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Interview about my personal trade story with "She Trader"

Extracted from: Navigating the trade ecosystem in Peru with Ms. Andrea Bulnes Acevedo

1. Please walk us through your journey in the field of International Trade

I am 25 years old, and I started my journey in the field of International Trade nine years ago at the university, studying International Business Management. During my undergraduate years, although I enjoyed learning and working on the technical aspects of trade, I wanted to do something impactful. So, at the age of 22, I ran for the municipal council in the regional elections of Lima. I was not elected but my passion for public service was solidified – I realized that I wanted to impact people’s lives positively in a much more professional way.

I saw an opportunity to pave my way at the intersection of trade and public service through a coursework in International Trade Negotiations, which the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism provides for recently graduated professionals. With hard work and dedication, I was selected to take this course and this brought me closer to my dream of becoming a public servant. Notably, after the course’s conclusion in 2019 and some job interviews, I was invited to work in the Directorate of International Trade Negotiations of this Ministry. Currently, I am the coordinator of the two main trade negotiation processes of Peru with China and India and Deputy Trade Negotiator in Trade in Services and E-Commerce.

The most meaningful part of my work is to know that my passion and efforts can give a positive momentum to the development of my country. However, I acknowledge the fact that such opportunities are not yet available to everyone – especially the underrepresented groups. This further motivates me to keep going and doing my bit!

2022 marks a special milestone in my journey as I begin my Masters in International and Development Studies (MINT) with a specialization in Sustainable Trade at the Geneva Graduate Institute (IHEID) in Switzerland with a 100% scholarship.

2. Tell us something about the trade ecosystem in Peru. What are some products with high export potential in the country? What measures are being taken to enhance cross-border trade?

Peru has held a foreign trade policy of economic integration and free trade for the last 20 years. International trade has been key to the country’s sustained growth, where exports of goods have grown at an average annual rate of 9% since 2000. We have signed 22 trade agreements which are in force with more than 54 countries today.

To give a context of how much the scenario has changed for Peru: In 2006 only 6% of our exports were covered by trade agreements, but by 2021 this number had grown to 90%.

Although Peru is mainly a mineral exporting country (60% of total exports), we can highlight the rising exports and future potential of the agricultural, textile, and fishing products. For instance, shipments of farm products continued to grow despite the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Peru is a leader in the export of blueberries, quinoa, asparagus, grapes, avocados & Brazil nuts. It is now also close to being included in the ranking of the top 10 fruit exporters in the world!

In recent years, the Peruvian Government has implemented programs to promote exports of non-traditional products, which are products with added value that generate more employment throughout the value chain.

One of the most successful programs enhancing cross-border trade is the SUPPORT PROGRAM FOR INTERNATIONALIZATION (PAI in Spanish). This program aims to promote and encourage the internationalization of MSMEs through co-financing. It has a significant impact since 80% of our exporting companies are micro, small, or medium-sized companies.

3. How is women entrepreneurship, especially in terms of cross border trade, being promoted in Peru?

Although Peru has implemented national plans for the internationalization of Peruvian businesses that seek to address factors like productivity and competitiveness, it was in the year 2017 that the Government implemented a specific program to address issues faced by women exporters: Ella Exporta (She Trades).

Ella Exporta seeks to promote and aid Peruvian women in exports, contributing to the reduction of occupational gaps and promoting female entrepreneurship. The program provides training to businesswomen in developing business plans, strengthening knowledge of export logistics, corporate social responsibility, business finance and e- commerce.

Ella Exporta has trained more than 100 businesswomen from the agribusiness, clothing, jewelry, and services sectors. For example, in 2021, the program was focused on a specific region of the Peruvian jungle with cocoa, chocolate, coffee, and sacha inchi production chains.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism also participates in initiatives to promote women’s economic empowerment in regional frameworks such as the Pacific Alliance – an economic block conformed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. We have also recently joined the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) – an international initiative made up of Canada, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand – which seeks to promote women’s economic empowerment through trade.

Finally, one of the stories I always like to share about Peruvian women in international trade is that of the collective organic coffee brand “Café Femenino.” The brand was born in 2004 as an initiative of the ‘Central de Cafetaleros del Nor Oriente (Cecanor)’, a Peruvian women’s association that integrates producers from the Amazonas, Lambayeque, and Cajamarca.

The entire business of ‘Café Femenino’ is now handled by 700 associated women coffee growers – right from planting to marketing. The export process for ‘Café Femenino’ is coordinated by a better equipped export enterprise, Proassa, which is in charge of providing technical export assistance. Today, “Café Femenino” exports to the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The women of “Café Femenino” have become more independent. They own their land, make their own decisions, and lead their families!

4. What were the impacts of the COVID pandemic on the supply chains and how have the businesses overcome the same?

Peru was one of the hardest-hit countries in the world during the pandemic, having one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates and the most significant drops in GDP in the world. In this situation, one of the most affected activities was international trade which decreased by 15.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

During the pandemic there were many obstacles to holding the supply chains stable, such as increasing transport prices, labor shortages, rise in customs costs due to the application of sanitary measures and the lack of knowledge of digital processes.

Given this scenario, some of the main actions taken were the formation of Public-Private Work Groups for each productive sector, the establishment of the first National Observatory on freight transport and logistics, and the emission of credits that were necessary to maintain the continuity of the payment chain of Peruvian exports.

Through our trade agreements, we coordinated the use of electronic and digital export and import documents, such as the Certificate of Origin. Likewise, we implemented more electronic payment methods and signatures for internal customs procedures. Today, 95% of our customs procedures are digital, and we have a 100% online export system.

In 2021, despite the continuing health crisis, Peruvian foreign trade had recovered and reached record highs: 36% and 19% higher than in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Exports exceeded US$56 billion, the highest historical value, favored by higher international prices and the recovery of local production (affected in 2020 by sanitary measures).

There is still a lot that can be done to reinvigorate the economy and to improve the facilitation of exports. Some of the challenges that Peruvian exporters continue to experience are mostly internal factors like financing and the generation of export capacity.

5. What is your message for young women trying to build their career in this domain?

“Why do you do what you do”? I believe that identifying what exactly drives you is the first step towards building a career in whatever domain you choose. There might be many reasons, but the key is to focus on your two or three greatest motivations and then trace your own path to make it happen.

For me, this question led me to build a career at the intersection of my public service spirit and my passion for trade and foreign relations. The road was quite tricky. I come from a working-class family in Peru, and I am the first to go to university in my family. The economic situation was always a challenge (even until now that I’ll be studying a Master’s Program with a full scholarship), but being clear about my purpose in life has motivated me to move forward and has inspired me to work to create more development opportunities in my community. In particular, to work for sustainable and inclusive trade.

After having identified your passion, it is important to set your career goals and analyze how you can reach them. For this, you will have to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. Apply for that scholarship or job, write to someone you find interesting to meet and ask for advice, start new projects, and get involved in initiatives you believe in. The point is to take courage!

Along this journey, you will find new challenges but also new opportunities and incredible people who will help you grow personally and professionally. Building a solid network is essential, and nowadays, there are many initiatives where you can feel identified with – join them! And just as you will receive support, it is important to give it too. As women, we face many similar challenges, so let’s connect, help and support each other. It is our time to raise our voices and make international trade a thriving space for everyone!

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