the Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Pablo Campana, and his team. Ecuador has a dollarized economy, which has given us stability and confidence to foreign investors. To move up these global indexes, we are now reviewing the exact requirements and looking closely at our institutions. Our administration has invested a great deal in compliance activities over the past year. We are meeting with the tax and customs authorities to speed up processes as well as with the Labor Ministry to discuss easing labor laws to give our industries greater flexibility.
How do you find the synergies between the different regions in Ecuador?
The diversity makes us special. Ecuador is a small country, with incredibly diverse resources and industries, from agriculture and tourism to oil and mining. In addition, we value that diversity, which is reflected in our federation meetings, where 10 chambers come together. We strive to find bonds that can give us added value. Every province has its special characteristics and issues. Certain regions have more heavy industry, such as automotive, while others are purely agricultural. We do not compete but, rather, complement each another. It has not always been this way, so I am proud to be part of this collaborative attitude.
What is your vision for the coming years?
What moves the industry is labor, and we should transform industry into a sector where people find quality jobs. That is a task that we have assumed domestically. We are also part of the UN Global Compact, which gives us global benchmarks and best practices. Our industries take responsibility for the reducing, reusing, and recycling of their products. The circular economy has a great deal of potential, and we should take advantage of that. Secondly, we are in talks with the local authorities and the academy to recover all those products that can be used as raw materials.