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  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

THE HUMAN FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF FOREIGN TRADE
Reflections on occasion of the "Year of Exportation"


by Félix Peña
April 2019

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


 

The human factor is linked in multiple ways with the development of foreign trade and, therefore, the productive development of Argentina as well as of any other country. It refers mainly to the characteristics and qualities of the human resources in companies or in public and private institutions that have an impact on the development of foreign trade. More importantly, it refers to the people who participate in one way or another in the production and the exchange of goods and services, whether on the side of the supply or the demand, or the knowledge and intelligence that influence transnational trade flows.

For any given company, the human factor involves having human resources who help compound knowledge, technologies and natural resources to produce and offer quality goods or services adapted, in many aspects including the final price, to the diversity of target consumers.

There are multiple options for the companies of a country when it comes to enhancing the impact of the human factor in their foreign trade strategies. These options may require an effective relationship with business institutions and government agencies dedicated to the promotion of foreign trade, either at national, provincial or departmental level. It may also require links with educational and cultural institutions in their own geographic location or even remotely, through digital access.

The human resources of a company that aspires to become international, projecting to the world the quality goods and services that it can offer in a sustained manner must have, in addition to knowledge, enthusiasm, curiosity and openness to understand and enjoy diversity. The same qualities are required of those who work at national or provincial agencies for the promotion of trade and investments.

A great example in this sense was Débora Marini, Executive Director of Santa Fe Global, the Trade and Investment Agency of the Province of Santa Fe, who passed away last March at the early age of 37. Her unwavering capacity for action inspired us to value the human factor in all activities related to the promotion of foreign trade and her youthful energy spread a contagious enthusiasm to all around her. This newsletter is meant as a tribute to her.


The Argentine government decreed that the year 2019 is the "year of exports" as was the case once before during 1999. This provides a great opportunity to acknowledge that a great collective effort is still needed in order to project to the world the goods and services of Argentine origin. Such effort involves considering the importance that the human factor has for the development of the country's foreign trade in all its dimensions, including, of course, the internationalization of companies and investments aimed at the productive development of the country.

The human factor ties together in diverse ways with the development of foreign trade and, therefore, with the productive development of Argentina, as well as any other country. It refers mainly to the characteristics and qualities of the human resources working in the companies or the public or private institutions that have a bearing on the development of foreign trade. More importantly, it refers to the people who participate in any way in the process of production and exchange of goods and services, whether on the side of the supply or of the demand, or the knowledge and intelligence that influence transnational trade flows.

Understanding the differences of all kinds that exist between countries is then an essential requirement when planning and carrying out an effective strategy for international commercial insertion that is not only profitable but also sustainable. Far away from the place where the offer originates, across borders, people in distant markets might eventually become interested and demand the goods and services offered. Reaching out to them is much more than just a challenge of transport and logistics. Indeed, it poses a cultural challenge.

This implies understanding the side of the demand, wherever it may be in the world, in all its potential ramifications and dimensions. Customs, values, tastes, preferences, priorities, are different across borders and even within the same country. Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity at the international level is, therefore, an essential requirement when envisioning what kinds of goods and services can be projected from one country to others. Sometimes, the differences are nuanced and other times they are striking. For the sole purpose of providing basic examples, wine and dulce de leche, among many other products, would prove this point in the case of Argentina.

All this also involves understanding how the connection between supply and demand is built through the multiplicity of markets, which is related, among other things, with the degree of connection that exists between the different markets and their people. In this sense a country such as Argentina, with a marked and rich diversity in the origins of its population, has an advantage when it comes to understanding how to connect with people in other countries-sometimes as distant as those of Asia and Africa-where different cultures prevail. The food and eating habits, leisure activities, education, dress, learning and development of the people in those foreign markets who demand goods and services are also aspects to be included in the agenda of competitive intelligence of a company that aims to project itself to the world.

For a company, the human factor involves employing human resources that help compound knowledge, technology and natural resources to produce and offer quality goods or services adapted, in many of their aspects including the final price, to the diversity of the consumers that they intend to serve. People who have good knowledge of the potential markets and their different facets are, in this sense, a factor that can contribute greatly to the ability to compete in countries and regions increasingly characterized by the rise of an empowered urban middle class -that is, with awareness of the variety of options available to them when demanding a product or service. Knowing and having lived for some time in other countries, especially those with deeply rooted cultures and different from ours, may be one of the competitive advantages to evaluate when selecting the personnel that a company needs, for example, for its foreign trade operations.

