Nathalie Cely Suárez, Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States, was in South Florida last week to inaugurate a new Commercial Office of Ecuador and promote Ecuador as a good place to do business.
When Ecuadors ambassador to the United States goes out to promote foreign investment in her South American country, its something of an uphill endeavor.
There are questions about Ecuadors socialist government, its friendly relations with the leftist governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, government stability and a nasty fight with Chevron over environmental damage that has dragged on for nearly two decades.
But Nathalie Cely Suárez, a former minister who was involved in the design of Ecuadors new investment code, said she enjoys getting out and telling investors what Ecuador has to offer as it seeks to put its natural resources at the service of its people and improve infrastructure.
Cely was in South Florida last week to speak with business and legislative leaders and to inaugurate a new Commercial Office of Ecuador, whose mission is to increase Ecuadors exports to the Southeastern United States as well as promote investment in Ecuador. The office is located in the Miami Free Zone in Doral.
We strongly believe in a model where we can foster cooperation between the public sector and the private sector, Cely said Wednesday during a dialogue on trade and investment that was hosted by the Boyd & Jenerette law firm. There are a lot of opinions and cliches about Ecuador.
Its still a tough sell, said Cely, adding, When we say we want to foster private sector development, we are committed to it.
The long-standing case against Chevron has complicated matters because some major business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have sided with Chevron, which is fighting an $18 billion judgment against the company.
In her travels around the United States, Cely said, she finds that most people arent aware of Ecuadors new Production Code, which sets the rules for foreign investment. It was fully implemented in 2011.
The idea, she said, is to create sustainable competitiveness.
In 2009-2010, Ecuador renegotiated oil and natural gas contracts with foreign companies a move that some analysts said would deter future investment. The government failed to reach agreement on new contracts with a handful of firms but recently signed contracts with two foreign groups for oil field expansion.
Ecuador has made the decision, she said, that the government has to be in charge of strategic sectors, but that doesnt mean we dont allow private sector participation. What Ecuador is seeking is a balance between adequate workers salaries and a reasonable rate of return for investors, Cely said.
And the country also eventually wants 80 percent of its energy needs are provided by hydroelectric power.
Sometimes the public and private sectors dont agree, but I think now there are very good channels of communication between the two, she said.
There are opportunities for foreign firms in the tourism and services sector, construction concessions, technology and bio-tech, telecom, hydroelectric projects and oil and mining, she said.
Foreign direct investment stood at $568 million in 2011, and the country expects an additional $4.8 billion in foreign investment from 2012 to 2016.
Ecuador, she noted, has averaged 4 percent growth since 2000, invested 8 percent of its GDP in modernizing infrastructure from 2007-2011, and has one of the lowest costs of doing business in Latin America.
It also is in the process of lowering its corporate tax rate from 25 percent to 22 percent, and is offering tax holidays for new foreign investment in priority sectors such as tourism, fresh and processed food, and renewable energy as well as extra tax deductions for expenses that foster productivity and lead to greener production.GERMAN CHAMBER
The Atlanta-based German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern United States has opened a Florida chapter in Tampa.
The private organization serves as a representative of German trade in 11 Southern states. Total trade between Florida and Germany reached $2.6 billion last year.
The GACC South has an affiliate organization in Miami, the German American Business Chamber.