Peru – On A New Kind of Trail

A country known for its mountain range and quinoa, Peru is fast becoming a trade industry stalwart. At Gulfood 2016, trade director Alvaro Silva-Santisteban spoke about the nation’s dependence on renewable energy, their wealth of natural resources, and their strengthening ties with the GCC.


What inspired you to collaborate with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority? What have trade relations been like for the UAE and Peru so far?

Back in 2013, we organized the biggest Latin American business investment roadshow at that time, which featured the biggest Peruvian business delegation to ever visit the Middle East. The reason they came to the Middle East was us. We had a company called Sigma Safi that had just arrived into Dubai and Abu Dhabi. During the two-day road show, we had meetings with various ministries and companies, and that was when we came into contact with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. From then on to last year, we’ve had Abu Dhabi Investment Authority participating in one of the biggest electrically generated power companies in Peru in a joint partnership with us. Almost 95% of the energy in Peru is renewable and the UAE is working towards becoming a renewable energies hub in the MENA region. So we were on common grounds and it was a win-win situation with both sides benefitting in the process.


How important is the agricultural sector in Peru’s exports? What other strong sectors do you have?

Agriculture is the second largest exporting sector we have (the first being commodities). Peru is also the biggest producer of silver in the world, second-biggest producer of copper, and among the top five global gold producers. We have a lot of exports of those minerals going around the word.


Regarding other sectors, you are talking about a region that on average imports 80-85% of the human needs. Peru has 3000 km of coastline, that means with the exception of salmon you can fish almost any type of fish. We have the longest and highest part of the Andes which is where we cultivate quinoa. 13% of the Amazon is ours. You can imagine the vast variety of things we can bring in.


How is the Fenix Power Peru project relevant to the environment? What are some of the challenges one faces while setting up a project like this?

The good thing about Peru is that we don’t depend on carbon energy. Fenix Power Peru is just following a part of our culture by being sustainable. Back when we had the Inca empire, we didn’t have energy at all. If you think about how we were able to build Machu Picchu, which is 3000m above sea level and the smallest stone weighs one ton, we obviously depended on natural energy even back then.


Regarding such challenges, there are none for us. One of the biggest benefits for other nations working with Peru is that our government is fully democratic and non-discriminatory, meaning that any investment is treated exactly the same. If anything, more nations should take advantage of that. If you go to Peru to start a company, it will be under your name and ownership fully. 


What other nations in the region do you want to strengthen ties with?

We would like to work with the greater GCC overall. If the products are easily coming to the UAE, there’s no reason why they can’t go into neighboring countries with ease too. What’s happening right now, which is one of our main challenges, is that importers are not bringing in Peruvian products directly. Instead they trans-ship them from Europe and the US which not only raises the cost for the importers but also the end-users. Having ties with the GCC as a whole would help establish greater connectivity that changes that.


Do you think your trade will suffer given the harsh economic climate of 2016?

On the contrary. I believe that we will keep moving forward. We opened our office in 2007 and experienced a 700% growth till 2014. After that. we’ve had an increase of another 30%. Our expectations are that by the end of the year the increase will be 30% further.  The reason behind this confidence is our cultural export base. In Peru, if we run out of oil, natural gas, or hydro power, we would have no air conditioning or working televisions but we will live. In this part however, if you stop importing necessities, there will be a big problem. Given that most of our strategies have been geared towards the food sector, we have a strong belief that it will keep on growing.


What do you feel is South America’s potential in terms of becoming a future economic power-player?

It’s the untapped territory. In 2008, the two regions least affected by the recession were the GCC and South America. We survived because we had our natural resources and capabilities. Apart from all our natural abundance, what we, and South Americans in general, have is a true passion for work. It springs from the fact that we’ve always had a necessity to work. Nobody was going to come harvest, mine, fish, or fabricate for us, we had to do it for ourselves and we take great pride in that. It was never a burden for us, just pure passion to succeed.


What are the most important rules for international trade exchange?

For me, it’s not about rules at all but cultural understanding. The more you understand where you come from, and the culture of everyone else, the better and easier it will be to bridge our gaps. If I understand you at that deeper level, it won’t just be about selling products, it will be about making the best deal possible for you and for me. I will only be able to that if you and I are knowledgeable enough to place ourselves in each other’s shoes. That builds up trust and you would only trade with me if you are able to trust me. 


Alvaro Silva-Santisteban

Director of the Trade, Tourism & Investment Office of Peru – United Arab Emirates

Silva-Santisteban was appointed as the first Director of the Trade & Investment Office of Peru in the UAE in May 2011. Prior to his appointment he held the position of Regional Director for the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia in the worldwide leader communications agency of themed country focuses. Before his regional appointment he exerted as Project & Editorial Director in the 5 continents, making his expertise one in global, corporate and country communications. With over ten years of experience on the field, the analyses he has led have been published with Medias like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, IHT, USA Today or The Economist. Additionally, his professional career has been enriched by holding posts within multinationals on the fields of Investment Banking, Human Resources, Project and Product Development and Bilateral Trade.

Silva-Santisteban, holds a B.A in Business Administration from the Universidad de Lima –Lima, Peru and a Master’s in Business and Global Communications from Instituto de Empresa – Madrid, Spain. 



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