“Europe is definitely at the heart of our business, so whatever happens in Europe is critical for every country”

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By Marine SUDAN

For my studies’ framework, I needed to interview someone related to my region, Europe. On May, 23th, François Rameau gave me an appointment in his office in Madrid. What about him?

For years, he has been travelling around the globe for his job: Singapore to Mumbai, Hong-Kong to Paris. Few months ago, he had the opportunity to take the general manager of the Spanish branch of the Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, based in the center of Madrid. It is a subsidiary of the French Company. They are dealing with the largest Spanish companies as well as the largest financial institutions as a global client. Not only helping those companies in Spain but also worldwide throughout the rest of their network.

For me it was interesting to interview someone link to my region, with a international background and that have an opinion of his country even if he does not live in it and also about the European Union.

As a French citizen and a European one, the main questions of this interview were to know his points of view about Europe and what happened lately. I wrote this article in a manner to have first his opinion about French election that took place one month ago and their consequences, and then about Europe.

Firstly, I asked him if he did follow the news in Europe. While smiling at me, his response was very clear:

“No choice, I mean Europe is definitely at the heart of our business, so whatever happens in Europe is critical for every country, including Spain”.

Even if he is currently living in Madrid for the next few years, his situation didn’t prevent him from voting for its next President, here in Madrid, as a concern citizen.

So, what about France? My first question was direct: was he satisfied with all the candidates for this presidential election ? Although the company did not have a specific candidate, he could not speak on their behalf. For Rameau, he is quite satisfied with the final outcome of the election because the alternative, if Marine Le pen was elected, it could have been extremely dangerous for the activity. Macron is “everybody’s hope” to make France stronger. Even if there is a lot of waiting for France to adjust with the realities of Europe and those of the world.

My next concern was his thoughts about the younger being a part of Europe. As we seen during the election, lots of them were supporting Melenchon. He understands why many people supported him because young people feel that they don’t necessary belong to the European economy as it is today. But as he said

those are people that have only a short view on the economic reality. They don’t necessarily understand the global environment that we are in”.

If France were to implemented Melenchon’s reforms, it would automatically loose her competitiveness and a lot of jobs would disappear in the process. He thinks that people have a cast of vote of protests because they are not happy with the situation (unemployment is mostly one of the main problems brought during an election and a big concern In French society).

Moreover, this election showed the growth of the populism. Marine Le Pen won a lot of supporters during this election which had not occurred since 2002. For the first turn, she had reached over 21,30%, 3% less than Macron and had won over Melenchon, who didn’t make it to 20% of the voters.

Even if François Rameau don’t have an objective idea on the growth of the populism, he thinks that Europe has reached probably the pic of the populist votes in France. it reflects the fact that many people don’t think they belong to the global economy and don’t necessarily understand it. But in the case of Le Pen, she has targeted the weakest of voters. He means the unemployed people, many of them potentially unemployable, because they have not been properly trained and didn’t adjust to the new reality of the economy. Therefore, Le Pen is promising a kind of a dream as an old France like it was used to be forty or fifty years ago for those people when they were young. It could have been marvelous but it is strictly impossible. Marine Le Pen has no clue on the economy reality shown before the Second turn during a debate.

Thirdly, for years, European Union has weakened and this has not improved with the Brexit. Thanks to the French election happened this year, it will probably be stronger. Many people were concerned about the European project losing its steam. Now that France emerges stronger and is confirming its European commitment together with the support of Germany, the General Manager says that it is “a good opportunity and opening to make it better”. Even if we know that not all countries will agree with those new projects as a common defense, tax system and other things that are not in the current EU treaty. The next thing will be to see if other countries want to be in the same coalition or independent.

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Even if Brexit happened this year, France and Italy almost did. It is still a continue treat because for many years the European Union has benefit more or less to its citizens. For him, EU still benefits to the citizen but those ones are no longer obvious, it is more complicated. It is seen as a huge administration with many problems. Therefore, people think that they have lost a bit of control.  Its shows a strong signal that people want a change. EU has itself understood that it needs to change its ways to process, leave back more power to nations and only get involve in what is important, not being perceive as a substitute for a nation here citizens belong.

