SHANGHAI – Argentina is trying to carve a niche in the Chinese market by building a brand it has launched at the International Import Expo this week in Shanghai.
“We are working to be able to enter (the Chinese market) with other products and especially to find an identity, a brand as a country in China that we still do not have,” Argentine Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Luis Miguel Etchevehere told EFE.
The minister has traveled to China with a large business delegation of Argentine representatives and joined President Xi Jinping for the launch of the trade fair.
According to Etchevehere, Argentina lacks an identity because trade is new.
“We have had a relationship for a long time but it was boosted with Mauricio Macri’s presidency which increased a relationship of trust with President Xi,” he added.
“Until two years ago we were signing a health protocol or two per year, in these last two years we have signed 13 and this, in hand, will increase trade.”
In 2018, Argentine agroindustrial exports to China reached $3.27 billion (78% of total exports), of which more than 85% corresponded to soybeans and their derivatives, beef, fish products and poultry.
A vicious drought affected the production of important crops like soy that year, but exports picked up considerably in 2019.
Between January and August exports have almost surpassed that of last year with $3.23 billion.
According to Etchevehere, about 100 national companies (20% more than last year) have traveled to the CIIE this year, mainly from the meat sector, as well as wine, fishing, honey, grains and their by-product sectors.
Some of the companies are included in the last 13 health protocols that comprise beef meat cooled with and without the bone and frozen on the bone, pork, goat, and sheep meat from Patagonia.
As well as honey, blueberries, cherries, grapes, live horses, pancreatic products for industrial use, dried peas and soy flour.
“Everything is very new and we know that when these products start to be known in China, trade will increase,” the minister added.
Etchevehere, who is on his last official visit to the Asian country after opposition leader Alberto Fernandez won the elections, anticipated there would be a shift when it came to foreign policy change as the incoming president was a Kirchnerist politician (considered a branch of left-wing populism).
“All the signs point towards prioritizing the domestic market over exports, not to have such a fluid trade,” the minister said of the future government.
“There is not long to wait now to see whether it will be that way, but it would be a shame that if they to carry out that policy because we think that trade is what boosts the economy and the quality of life of the population,” Etchevehere said.
Closing the door to foreign trade would be hugely detrimental to production which has increased significantly under President Macri, the minister said.
“He managed to intelligently reinsert Argentina into the world and reopen or open 220 markets in four years.
“It is very important work that has had a high impact in the areas of our country that produce and hopefully the next government can follow suit,” he concluded.