Latin America – a region of contrasts

Latam mapThe IFB 2014 (International Festival of Business), an impressive agenda of conferences, meetings, round tables and workshops in June and July in Liverpool, held an all-day conference on international business on the 15th July.

The focus for the conferences was “the Power of the Chamber Global Network” and will be followed up the next day by one-to-one meetings with companies interested in doing business overseas.

Mexico was present in the Latin America panel in the afternoon, along with Chile and Colombia. Brazil also participated in the Q&A session afterwards. The venue itself was a testament to the trade relationship between LatAm and the UK

Adam Howe representing the British Business Centre Mexico began the discussion explaining his bias towards Mexico having lived there for 14 years and set up his own company there in 2009. Since he established the company, from being a representative office, their income doubled.

Adam commented on how topical the venue was as both the Rum Warehouse and Tobacco building opposite (the former now an expo venue & luxury hotel and the latter due to become premier apartments) would once have depended heavily on Latin America as part of their supply chain. However, over recent years the UK has neglected this major trading partner. He also emphasised that Latin America is not one trading unit but formed of culturally diverse countries covering immense distances (the distance between Argentina and Mexico is equal to that of London to Dubai!)

However, due to time restrictions, this panel had to see this region as a block and focus on the similarities of this group of countries with an average GDP of 3%.

Zooming in on Chile, Colombia and Mexico, Adam compared the similar Ease of Doing Business rankings of these countries – Mexico’s position of 53rd is just one behind Spain.

Andrew Wright, Director of Colombia Trade, then moved on to talk about the Pacific Alliance which unites 200 million consumers all who speak Spanish and over half the global trade for that region. The alliance means that Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia can buy and trade shares from any of these countries in their own currency.

Chilean Chamber General Manager Greg Holland then offered an overview of the priority sectors in each of the countries.

Like Mexico, Colombia plans to expand E&P offshore with major investment expected in this sector. The UK is the world leader in deep water technologies so these changes should be interesting. Chile also needs to consider its energy future and the government is looking to invest heavily in renewables.

With a growing young middle class in Chile, Colombia and Mexico, retail is a very exciting sector where the British brand rules in luxury goods.

The Q&A session covered many themes including the sometimes negative press coverage – in the case of Mexico and Colombia – and sometimes non-existent coverage – as is the case of Chile. For companies to really understand the opportunities in these countries it is crucial that they visit them in person and see for themselves the stability that exists.

Adam Marshall from the British Chambers of Commerce moderated this panel.

To read the complete presentation, please click: IFB Presentation Latin America