After a few minutes exchanging, he finished with this quote:

“I am quite confident that we are coming out of a difficult period, the global economic environment is now stronger, so it will help people to realize that finally the European Union is not that bad. And depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiation, if and it is my own feeling, that if UK suffers after exiting the EU, then people will think again”.

 

How to change the perception of African countries

This week I had the opportunity to visit Madam Mavis Esi Kusorgbor the Minister in charge of economical and politic affairs at the Ghana Embassy in Madrid. We touched on topics such as her background in international relations and economic, political or cultural aspect of her task in representing and promoting her country.

Her daily tasks consist in looking after Ghana’s political interest in Madrid, promoting economic relations between Ghana and Spain and as a deputy to the Ambassador in administrative issues of the Embassy. Madam Kusorgbor envisaged working in a similar position from an early stage of her education. Before starting university, she studied Governments as major which prepared her for her studies in political science and later international affairs.

After her degree, she managed to find a role in the Foreign Ministry in 1995 which marks the beginning of her employment with the Government of Ghana. The different roles she has taken in the past 20 years were all related to handling Ghana’s foreign affairs and relations either from inside the country or in different departments and countries of the world.

Her first posting outside of Ghana was with the Ghana permanent mission at the United Nations in New York. She served on the Third Committee of the General Assembly which is responsible for social and human right issues and treating questions related to the advancement of women, the protection of children and the promotion of fundamental freedoms .”Everybody is basically pursuing their own interest and not thinking about what is really happening globally.” she said and questioned some countries disregarding events on security issues and humanitarian consensus and sticking to their political stands. After being sent out to Egypt from 2008 to 2012 which represented a momentous time for the country , she then served in Dubai for a brief period before taking her current position at the Ghana Embassy in Spain last year.

During those years she learned about different cultures of the world and how they perceive Ghana. That plays an important aspect in understanding how to present the interest to the different audiences. It is important to take the different aspects of the international relations of Ghana with the countries in consideration. The different strategies focus on knowledge of culture, development, social cultural aspects and most importantly the history of the relations with Ghana. Egypt for example as bilateral partner has a strong relationship, what ensures a lot of support to initiatives. People to people relations are also very important as Ghana is not very know for example in Dubai, but has seen increased activity. In Spain or Europe in general it is more difficult as you must first find out what people think about Ghana and what might be attractive in terms of “business, investment or cultural relations”.

The Embassy tries to promote Ghana as politically stable country with many economic prospects. Western countries look for certain factors such as “good governance”, “committed leaders”, “efforts to improve the well-being of the people” and “democracy” in their potential partners. Ghana fulfills all those factors and the duty of its representatives is now to showcase that potential. In her current role, she tries to attract investments to Ghana from chambers of commerce and companies. Arguments like the low cost of labor and the logistic aspects allowing short distances of production speak for those investments. The readiness of investor due to security and financial concerns are obstacles that she has to face. For that to change the Embassy also tries to showcase the culture of Ghana to attract tourism and subsequently the awareness about the country.

“As small individual countries if we do not come together as a bloc we will not have a voice strong enough to be able to engage with other regional groups like the European Union or even a bigger country like the United States, because after all it is just one small Ghana or one small Gambia.” With this statement, she shows the importance of unity between African countries. Ghana can serve as a leader for West Africa in such negotiations. Most countries of Africa have gone through difficulties. It is important to understand the different dynamics and to help development. It is for that reason that the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) exists. One important aspect in trade negotiations will be the possibility to sell processed goods rather than raw materials in order to be able to have more say in the prices negotiations. With a more unified stand these issues will be easier to solve.

In conclusion, it can be said that more countries have discovered or are discovering the economic potential in Ghana and what it has to offer culturally. With this development, the country can serve as a great role model for neighboring countries and as voice for international negotiations. To achieve that goal different parties and individuals have to come together and work on that common goal.

Rudiger Atchon

Antonio Hernando and his business

Antonio Hernando is a Venezuelan entrepreneur, who founded Aquapana with his brother. The business focuses on the area of pumping systems, which are equipped with high technology and innovative devises, and are environmentally friendly.

