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Portugal has best competitive advantages Korean companies are looking forInterview with Ambassador Quinteiro Nobre of Portugal in Seoul

▲Ambassador Ant?nio Quinteiro Nobre of the Republic of Portugal in Seoul

Portugal holds the best competitive advantages that Korean companies are looking for: a competitive economy, a strategic location, better technological services, better infrastructures, an excellent workforce on engineering and sciences and fluent at least in three foreign languages (English, French and Spanish), international partnerships with World-class education institutions offering cutting-edge research and Ph.D and Master programs. So said Ambassador Ant?nio Quinteiro Nobre of the Republic of Portugal in Seoul at a recent interview with The Korea Post media on the occasion of the National Day of Portugal on June 10, 2016.

Ambassador Nobre obviously had a long string of competitive edges of Portugal attractive to Korea, especially to the Korean businesses wishing to newly invest or increase exising investment and other forms of cooperation beween Korea and Portugal.

Here are the details of the interview:

Question: Which are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and which are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?

Answer: The best competitive advantages mentioned add to the privileged access to the Portuguese speaking countries like Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, S?o Tom? and Pr?ncipe, Guinea-Bissau and East Timor, all with whom Portugal has important economic and cultural ties and which represent a 250 million consumers market (one should notice that Portugal is the most spoken language in the South Hemisphere). With this background, I can highlight that for Portugal are important all the sectors focused on tradable goods and services with positive impact in the foreign trade balance and added value which include ICT. Examples of those sectors are agro & fish industry, renewable energy, aeronautics, automotive, mining industry, naval industry, building materials, molds engineering & tooling, pulp & paper, petrochemical and chemical, life sciences, shared services centers & outsourcing as well as textile and clothing. Last but not least, we have something innovative and with great potential for the Korean people ? the Golden Residence Permit Program for foreign investors who can apply for resident permit in Portugal. As we live in a global market, I think that promoting and deepening partnerships between the referred top industries from both countries might also facilitate the Direct Portuguese Investment in Korea. A sector that I think could also represent a true challenge to the Portuguese players in this country is the educational one. Our deep experience on high-quality courses in English and Portuguese language (in partnership with the best international universities worldwide, apart from our experience in international internships for promoting ties between academia and industry) could reinforce our presence in your country.

Q: Which are your competitive fields of industry and products attractive to Korea and which are the Korean products that your country might wish to import?

Even though the Portuguese industry and products are still quite unknown by the Korean market, Portugal offers a lot of premium products with strong potential. As I’ve already mentioned, the most popular Portuguese products are wines, cork, olive oil, several kinds of food (for example past?is de nata - which are the traditional egg tarts), frozen and fresh fish, processed food or shoes. However I also should stress that ICT is one of the most promising Portuguese sectors. It is no coincidence that Lisbon has been chosen to host - for the next three years - the largest European Conference on ICT: WEB SUMMIT 2016 will take place in Lisbon from 8 to 10 of October and is a worldwide initiative composed of 21 conferences, from Technology to Sports, Music, Gastronomy, Fashion, Agriculture and much more. On the other side, all the biggest tech companies of the world attend the Web Summit: Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, AirBnB, Facebook, Dropbox, and so on. With respect to your point about the products that Portugal might wish to import, well I’m sure that cosmetics, fashion, culture, besides, of course, technology, automobile and all the sectors involving R&D are really appreciated in Portugal.

Q: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and your country, including the possible visit of your Head of Government to Korea.

A: Portugal and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic relations 55 years ago but common history goes further back. Portugal being a country which participated actively in the Age of Discoveries, in 1604 a Portuguese merchant named Jo?o Mendes came to Korea and you can find the name of Korea (Coria/Mar Coria) in a Portuguese map dated from 1615. The year 2014 was a very important one from the point of view of bilateral relations, with the first ever official visit paid to the Republic of Korea by a Portuguese President of the Republic. We are now expecting for the retribution visit of Madam President Park Geun-hye to Portugal. For 2016 we have planned some important bilateral events, namely the meetings of the Joint Committees in the political, cultural and economic areas. These are defining moments of the bilateral relationship and we are looking forward to the strengthening of relations between Portugal and the Republic of Korea. We give special emphasis to the people-to-people contacts. In this context, we are organizing some cultural events with the main goal of offering to the Korean audience an insight into the Portuguese culture. Despite of living at the opposite extremes of the Eurasian Continent, the Portuguese and Korean Peoples share fundamental values and a common understanding of life and its meaning. Therefore, I believe that there is an immense ground to be explored and I would be very happy to give a contribution in this regard.

Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?

A: It is important to emphasize that the economic relations between our countries are still modest. In 2015, Korea was only our 45th client and the 23rd supplier. On the other hand, in the first two months of 2016 (latest available data) Korea was the 43rd customer. The value of exports of goods and services from Portugal to Korea amounted to 115.8 million Euros in 2015, while imports reached about 304 million Euros. Regarding the structure of Portuguese exports to Korea, in 2015 the first position was occupied by plastics and rubber, representing 36.6% of the total; followed by machinery and equipment (15.6 percent), common metals (5.7 percent), minerals and ores (5.1 percent) and textiles (4.4 percent). These first five product groups together represented 67.4 percent of the total value of exports to this country last year. It is also interesting to highlight that between 2011 and 2015 the Portuguese exports to Korea increased 41.3 percent, while the Korean exports to Portugal increased 21.9 percent. As regards the outlook in the near future, I can say that despite the economic slowdown within both countries we expect to reinforce our exports to Korea and to attract FDI to Portugal. In fact, we’re feeling a growing interest by our premium products such as wines, cork, olive oil, shoes, food or ICT, just to name a few, as well as by local companies to invest in Portugal, namely on renewable energies. It is also relevant the effort made by the Portuguese government with the official opening of the Trade and Investment Agency (AICEP) ’s branch in Korea, last October, which stands as a proof of the importance of the Korean market for the Portuguese companies.

Q: Please introduce your President in detail, including major achievements.

A: H.E. the President of Portugal, Professor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was elected last January. He is a renowned Professor of Law and is very well known to the Portuguese society. For a better understanding, I enclose herewith his official curriculum.

Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?

A: Portugal has a long tradition in tourism activities: 9,5% of our GDP is from the tourism industry and nowadays we are the 25th top tourism destination in the world and we take the 20th position on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. It is a very hard task to identify the attractive tourist destinations in my country. In fact, Portugal is a sunny country (250 days of shinning every year), with 850 km coastline of golden sandy beaches, a preserved nature, unique light, welcoming people, 900 years of rich history (heritage), unique lifestyle (Lisbon is the 7th best shopping destination in Europe according to the Globe Shopper Index), gastronomy (the best fish in the world and many Michelin stared restaurants), wines (unique indigenous grape varieties) and Fado (the Portuguese national song, classified as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, just like Pansori and Arirang). Counting seven tourism regions, each one with a particular history, Portugal holds a concentrated diversity. Therefore you can benefit of all kind of facilities and tourism products in a short distance and all around the country. On the other hand, we are also fully committed in developing our tourism industry in a sustainable way and we have one of the best quality/price relations in hotels, restaurants and entertainment, as well as one of the best night life in Europe, with plenty of open-air bars and discos. In order to help you out among this variety of attractions, I would like to suggest three top motives that can weight on your decision making process: i) we have the most challenging and amazing golf courses around Europe; ii) Lisbon and Porto are lovely and unique cities to enjoy; and iii) in an ecumenical perspective, I strongly recommend you to visit Fatima ? one of the most famous Marian Sanctuaries in the world: a place for all kind of cults, with a very special ambiance even to unbelievers.

Q: What is your view of Korea and the Korean people before and after your arrival here?

A: Before my arrival I had somehow a distant idea, I could only have some glimpse of it from Beijing. I can now clearly see that Koreans and Chinese are different, even if culturally there is a Confucianist common basis. I admire the efforts made by the Korean people in the middle of many historic difficulties. One of the characteristics I appreciate the most is the capacity of battling adversities and looking for common good.
Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
My name is Ant?nio Quinteiro Nobre. I am married and I have 4 children and 1 grand-child (a 2nd one will be born soon). My diplomatic career started in 1985 and I was lucky enough for always having the family with me. I’ve been posted abroad in Helsinki-Finland, Beijing-China, Barcelona-Spain, again in Beijing-China and, for 4 years now, as Ambassador resident in Seoul and also accredited to Pyongyang.
My hobbies are mainly reading, music, cinema and walking

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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