Denise Ho
Junior Policy Advisor – EUROCHAMBRES

“So… tell me. Why does your project focus on Latin America?”

As a representative of the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk, I travel to trade fairs and conferences across Europe all year round. My job: to not only highlight the great opportunities in the region, but also to help small European businesses seize their full potential with the right protection strategy for their intellectual property assets. During my travels, I encounter a very peculiar question every now and then: Why do we focus on Latin America with our Helpdesk?

To answer that question, I decided to share my impressions of the most recent event from our Autumn of IPR road trip with you: The Lateinamerikatag in Frankfurt am Main, Germany!

As the name suggests, the Lateinamerikatag – or LAV-Tag, for short – is an annual conference which focuses on every business aspect that brings Latin American and German businesses together. Organized by the oldest bilateral business association in Germany, the Lateinamerikaverein, it is the place to be for Latin America enthusiasts: participants meet old and new acquaintances from both regions and discuss the most recent opportunities given in each country. For the first time this year, they could also take part in matchmaking. For this event, my main goal was to meet people from the business and public sector alike to hear about their success stories in Latin America and to see how our service could help them reach their goals.

At the event, German Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier observed that Latin America and the EU share a rich cultural, linguistic and historic heritage that brings our continents together. The main challenge is to make Latin America more attractive to European SMEs, since this will benefit both regions in order to strengthen their position in the global economy. To illustrate how much trade is already happening with just one German region, state secretary of Hessen Dr. Martin Worms announced that over €1.3 billion worth goods have been imported from Latin America in 2018 alone.

So, what makes it especially attractive to EU businesses?

What made the 70th edition of this event especially interesting was its focus on a wide range of Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. In spite of Brazil’s fame as the first country named concerning business in the region, there was a refreshing spotlight on the many opportunities given in other countries as well – medical devices in Chile, a thriving IT sector in Argentina and Uruguay, and the push for renewable energy in the Caribbean countries, to name a few. Once again, these developments underlined the growth potential laying dormant all across Latin America. Participants who wished to dive deeper could join thrilling parallel sessions, which focused on the switch to renewable energy, smart cities, machinery and new business opportunities in the region.

Without a doubt, the economic potential and possibilities are as eclectic and diverse as the continent itself. But to reach that goal, some challenges on the economic and political level need to be overcome addressed first. For instance, political instability can be a strong deterrent for EU companies to join in regions such as Argentina or Ecuador, even though reforms aimed to improve the situation are known to be underway. Moreover, Deutsche Bank Chairman Michael Spiegel also highlighted that the Latin American region is highly heterogenous – a company should therefore invest a larger amount of resources to understand the different business and legal environments in each country. For SMEs, that extra cost also represents a harsh barrier keeping them from internationalization.

And how does the Helpdesk help with this kind of issue?

Apart from its geographical focus, some may wonder why this conference is relevant to our Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk, since we specifically only provide the support needed for issues concerning intellectual property rights. However, intellectual property is front-and-center in a sound international business strategy. A diverse continent such as Latin America requires the ability to properly navigate the jungle of different legal requirements, which helps businesses save a lot of money – as well as headaches. SMEs in particular can benefit from free expert advice and an accurate overview of each country’s special requirements. The less time and resources are lost in the bureaucratic maze, the more they are available for innovation, developing business leads, and taking your company to the next level.

This is why the LAV-Tag is the perfect platform for the Latin America IPR Helpdesk to participate in. Not only did we meet key stakeholders, but also some German SMEs actively looking for advice on software protection in Brazil, for instance. Being able to help small businesses climb up the international market ladder and overcome issues related to intellectual property is the core of our Helpdesk.

A great asset that must be taken into account is the provision of free informative and engaging training sessions to SMEs about the business advantages of developing the right intellectual property strategies. This helps small businesses clarify some issues without any overhead costs and opens new paths for SMEs to successfully expand their activities in new markets, as well. Business support organizations and chambers of commerce should consider holding this kind of workshop.

I was very glad to see that so many participants agree with that! During the LAV-Tag I managed to meet representatives of the Außenhandelskammern (German chambers of commerce abroad) from Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Honduras, and Chile. Not only were they thrilled to hear about the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk services, but we all also agreed that Latin America is a key destination for businesses, with plenty of with plenty opportunities waiting to be seized. Especially after the recent EU-MERCOSUR political agreement for an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement, it is more important than ever to ensure EU SMEs know before they go.

So… Why does our project focus on Latin America?

We focus on this region because there are a lot of business opportunities waiting to be discovered. European SMEs in particular can benefit from the existing strong bilateral political partnership, which is based on a similar cultural background and shared core values. However, with a both geographically and legally diverse and colorful continent, taking the first step might be overwhelming. We as the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk will help you jump across the Atlantic, so that your business can thrive and go global. Our services – from trainings over our online IP resources to our helpline – are there to help you within three business days, free of charge.

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