The company is located in Ciudad de Panamá, and was created eight years ago. Aquapana is the second business that Mr Hernando and his brother have founded. Thus, it was created as an alternative to the one located in Venezuela, which was also founded by his father, and follows the same business line and the same functioning structure as Aquapana. This way, Mr Hernando has been working in the same sector for thirty years.

The Venezuelan entrepreneur is the general director of both the Panamanian and the Venezuelan one, and his position is a multitasking one. Therefore, he is in charge of the key accounts, of the company’s documentation, of team motivation, of the finances…

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

As he explained, the political crisis that Venezuela is facing currently, does not make living or working there easy. Regarding business life, Mr Hernando explained that, as the laws and regulations are constantly changing, nearly on a daily basis, the entrepreneurs must constantly carry out paper work in order to be within the law. As he was saying, this is something that takes up time that businessmen would rather invest in other needs that their companies may have.

On the other hand, since the company needs to import and export, Mr Hernando explained that the functioning of his business sometimes depends on the availability of dollars. Regarding this issue, the president of Venezuela established an exchange control some years ago. Thus, in order to have access to the dollars, he was obliged to participate in an auction, and obviously not always could achieve the dollars he needs. Moreover, Mr Hernando added that the Venezuelan’s law regarding employees and working conditions, has seriously damaged the power of the companies and the working environment. In this line, he stated that the employees are overprotected, so they cannot be fired even if they do not attend work for a week without any kind of justification, or if they decide to work just five hours per day. Additionally, the employees could also denounce the employers and often achieve compensations for any minor issue easily, for instance, not agreeing on with what the employer says. This generates an awful working environment and the stress for the employers.

As for his personal live, the Venezuelan entrepreneur stated that the situation of the country constantly implies stress and isolation because of the insecurity, the lack of resources… and put emphasis on the grey mood that characterises the current Venezuelan population. Due to these factors, he was forced to send his two daughters to Spain, in order to provide them with a better opportunity to evolve and have a better life. The country’s situation has also forced him to create the business of Aquapana in Panama, as an alternative to the one in Venezuela. He emphasized that he decided to develop the same business line, to continue the legacy of his father.

In this line, the Venezuelan entrepreneur explained that to start a new business in the Panamanian market was quite tough, specifically without living there, because it was hard to keep daily control on the company. Moreover, the first manager of Aquapana turned out to be a scammer and stole the customers, preventing the business from development well. Three years later, when he was uncovered, a new manager was hired and he turned out to be another scammer too, creating also a bad working environment. This way, each time Mr Hernando or his brother travelled to Panama, the business situation had declined, so he had to move to Panamá for longer periods. According to Mr Hernando currently, “Aquapana is reborn”, after a long period of hard work to achieve its good functioning. He also added that now the company is trying to achieve diverse contracts “that will be fruitful for the company, as well as determinative for the coming years”.

Going back to the Venezuelan company, which is suffering losses, Mr Hernando explained that it is at the minimum performance right now, and that the maintain the staff, but he cannot close it because of the government laws that forbid it. He explained that each year imports decline, as well as the constructions, that needs pumping systems. Moreover, the entrepreneur stated that new competition has recently appeared on market, a cheaper version of bad quality water pumps from China. Although, people know that these pumps require frequent changes, it is what the majority could afford.

To conclude, Mr Hernando explained that the Venezuelan crisis has strongly affected almost all companies, which have had to reborn and find the way to survive in business. Many of them have had to close, and many others, as Aquapana, have had to go out of the country in order to go ahead and due to the fear they have to the power that the Venezuelan government have over the businesses. In this line, he explained that for instance the government could expropriate any company without having to justify it.

Ana María Gómez González

“It could become the most expensive waste of money in history”

Marina Barberá Matías

All the actions done by the president Donald J. Trump have been done to “make America great again” but despite of what people may say the intention is not what matters. Those political moves may produce different outcomes of those sought by Mr. Trump.

