OTTO SONNENHOLZNER

Qatar 2020 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Ecuador and Qatar can both strengthen their relationship through boosting bilateral trade and investment in up-and-coming sectors.

Otto Sonnenholzner
BIOGRAPHY

Otto Sonnenholzner is the Constitutional Vice President of the Republic of Ecuador, appointed by the National Assembly on December 11, 2018. An entrepreneur, economist, and broadcaster, he studied at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, the University of Passau, and Schiller International University at their campuses in Germany and Spain, where he graduated with a degree in economics. For 12 years, he was the host of a talk show and the general manager at Tropicana Radio in Guayaquil. In addition, Sonnenholzner served as president and member of the Ecuadorian Association of Broadcasters (AER) in Guayas. He is an entrepreneur and has developed various activities in the agricultural sector and commerce, among others. He was professor of economics at the faculty of business sciences at the Catholic University of Guayaquil.

What are the main areas of interest between Ecuador and Qatar?
I am pleased to be here as there is a great deal of interest from Qatari investors in Ecuador in different sectors, including agriculture and aquaculture, as we are the global leaders in aquaculture and the largest exporter of shrimps, having surpassed India in 2019. We are the largest exporter of bananas and tuna as well. We export mostly bananas and roses to Qatar today, and exports are growing steadily. Qatar is one of the markets growing the most for us, and there are possibilities of shrimp export investments. In addition, there is great interest in tourism for Qatar investors as well as in agriculture, real estate, and infrastructure, with road building, ports, and airports. Qatar is also interested in operating one of our ports. The Minister of Transportation recently visited Qatar and met with the Qatari Minister of Transportation. Esmeraldas port in Ecuador in the north is of interest to Qatar, as it specializes in oil transport. Ecuador produces 500,000bpd, and we mostly use that port. It needs investment, so we are looking for private investors.

Are there plans to open a direct flight between Doha and Ecuador?
The issue with a direct flight between Doha and Ecuador is the distance, and currently the only direct destination in South America for Qatar Airways is São Paolo. However, Qatar Airways owns an important airline in Italy, Alitalia, and there are 500,000 Ecuadorians living in Italy, so there is an interesting market for a flight from Rome to Ecuador that connects with Doha as well. This is great news, as you can fill up a plane which makes economic sense. That will be good news for Ecuador as we have an aggressive campaign with President Moreno to bring new airlines to the country. We have achieved about 10 new connections from abroad, including Spain, France, Canada, and the Netherlands.

What are the possible areas of interest for both Qatar and Ecuador?
For any country to contribute in a relationship, it will always be through trade. We are growing through trade. The most important thing that will benefit both countries is natural gas, because Qatar has natural gas and we need it.

Qatar is currently attracting foreign investment. Are there opportunities for partnerships between Ecuador and Qatar to manufacture products here?
There have been ideas broached about adding value to Ecuadorian products in Qatar, starting with coffee or chocolate. This is great, as there are free trade zones where Ecuadorian products can enter, and there one can invest with Ecuadorian companies to provide added value to these products. The best example is coffee, as we have high-quality Robusta coffee, so we could start with that. Qatar is in great strategic location in the region for such a distribution and logistics project. President Moreno has worked extensively on this relationship. The amir knows Ecuador and there have been sheikhs who have been to Ecuador and know what they are talking about. We have a president and a vice president who have visited Qatar, so when we speak about Qatar, we know what we are talking about. That is how relationships start.

How has Ecuador's anti-corruption initiatives delivered successful results?
The entire region was impacted by corruption two or three years ago. The government has worked hard on this; the first thing is not to cover up for anyone. That was the first change. The second was that President Moreno started a process via a referendum where people voted to give the entire institutional system strength to uphold justice. We are reinforcing our institutions with transparency processes, including SGS standards to fight against corruption through certifications. We started with the largest companies in the country and are certifying them with SGS anti-corruption standards. We are meeting with the relevant authorities in Qatar, who are willing to share experiences and are cooperating to see where we can help each other.