Chinese business opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean
* by Gema Sacristán (Versión en español)
Imagine for a second that you spend your free time designing clothes and you want to export to China. Where do you start? When I first asked myself this question, I had no idea. I realized how much we in the region talk about Chinese business opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) but how little we actually know.
Much is talked about for a reason. During the last decade, LAC has been China’s most dynamic trading partner (in just one decade, China’s share of LAC trade has more than doubled to its current 20% and continues to grow). China is already the largest importer of goods from Brazil and Chile, and among the main importers for countries such as Mexico, Panama, Argentina and Colombia. Investment ties between both regions continue to multiply.
The little actually known is also for a reason. China´s way of doing business goes as far as the country´s past. That is thousands of years. China´s different dialects, business culture and social etiquette may pose a cultural Great Wall at first. For example, did you know that business cards need to be handed and received with both hands or that is preferable to leave food uneaten on a plate to refusing the dish? Not to mention the inner workings of Chinese, financial, legal and regulatory systems differ greatly from those in LAC.
So how do LAC importers and exporters actually start exploring China? With their Trade Finance Officers at their relationship banks. This is no surprise: banks are at the intersection of commercial and cultural relations between both regions. Their role goes beyond simply financing the increasing trade flow; they play an equally pivotal function as cultural translators and facilitators of economic connections.
When banks in LAC have the cultural understanding and the fitting connections to guide their exporter clients to navigate the institutional, economic and business pathways, all parties benefit: the exporter, the importer, the LAC bank, and its counterpart Chinese bank. Ultimately, the economic and social development impact in both regions is positive.
To facilitate such navigation, the IDB has put together the China Insights Program. This week, the IDB will bring 11 heads of trade finance departments from LAC banks to China to attend a six-day immersion program aimed at providing the necessary tools to help their clients make more successful trade deals with Chinese businesses. The Program includes networking events with Chinese banks, cultural activities and lectures on the Chinese financial and trade industries. The Program will particularly focus on relevant trends such as the internationalization of the Renminbi (RMB), which according to the International Chamber of Commerce Global Trade and Finance Survey 2014, has become the 2nd most used currency in trade finance in 2013. Demand from LAC importers to be able to finance RMB denominated transactions is on the rise. Inevitably, LAC bankers must know how to address this new trend.
When many of the banker participants return home next week, the goal is they will have the knowledge and insights to support clients entering the Chinese market.
So, the day you decide to export your products and tap into the China’s burgeoning market, the answer is: talk to your local banker!
About the autor:
* Gema Sacristán is Chief of the Financial Markets Division at the IDB. She works at IDB since 2008, where developed and managed the program called beyondBanking: banking on global sustainability. Gema is responsible for capital markets development, trade finance and financial intermediaries, which include primarily banks and investment funds, promoting sustainable social, environmental and corporate governance practices.