Although mineral resources, and especially copper, are Chile’s main products being exported Asia Pacific, the so-called non-traditional exports are also beginning to gain market share. This is precisely where ProChile, in its capacity as the Office of Export Promotion, is working with national companies to position themselves in the region’s markets.
According to ProChile director Alicia Frohmann the State-run organization is working hard in the region. "We are very active in Asia and have opened trade offices in recent years in all major markets. We have offices in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, Hong Kong and the ASEAN countries. We are providing a place where Chilean businesses can arrive in these markets."
Frohmann states that another ProChile strategy is “generating market intelligence, providing training on how to do business with Japan or China and other markets. We also organize business trips and facilitate participation in major trade fairs in the world Asia.”
For Mario Artaza Rouxel, a former ambassador and Chilean APEC delegate now based at the University of Santiago’s IDEA Institute, these ProChile measures have been positive in achieving a presence in the region. However, he also believes that "a policy more in tune with the realities of each country is needed. Every business strategy must be made to order for each of these nations and should take into account their specific needs and potential. It's hard to say ‘I have a policy designed to Asia’. The strategies should be more specific and currently lack a bit of fine tuning."
As such, Artaza thinks that, having established a presence and network of offices in Asia, Chile now “needs a strategic vision, which involves well-concerted efforts and takes into account each country. And above all else, it needs to assess its ability to address these business needs, because countries are so huge that we cannot fulfill their demand even if we ship everything we have."
Julie Kim is the coordinator of Universidad Diego Portales’ Asia Pacific program and has closely followed the activities of ProChile in China and Korea and seen its programs at work in the field. Kim feels "the work we are doing is truly remarkable in Asia, especially when taking into account the limited resources ProChile has vis-à-vis markets such as Europe; not to mention, the comparative size of Asian countries and geographical challenges involved.”
Initiatives such as Flavors of Chile, which promote the food and agribusiness sector, are standouts. Other notable ideas have been the sponsorship of a reality show in China, where the winner couple had the chance to visit Chile.
Both Kim and Artaza believe that the quality of personnel at ProChile’s Asian offices is of fundamental importance. Ambassador Artaza feels these people should be "very flexible, and have a full knowledge of the situation in a given country, excellent English skills and a solid understanding of Chile’s potential. They should also be in tune with the various cultures, with a view towards comprehending a nation’s culture, politics and economics. This is to say, we should not be sending novices.”
Professor Kim agrees with this perception, adding that this caliber of Chilean is "scarce", both in the public and private sectors. She feels more should be done in Chile to prepare people to fill these crucial posts. "And once they have acquired said skills and the concomitant network of contacts, the Government will hard-pressed to retain these professionals, given their scarcity in even the private sector and the demand at both the national and regional levels."
Thankfully, neither Chile nor ProChile are passive when it comes to the subject of trade with Asia. Over the next year, the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry are preparing "Plan Asia", a strategy for approaching some of the major economies of the region (China, India and Singapore). It aims to consolidate economic relations and seek new business opportunities. Director Frohmann states ProChile is ready to do its part to make the plan a success. "We are the Chilean government agency that has offices in that part of the world. Rest assured we will support the efforts of other State entities seeking to work in the region."