Is Latin America the next step for your business?


Look south west, and there is a vast, untapped export market. That’s the message of Canning House, Britain’s leading forum and contacts hub for Latin America, and a participant at Santander’s Breakthrough Box last week. “Companies are being held back because of a lack of familiarity and a fear of engagement,” said chief executive Robert Capurro – “but there are huge prizes to be had.”
Latin America has 8.6 per cent of the world’s population and 8 per cent of global GDP. It receives 14 per cent of the world’s foreign direct investment, yet under 1 per cent of UK exports go there. Germany exports four times more than we do.
Of course, businesses are right to be reticent. The end of QE in the US has exposed years of insufficient investment in infrastructure and skills in many of Latin America’s commodity-dependent economies. Combined with corruption and crime, political instability and bureaucracy, accessing this huge market may be daunting. But as far as Capurro is concerned, the juice will be worth the squeeze. There is a thriving and growing middle class, and 80 per cent of the region’s 550m people live in cities. In countries like Colombia, years of protectionism are being swept away, and governments are more than welcoming of foreign investment. New regional alliances, free trade agreements with Europe and the Pacific Alliance have all harmonised trade mechanisms.
And ambitious SMEs like Oxitec (a life science firm), whose chief financial officer also spoke at the Breakthrough Box, are well-placed to take advantage with the right support. Industry leaders like
Santander are ready to help UK businesses overcome the practical barriers. The bank has access to 60,000 suppliers and 100,000 importers. And its Breakthrough programme, says UK sales director Mark Collings, “is offering a suite of opportunities to take away the fear of going into these markets.”