One of the f086c412irst decisions when he arrived to his actual position and one of the well-known promises done during the presidential campaign of Mr. Trump was the withdrawal of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Charles Kushner program director of the Bachelor in International Relations at IE University in Madrid Spain, sees it like the perfect opportunity for Canada to step into America’s leadership role in order to facilitate better trade, as Canada largely avoided the 2008 financial crisis by avoiding the risky banking practices that were responsible for the collapse, thus they are well poised to step into this leadership role.

Mr. Trump said “now American workers will be protected against competition from low-wage countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.” but the reasons established by experts for the manufacturing jobs decline differ from his. The central cause is the automation, which has developed into the decline of human labour. It is a fact that despite the decline in manufacturing jobs, the productivity in American factories has been increased. We are producing more while employing fewer. “This is exactly why Donald Trump’s plan to pull out of trade deals won’t only not bring back jobs to the American economy, it will actually hurt the economy further, as products exported by America would undoubtedly suffer with less trading partners.” Mr. Kushner said. The economic position of the U.S. as the world leader can be at risk by the isolationist strategy followed by Mr. Trump as affects their international image in the free market. Mr. Kushner said that in order to maintain its status as the beacon of the free world, America in fact needs to be a part of the world. It cannot afford to shut itself in behind pointless and costly walls.

Also, the acts done by the new president will without discussion cause changes on the relation between the U.S. and the countries from all around the world. The TPP was a pact in which the United States, the world’s largest economy and Japan, the third world largest economy, were together in a free-trade pact. The end of this agreement could cause some differences in the relation between Japan and the U.S., but the reality is that their relation despite the event from the past is better than the one that Japan has with its neighbours. “The dismantling of the TPP doesn’t affect current trade deals the U.S. and Japan share. Currently Japan is the United States 4th largest trading partner”. The relation among them will remain as usual but it is a fact that the withdrawal of the U.S. from the TPP will cause an economic vacuum that China will look forward to fill. It will be matter of time see if the relation between other members and the U.S. is enough to prevent China of fulfilling that position.

The relation with Mexico is the most affected by the actions of Mr. Trump as one of the most polemic orders is the construction of the wall in the frontier between Mexico and the United States. The main cause of its controversy is the dispute about who is going to pay for it, as the president of the United States has affirmed from the campaign that his country will not pay and the president of Mexico also declared that no Mexican money will be used for the construction of that wall, Mexico is face to face against the multimillionaire Donald Trump who has promised to find the way to make them pay and one of the ideas is through taxes. This will not be a good option as Mr. Kushner says that Mexican exporters would likely just raise taxes on American products as well as the prices of their own exports, resulting in price increases in the U.S. and ultimately the cost of the wall would be paid by Americans, not Mexico. Moreover, the construction of the wall will be unproductive as there are another ways through which the immigrants arrive to the U.S. so “it could become the most expensive waste of money in history as most undocumented immigrants in America fly into the country and overstay a valid visa.”

Not so “great great wall”

The U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to begin the construction of his famous wall along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico but the outcome will not be as good as he promised due to the arguments he gave during the campaign haven’t got any sense.

During the campaign, Trump promised a wall in the U.S.-Mexican border which would be paid by the Mexicans. The wall will cost nearly twice the $10 billion estimated by Trump, which by the moment will be paid with U.S. federal dollars as Mexico still refuses to pay for it. This dilemma has broken the historical relationship among them, as they used to fight together against illegal immigration. Recently the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a landmark meeting with the new President. The different ways Trump may use to make Mexican pay (as a sky-high export tax), will cause economic damage on both countries.

trumppp

The Department of Homeland Security’s estimates that the total undocumented population peaked at 12 million in 2008, and has fallen since then. And that decline is not because of rising border enforcement but because Mexico is producing less demographic pressure to migrate to the U.S.. Moreover, according to the BJS, black males are 37% of the male prison population, white males made up 32%, followed by 22% of Hispanics that were in state or federal prison at yearend 2014. So the “malos hombres” that Trump always talked about are not the main cause of criminality in U.S..

