Mike Derham joins the Argentina Project Podcast to discuss China's recent investment in Argentina and Latin America as a whole and President Mauricio Macri's balancing act between China's investment and Argentina's alliance with the United States.
Financial Times LatAm Viva - June 15, 2018
Although China is not a football superpower, the beautiful game is known to be President Xi Jinping’s favourite sport. Indeed, the central government has set out targets for the national team to become Asia’s best by 2030, and to win a World Cup by 2050, according to Novam Portam, a Sino-Latin consultancy. To foster that rise, Beijing has spent lavishly on foreign football players, especially Latin American stars. In 2012, Chinese clubs spent $51m on transfers. By 2016, that spending has rocketed to $451m.
Argentina has not ignored the Chinese market. In 2010, for example, Mendoza opened an export promotion office in Shanghai. There is now an Argentine wine store on TMall. And this year, 23 Argentine vineyards promoted their wine at the Interwine Beijing expo. But during a trip to Beijing for the expo, ProMendoza’s general manager, Fernando Urdaniz, said to better compete, Argentina would require a “presencia constante y permanente, ya que los asiáticos valoran mucho las relaciones interpersonales, es decir conocer en forma directa con quién harán negocios.” There are structural challenges, too, Mike Derham, of Novam Portam, told me. Chile, for example, sells its wine duty free in China. But “what is more important is getting it in front of Chinese consumers,” he said. “They’d benefit from taking a page from Chile’s playbook, with in-store samples, pairing menus and the like.”
“The model that they have used in other regions has been to expand through acquisitions, rather than organic growth. For example, they bought 40% of PayTM in India. They are in the market for an acquisition in Latin America.”
Q: Is it common for an industry to ramp up slowly when presented with a new opportunity in China, as companies invest in new production processes, logistics and relationships?
A: Yes. China is a big unknown for many exporters, with an emphasis on both “big” and “unknown.” It has nearly 400 million people in its cities, spending a third of their income on what Goldman Sachs likes to call “eating better.” But with a different business culture and market structure than what many exporters are used to, it can be hard to get oriented.
At Novam Portam, we work with a lot of companies and organizations across the Americas that look at the Chinese market, see the potential, but do not know where to start. Whether we connect them with a local partner in China or help them identify and develop a client base, our clients need to make the business case for entering the China market, and do so with a deliberate pace that allows them to address logistics and relationship needs.
A Miami company plans to build a trade center that connects China and Latin America.
Mana Group, the largest developer in Miami's Wynwood art district, is proposing a 10 million-square-foot facility called MANA Wynwood Americas-Asia Trade Center & International Financial Center (TCIFC).
Phase 1 of the center will consist of 4.68 million square feet of office space, showrooms, retail stores, hotels and public spaces, where Chinese companies and other companies from 32 countries in Latin America will meet.
The facility has been designed, and Mana group said it is talking to investors and strategic partners. Those from China are their main focus.
"Despite the efficiencies that e-commerce and online trade platforms provide, people still trust in their ability to touch merchandise and do business face to face. We are going to provide that comfort that they want," said Moishe Mana, chairman of Mana Group.
Bilateral trade between China and Latin America grew from $12 billion in 2000 to $300 billion in 2015, and by 2020 it's expected to reach $750 billion, according to Theodore Ward, a partner at Novam Portam, a consulting group working with Mana Group on the project.
China is a large importer of iron, soybeans, copper and oil from Latin American countries. At the same time, China is inserting itself into key infrastructure.
In Ecuador, Chinese money, technology and expertise have built a massive hydroelectric plant that provides 35 percent of the country's energy. Two nuclear power plants in Argentina, a 152-mile-long motorway in Colombia, and a container port in northern Brazil are examples of some other Chinese investments.
"There is still room for further collaboration, consolidation of relationships and follow-through," Ward said.
For example, two-thirds of all Peruvian agriculture companies that exported to China stopped over the past five years.
"This isn't because there's a lack of demand in China for those exports, such as fruits, berries and other high-quality agriculture goods. It's because there needs to be more coordination between exporters and Chinese consumer platforms and regulators," he said.
"Until recently, Latin Americans saw China as important, but not as much as they do now," Mana told China Daily.
"Today they see that China is a vital partner for them. They're much more eager to do business with China. They see opportunity in China, they see the future," he said.
The developer believes that with its geological advantage and cultural background, Miami would make an ideal magnet for Asia and Latin America.
Florida International University (FIU) sees the same kind of opportunity. The university started a Spanish program at Qingdao University in December 2014 to train students who in the future could facilitate trade between China and Latin America.
"Trade between Asia and Latin America remains fragmented, and is being held back by a lack of a platform," says Dr Peng Lu, associate provost for international programs at FIU.
"The world's best location for such a platform is Miami. Miami is Latin America's economic center, like Singapore or Hong Kong in Asia. The TCIFC can establish a partnership with trade and logistic hubs in the Far East," he said.
Miami is expecting a direct flight from China, and a Miami Chinatown is in discussion.
People are confident that Miami will one day become a focal point between China and Latin America, and the city itself will benefit from the job creation and economic impact.
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," said Mark Rosenberg, president of FIU, who's heading to China soon to recruit more Chinese students to Miami.
Mana decided to go all-in on the trade center idea after receiving significant interest from China, said Theodore Ward, a partner in Novam Portam, a consulting group that’s helping the developer work up a strategic vision. The firm is also helping Mana reach out to potential tenants in Asia to test its viability. Mana, who is known for adapting old buildings to new uses but has not built much from scratch, is in addition looking for development partners, Ward said.
As a result of his new commitment, Mana has dropped all plans to include high-rise residential in the Wynwood project, Ward said.
The trade center is designed to capitalize on a growing Asian commercial interest in Latin America by linking up traders, producers, lawyers and investment groups from each continent physically in Miami, a natural connection point, Ward said.
Trade between Asian and Latin American interests remains “fragmented” and the Wynwood center would be ideally positioned to cement those relationships, he said. The Asian companies they’re trying to lure do not currently have a presence in South Florida, Ward added.
“What’s needed to do that is a large-scale project like Mana Wynwood,” Ward said. “It’s a huge step. This is the type of project that would really elevate Miami in the eyes of the world. It’s a city that’s seen primarily as a tourist destination, though that’s not fair, as we know.”
South Florida Business Journal
In 2016, the city approved a special area plan for Mana Wywnood, covering nearly 24 acres, with about 10 million square feet permitted at the former warehouse site. The property extends from Northwest 22nd Street to Northwest 24th Street between Interstate 95 and Northwest 2nd Avenue. Buildings could be as tall as 24 stories near the interstate.
"The TCIFC represents the next stage in Miami’s role as the cultural and economic capital of the Americas; the hub for the relationship between Asia and the Americas,” says Theodore Ward, Partner at Novam Portam in charge of the MANA Wynwood project. "It is a natural Western Hemisphere complement for China’s One Belt One Road Initiative."