Companies have multiple options when it comes to enhancing the impact of the human factor in their foreign trade strategies. These options may require an effective relationship with business institutions and government agencies dedicated to the promotion of foreign trade, either at national, provincial or departmental level. It may also require links with educational and cultural institutions in their own geographic location or even remotely, through digital access.

These options can become so much more effective if a company knows what it wants and what it needs to know and understand. Options for the training of their human resources-an activity that in today's world needs to be ongoing-and also to access the knowledge of other markets and cultures; or to adapt its products and services to the diversity of the potential external demand; or to communicate its offerings in a way that is adapted to the characteristics of the multiple markets.

In addition to knowledge, the human resources of a company whose aim is to become international and project to the world the quality goods and services that it can offer in a sustained manner, must have enthusiasm, curiosity and openness to understand and enjoy diversity.

A great example in this sense was Débora Marini, Executive Director of Santa Fe Global, the Trade and Investment Agency of the Province of Santa Fe, who passed away last March at the early age of 37. Her unwavering capacity for action inspired us to value the human factor in all activities related to the promotion of foreign trade and her youthful energy spread a contagious enthusiasm to all around her. This newsletter is meant as a tribute to her life and work.


Recommended Reading:


  • Bartesaghi, Ignacio, "Los desafíos de China en América Latina", RedCaem, Working Paper Series, Nº 9 - Marzo 2019, en http://chinayamericalatina.com/.
  • Boisseau du Rocher, Sophie; Dubois de Prisque, Emmanuel, "La Chine e(s)t le Monde. Essai Sur la Sino-Mondialisation", Odile Jacob, Paris 2019.
  • Carvalho, Olavo de,"O Imbecil Coletivo", Editora Record, Rio de Janeiro - Sao Paulo 2018.
  • González, Eric, "Una histórica falta de confianza", diario "El País", 18 de abril 2019, página 5.
  • Holslag, Jonathan, "A Political History of the World. Three Thousand Years of War and Peace", Pelican Book, Penguin Random House, London 2018.
  • Holslag, Jonathan, "The Silk Road Trap. How China's Trade Ambitions Challenge Europe", Polity Press, Cambridge - Medford 2019.
  • Iversen, Torben; Soskice, David, "Democracy and Prosperity. Reinventing Capitalism Through a Turbulent Century", Princeton University Press, Princeton - Oxford 2019.
  • Maçães, Bruno, "Belt and Road. A Chinese World Order", Hurst & Compsny, London 2019.
  • Makuc, Adrián; Svarzman, Gustavo; Rozemberg, Ricardo, "En tiempo de cambios políticos el Mercosur cumple 28 años y necesita redefinir su rumbo", Sección Economía, diario "La Nación", 24 de marzo 2019, en https://www.lanacion.com.ar/.
  • Márkaris, Petros, "Universidad para Asesinos", Serie Kostas Jaritos, Colección Andanzas, TusQuets Editores, Buenos Aires 2019.
  • Mondino, Diana, "Las instituciones y su incidencia en el éxito o fracaso de las naciones", Suplemento Comercio Exterior del diario "La Nación", 21 de marzo 2019, en https://www.lanacion.com.ar/.
  • Obama, Michelle, "Mis Historia", Plaza Janés, Penguin Random House, Barcelona 2018.
  • Pinker, Steven, "Enlightenment Now. The Case for Reason, Science. Humanism, and Progess", Penguin Books, 2019.
  • Peña, Félix, "El Mercosur cumple 28 años en medio del debate sobre su futuro", Suplemento de Comercio Exterior de diario "La Nación", 28 de marzo 2019, en https://www.lanacion.com.ar/.
  • Souza, Jessé, "A Elite do Atraso. Da Escravidão a Bolsonaro"", Estacão Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 2017.
  • Tenenbaum, Ernesto, "Tres palabras que enloquecen a Argentina", diario "El País", Sección Internacional, 28 de Marzo 2019, en https://elpais.com/internacional/.
  • Zitelmann, Rainer, "The Power of Capitalism. A Journey through Recent History across Five Continents", LID Publishing, London - New York 2019.

Félix Peña Director of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian Group Brains Trust. More information.

http://www.felixpena.com.ar | info@felixpena.com.ar


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