When I went to Seoul to attend 2nd OMNI International Citizen Reporters’ Forum, I had an opportunity to talk with Carlos A. Fasciolo, Deputy Ambassador of the Argentina’s Embassy in Korea. I spoke with him about the situation of the bilateral trade between both countries and the following is the result of that conversation. Fernando Marino-Aguirre.

Which of Argentina’s products are most popular in the South Korean market?

The products which meet is the greatest acceptance are still the commodities, food, and beverages. The well-known political and economic up and down of our country in the last decades, have not allowed us to consolidate the continuous export of products of a higher added values.
Which products have the greatest potential?
The food and beverage products, mainly the cheeses, dairy products in general, the wines and olive oil. A strong demand for cheeses exists, particularly for mozzarella, and we hope that our country will be in a condition to supply them regularly. There is also an important boom for foreign wines from the “new world,” and we are in that category.
The total Korean wine imports grew from US$23.1 million in 2001 to $67.7 million in 2005. Our country, which is the fifth worldwide producer, has participated only with a 1.5 percent share of the market in 2005, but we expect a very active trade this year.
Besides that, the Argentinian wine exporters continue making individual efforts to introduce their brands in the Korean market. In spite of that, local consumers, and possibly worldwide consumers, still identify the wines mostly by their country of origin and not by a certain brand of wine.
Does the Embassy have a defined goal for foreign trade?

We do not have quantitative goals. We prefer the qualitative ones, which means trying to communicate to the Argentinian exporters the importance of the Korean and Asian market in general. The northeast Asian market has become the third worldwide economic zone after NAFTA and the European Union. Or better said, the ASEAN + 3 is a fabulous market.
How do you evaluate the bilateral trade between both countries now?
In a single word: poor. We must consider that Korea occupies the twelfth place in the ranking of worldwide international trade. Korea imported goods worth $261,238 billion dollars in 2005 and our country only participated with $372 million, a number that in statistical terms means just three small points. There is a big potential for growth!!
About 58.4 percent of the total imports of Korea from Argentina in 2005 were concentrated in only two products: soy oil ($114.3 million) and soy cakes ($102.9 million).
Are there projects to encourage Argentinian exporters to participate more in the Korean market?
We have several projects that we are developing simultaneously. First, we regularly prepare market profiles on the products that we consider to have good possibilities in Korea.
We also have an information network of trade opportunities that we detect in this market and we send that information immediately to the businessmen in Argentina.
Furthermore, we provide regular and timely information about the most important international trade expositions and fairs in Korea. Simultaneously, we inform Korean businessmen about the expositions and fairs in Argentina and encourage them to participate.
In order to do this we have consistently built a “mailing list” of public and private traders, companies, corporations, trade associations related to the foreign trade, as much in Korea, with a Bulletin in the Korean language, as in Argentina, with a Circular in Spanish. So we regularly provide all types of commercial and economic information about the bilateral relations.
What kind of support does the Argentinian embassy in Korea provide to the businessmen wishing to export to this market?
The most synthetic way to describe our job here, for economic and trade matters, is that we are a representative branch of the Argentinian companies’ interests in Korea.
We offer a wide range of information on tariffs, import regulations, contacts with the main importers, price lists, and many other kinds of useful information for the Argentinian traders.
We also coordinate business workshops that are held at the embassy’s meeting room, where we offer the entire necessary infrastructure to carry them out, including advisory services and bilingual commercial assistants who speak Korean and Spanish. We also organize Argentinian food and drink tasting.
For example, in 2005, we sent more than 24,000 communications to different bodies interested in this market and we’ve already sent 20,300 only in the first semester of this year. This clearly shows the embassy’s activity. After mailing the information, we check each communication, and do a real follow up of the actions that were promoted from the offered information.
How many Koreans usually contact the Embassy, and what kind of information for (tourism, trade, education)?
They are different things. For information about tourism, very few. Korean people interested in traveling to Argentina generally do it within a tourist package that includes Peru (Machu Pichu), Chile (Santiago), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Ushuaia, Southern Glaciers and Iguazu Falls), and Brazil (also Iguazu and Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo). They are mostly retired, with high incomes.
For commercial matters, we receive more demands. They look for food and drinks products, especially wines and cheeses, and commodities in general.
In relation with education subjects, we receive very few enquiries. In the academic area, tango is still the great attraction.
OhmyNews, Seoul, Korea. August 24, 2006

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