Also, Trump said that “undocumented immigrants take jobs away from native-born Americans”, but it has been proved that most of immigrants take different jobs than American. For example, farmers can’t find enough native-born Americans to pick crops, as often Americans are unwilling to do the jobs done by immigrants. There has been numerous cases in towns of the U.S., where they enforce laws against immigrants, which has led to a catastrophic result in their town.The Town of Riverside, New Jersey is a clear example of it. 11 years ago, the Town Comitee became the first municipality in New Jersey to establish a law against illegal immigrants, by fining or even sending to jail to their householders. This led to a massive exodus of immigrants in the Town, leaving it without workers or customers. Their local economy suffered to the point that the local shops, like hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered the immigrants went broke, which made a big part of them close.

If Trump thinks that kicking the immigrants out of the U.S. is a good thing, we think that there are more reasons showing the opposite. The diversity of ethnics has always been one of the pillars of the U.S. in terms of economy, referring that any person of any country could seek fortune in the U.S., which turned the U.S. into “the land of opportunity and liberty”, and the construction of the wall will suppose the end of it.

By Marina Barberá, Alejandro Martín, Alba Tissera.

Steinadler Co. – The Golden Eagle connecting Latin America & Asia

Born in Guatemala City and having spent almost half-life in Taipei, Rodrigo Galvez, an international businessman, created his company Steinadler Co. in 2007, starting with the notion of exporting high-quality Guatemalan coffee connected with its history and cultural beliefs to the edges of South-East Asia.

His company’s name ‘Steinadler’ is the German name for the “Golden Eagle” species; known for their excellent accuracy, their sharp vision and high altitude flight as well as its elegance.

Picture retrieved from: http://steinadlerco.com/

Steinadler Website. Picture retrieved from: http://steinadlerco.com/

Due to his location (Taiwan), I had to communicate with him through e-mail and Skype, but everything went very smoothly. In my first few questions, I asked him about himself and how does he feel due to his job, as well as his company’s objectives and challenges.

He stated that he started doing business at the age of 16 back in Latin America. Mister Galvez has always been attracted to international trade and the exchange of markets, and his company’s main objective is to create a bridge for exchange between Asia and Latin America.
He mostly manages investments and the financial part of his company. For daily operations they have employees and usually outsource a wide array of services (which is something really easy and cheap in Asia).

I continued by asking about his career development and its company’s expansion and specialization in Agribusiness as well as in Construction and Industrial equipment and services, which shows that it is a quite broad and busy company.

R. Galvez pointed out that it has developed as he expected, even much more interesting than he thought someday it would become.
Steinadler Co. has specialized in different areas due to the “chain effect” being in Asia that it represents. R. Galvez said: “there isn’t anything too broad if you know how to expand it and organize it”.
He started importing coffee from Guatemala, and allocating it into different roasters and retailers, then the same customers became interested not only in coffee, but also cocoa, sugar, lobster.
Later, the same farms and suppliers back in Guatemala and Nicaragua took the opportunity to acquire equipment from Steinadler Co., at much lower prices than buying it locally. Products include harvesters, tractors, forklifts and other farming equipment. So they saw the opportunity to not only import, but also export to Latin America.

Nowadays, Steinadler Co. has market share in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Dominican Republic. Same thing happened with construction supplies; “customers saw Chinese prices and quality is not “bad” or badly rated anymore”, there are even building materials companies listed in fortune 500 which they have agreements with and represent them for Latin America. “It’s mostly taking advantage of opportunities.”

I also had thoughts about the economic connection between Taiwan (Asia) to Guatemala (Latin America), as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) that increasingly improved trade relations between these regions.

R. Galvez said that there is a big difference between Taiwanese economic connection and (Asia in whole) economic connection with Latin America.
Some countries are pro-Taiwan; some others like Costa Rica are pro-China. In this case, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are pro-Taiwan.

“That means, ZERO import taxes, good flow of communications, diplomatic relationships, assistance and excellent interest rates for getting credit lines.”

Imports and exports at least from or to Hong Kong and Taiwan are quite easy; “it’s not a hassle.”
R. Galvez said that what is difficult is to allocate products into China, if the country doesn’t have any diplomatic ties or economic relations.

