EGGS IN THE BASKET

Peru 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jorge von Wedemeyer Knigge, Former President of the Chamber of Commerce of Lima, on supporting entrepreneurship, free trade agreements, and opportunities for growth.

Jorge von Wedemeyer Knigge
BIOGRAPHY
Jorge von Wedemeyer Knigge is a graduate of the University of Hamburg and has extensive experience in banking, having worked at Commerzbank and Banco de Credito del Peru. For 13 years he worked at Dresdner Bank Lateinamerika. He was Internal General Manager at Lima Airport Partners and is also the Chairman. He is the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Lima.

What is required to stimulate entrepreneurship in the country, especially for SMEs?

We currently have 17 free trade agreements and more in preparation; we are members of the Pacific Alliance, APEC, and TPP, and all this makes it necessary to be more competitive and in order to be more competitive, we have to be cheaper, faster, and more effective in what we do. There was a mentality in the government that the strength of our economy was entirely dependent on global economic factors, which certainly have an impact, but it became an excuse not to facilitate entrepreneurial activity among Peruvian companies. Now it is up to the next government to reduce barriers and obstacles, facilitate economic activities, and implement the appropriate regulations and laws to support the labor force and educational system for long-term development. The informal sector accounts for 74% of total national labor and about 60% of economic activity, so it is important to formalize.

How will the TPP impact the Peruvian economy and what is its potential?

There is always potential in every measure we take to be more globalized because it opens up possibilities to have wider markets and to enter markets at lower costs. On the other hand, as long as we are members and others are not, we open up possibilities for entities to sell their products through us in these globalized market spaces. It is an investment opportunity for people of other countries to generate their products with us and sell them in the markets we now have easy access to.

What segments of the national economy have significant potential for new companies to invest and operate?

There is considerable potential to invest in the economy and the main opportunities are in infrastructure development. While the government has yet to privatize many services, there is strong potential to do so, opening opportunities to construct roads, railways, metros, and even to distribute energy to other countries. There is potential to add value to our raw materials; instead of exporting copper we can export copper wires and copper electrical products, which could be manufactured in Peru. There are also opportunities to export agricultural products, particularly fruits and vegetables and commodities unique to Peru such as quinoa. We have about 2,000 different varieties of potatoes so there is definitely potential to develop something there as well.

How is the chamber positioned to develop a synergy between the business community and the government?

Our main function is to facilitate dialog about challenges facing the private sector, and to give the private sector a space to participate in the discussion. We have large events throughout the year to talk with specialists, and we invite academics from different parts of the world to give lectures. We are not only discussing general economic issues, but there is also a constant dialog with different entities of the government. We do not defend any one interest of our members; rather we develop general strategies and defend general-interest principles.

What is your outlook for 2016 in terms of economic performance and what are the chamber's priority targets for the end of the year?

We had elections this year, and economic activity is typically halted during elections. However, this election season we are confident that we will have continuity, and it is the first time in the history of Peru that we have had 25 years of constant development and political continuity. We try to unify our development process. For example, we want our doctors, investors, and financial institutions to have internationally recognized credentials and functions and global access to opportunities. The Pacific Alliance is not only a free trade agreement zone, it is also more comparable to the eurozone. Peru is a member of APEC and for the second time the APEC meeting will be held in Lima, which is a tremendous opportunity to make this a stronger, more competitive market.