A virtual mission to one of the largest countries in Latin America has strengthened links there to Scotland as a new post-Brexit trade agreement is agreed.
An Aberdeen consultancy business was among a cohort of 16 firms from Scotland who took part in the series of trade events with counterparts in Colombia in an effort to grow partnerships in key Latin American industries including food an drink and renewable energy.
Aberdeen already has links with with the region through the World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP) which includes the Colombian seaport, Barranquilla. The partnership was formed in 2017 and connects cities considered powerhouses of energy production. Prior to this, Aberdeen City Council signalled a closer working relationship with the city through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Aberdeen International Associates (AIA), an economic development and international trade consultancy has already benefited from the energy partnership and aims to gain further traction in Colombia through its participation in the International Trade Partnership (ITP) mission.
AIA works across a broad cross section of sectors, including energy, ocean technology, agriculture, education, food and drink, and specialises in the provision of market access services, including the coordination of commercial trade missions and related events.
Neil McIntosh, managing director at AIA, said: “Our main objectives were to increase our Colombian network and to expand inland – particularly around Bogota and Medellin – from the Caribbean coastal region where we have already built strong links from involvement in projects connecting stakeholders from the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena with international partners, and we’ve been very pleased with progress.
“Our success comes from helping companies achieve their goals, and our experience has taught us that the more businesses put into collaboration and partnerships, the more likely they are to succeed.
“A key focus for us is the energy sector – also the basis for the Aberdeen MOU – and the UK Government’s current push on energy transition creates significant opportunities for both AIA and the Scottish supply chain to support emerging markets like Colombia to diversify their energy matrix.”
Colin Martin-Reynolds, the UK’s ambassador to Colombia, said there is a real appetite to see more British – and Scottish – products, companies and business people in Colombia.
He added that governments in both countries are working hard to break down any barriers to trade – including through the introduction of a bilateral free trade agreement signed in May, which is currently making its way through parliament.
He also highlighted the significance of Scotland in the run up to Cop26 in November, which is reflected in one of the key industries for the mission, renewables.
Ambassador Martin-Reynolds said: “In environment we see a massive potential on the business side between the UK and Colombia and I think that Scotland absolutely is a huge part of that as we look at environmental technology, science, and renewable energies. So I’m really hopeful that we will see more business over the coming period.”
The ITP is a partnership between the Scottish Government and Scottish Chambers of Commerce. Although the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means much of the mission has taken place online, there are plans for in-person visits later this year.
Michael Phillips, executive director of British Chamber of Commerce Colombia, said: “Colombia is a relatively untapped market for Scottish businesses, with a growing middle class, with developing tastes and likes.
“We believe that Colombia can continue to be a strong ally to the UK, and there is a wealth of opportunity for Scottish business here.”
In this post Brexit environment, it is particularly important for Scotland’s businesses to help themselves, and that is what these trade missions are set up to achieve.”
George McKay, chief executive, Inverclyde Chamber of Commerce
The Colombian mission was the first time Inverclyde Chamber of Commerce has led an ITP programme mission, a project that was the brainchild of the chamber’s new chief executive, George McKay. He brought in partner Diana Peralta, of DP Global, to act as the chamber’s international trade arm and set up this and future missions.
Mr McKay said: “The support we have received from our partners in Colombia has been excellent, as has the feedback from delegates. Many are already beginning to reap the benefits, and others are forging ahead with business plans.
“In this post Brexit environment, it is particularly important for Scotland’s businesses to help themselves, and that is what these trade missions are set up to achieve.”
Barney Crockett, Lord Provost of Aberdeen City who is currently president of the WECP, said: “The memorandum of understanding between our two cities has been a great motivator for both Aberdeen and Barranquilla and also a model for others.
“We in Aberdeen take great pride in how strong our links are with Barranquilla and it has helped each of us to brand ourselves as forward-looking cities focused on energy working for transition.”
Open to all Scottish registered businesses with a turnover below £7 million, Inverclyde Chamber is planning a mission to Italy later this year, and then Miami in March 2021.
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce is also running virtual trade missions, including with Sweden and India in September which are also open to non-chamber members.