An example: “we can’t directly enter Guatemalan coffee into China, because all sanitary certificates are not valid, cause there is no relationship or any ties between China and Guatemala.” So in the end, all the coffee needs to pass through Taiwan or Singapore, as Hong Kong nationalizes it, and then it is imported forward into China.

According to some news and the simple historical fact of the ideological, political as well as economical issues between Taiwan and China, I also had to ask him about these things.
He stated: “Our connection to the Republic of China is actually much better than 4 years ago. There are some trade agreements starting to take place between Taiwan and China. That’s a good advantage.”
He also mentioned that they are entering the Chinese market, through Taiwanese companies, which have already been established in China and which “already have the know-how to the Chinese market. “
Hong Kong is also another market Steinadler Co. has entered and it seems to be easier than China in whole (or Taiwan) due to its “strong international environment”, as R. Galvez has experienced.

I was also interested in some projects that they are currently working at. He told me about a Taiwanese solar energy products manufacturer that they are right now representing, and with it starting a big solar-energy generating system in Nicaragua, “with future plans for the Guatemalan market”.
Due to low land prices in Nicaragua, they are able to “lower costs, have an inexpensive operation and sell it to the grid for excellent profits.”

Rodrigo Galvez (right) in Taipei. OWN PICTURE

All in all, they are looking for expansion and profit, and already spread into many regions. So, I asked him what does his company contribute to the world or the regions, referring also to the world market or even to politics.

His answer was quite short, but powerful: “We contribute to the ‘internationalization’ of the Asia Pacific region.”

Due to his ‘internationalization’, I asked him about some visible effects caused by the financial crisis of the EU and if it influenced his company.He stated that they haven’t been largely influenced, “maybe only on the fact, that many European companies dropped their prices and Latin American countries were able to get European quality products / machinery at better prices – But still, it’s minimal”. He said that it wouldn’t be enough to compete with China or Taiwan, and in the end they also don’t sell any products to Europe at all.

Rodrigo Galvez is an experienced, creative and international business-focused man with great aspirations, who tries to connect and to improve Asia-Latin America trade; also importing and showing the world what his precious and productive country Guatemala has to offer.

I personally thank him for his time. I wish him good luck for his further work and I hope to follow his path on international business.

 

Written by DAVID J. K. TOFAN

Interview with Welinton Bernardes

Interview made by Larissa Duarte Lourenço 

Interview with Welinton Bernardes, a Brazilian entrepreneur of the health business area that lives in Angola for his business. He has six business including a hospital and several health clinics  Unisaude, Pracs, SGH. Neofarma and Nova Africa.

How the idea of expanding your business to Angola came?

– It was trough a friend; he already had business here for 15 years.

Which were the main differences, related to you adaptation?

-When we arrive here, was six months that the war was over. Beyond all the difficulties (and pain) of a people that was fighting a war for 27 years all was missing, including the essential as food and basic health. Our first business here was a medicine distributer, until today it is a reference here in Sub-Saharan Africa.

When did you moved to Angola?

-There’s been 10 years. At the year of 2002.

What was the image you have of African Countries before you go to Angola? And how is the reality that you found?

-That they would be a sad and closed people, revolted and dangerous. The people is good and has all the acceptance with the expatriates. Inside Africa, there is a lot of “Africas”, and I’m not talking about the North of Africa, where are the countries that speak Arabic. But, all of them suffered with the speculation and extraction of the settlers countries. There are wealthy countries with a lot of poverty that is the case of Angola, as also have a lot of poor countries with a lot of misery.

As a professional in the area of health, do you think that the situation of diseases in Africa is improving?

– Yes, it has improved a lot, essentially in function of the formation of the human material, a lot of graduates are coming back to their homeland. After the end of the Angola’s war.

Do you have an optimist or a pessimist vision of Africa? Why?

– Compleatly optimist. The world is all in Africa somehow. Today a many contries invest in Africa, mainly the Chinese, searching for mineral wealth.

Which recent events that most caught your attention?

– Exists an attempt there is still shy, of a change of the Governments. Ther is a movement of new awakening, for democracies, varorization of the man and their culture, independent of their tribe or belief. There are new “winds” arriving in Africa, a new continent will rise.