INTERVIEW EURICO BRILHANTE DIAS
State Secretary for Internationalization
State Secretary for Internationalization, Eurico Brilhante Dias, was aide to the former Secretary-General of the Socialist Party (PS), António José Seguro, being responsible for the implementation of the Industry 4.0. (Indústria 4.0.) program. A University Professor, he was member of the Board of Directors of AICEP (Portuguese Foreign Trade and Investment Agency). He has been vested, since July 2017, as State Secretary for Internationalization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Is Portugal finally establishing itself as an exporting country? What do you consider to be the main competitiveness factors of Portuguese companies in the global market?
It is worth mentioning the outstanding work developed by entrepreneurs and our companies. Indeed, even in an unfavourable economic scenario, entrepreneurs dared to risk and move towards the international market in a more consistent, articulated manner and they counted with the fundamental support of associations along the way.
Today we have a different generation of entrepreneurs, who knew how to keep up with the changes in the globalization process. We are competitive because of our differential production and the results are verified in the remarkable figures achieved in the exports (in 2017, the GDP share in exports was higher than 43%). Portuguese products, regardless of the sector, are recognised mainly for their quality, differentiation and innovation. Adaptation to the digital age, incorporation of new technologies into the industry and services are other determining factors, as well as the skills of human resources, which in most cases have fluency in one or two foreign languages. We have evolved positively and this is the path we must continue to pursue.
In your opinion, what else should be done regarding the positioning of Portugal's brand image in foreign markets?
The government approved, at the end of 2017, the Internationalization Program - with the ambitious objective, among others, of promoting Portugal’s Brand image. Therefore, it is worth highlighting that existing sector brands - such as the Portuguese Jewellery, in the jewellery sector, Portugal Shoes in the footwear sector, Metal Portugal in the metalworking industry, or PortugalFoods in the agri-food industry, among others - will continue to exist. These brands are renowned internationally for their quality, thanks to a collective investment. Today, our aim is to consolidate a brand that represents the country in cross-sectorial way as a "whole", which combines tradition, history, innovation and culture with tourism and the economy. The Strategic Council for Open Economy - CEIE, an Interministerial Council reporting to the Prime Minister, has a working group that addresses the ‘country brand’; AICEP is developing a program called Cross Selling in order to promote the image of Portugal, in partnership with companies; and business associations also have available instruments to act on this matter, namely through an incentive system. A solid, well-structured brand in line with other sector brands will strengthen the image of Portugal.
What are the big goals for 2018?
Portugal has attained a remarkable growth. In 2005, exports of goods and services were around 25% and by the end of 2017, exports reached 43.1% of the GDP. Foreign direct investment reached a new stock investment high in 2017; we surpassed 63% of the equivalent share in the GDP, a growth of 2% over 2016. Investment is of paramount importance because it is directly related to national exports. We have as an example the automotive sector:
Autoeuropa, PSA, or Mitsubishi - but also at the services level, with the recent arrival of Google, which will have an operations hub in Portugal. Regarding FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), our aim is to fill any gaps in the value chain. This growth clearly reflects the work carried out by Portuguese entrepreneurs and companies, but also a strong and continuous commitment of public policies to promote the internationalization of the Portuguese economy. In this regard, the big goal for 2018 is to continue in a successful pursuit of increasing exports and attracting foreign direct investment.
The Portuguese jewellery industry has focused on the domestic market for many years, but in recent years it has awakened to internationalization and has recorded outstanding numbers and very high growth rates (approx.. 500% since 2008). What advice would you give to our entrepreneurs who are investing or plan to invest in the internationalization of their business?
The path to internationalization is a demanding but fundamental process to ensure entrepreneurial success, as well as the country's affirmation. This process requires preliminary preparation, a solid and well-defined strategy. While taking this path, entrepreneurs should analyse the competitive conditions of the company, the elements in which they are differentiators, the environment where they are inserted, as well as the weaknesses that may exist and know how to overcome them. After ensuring competitive conditions, market selection should be made, and at this stage, consider factors such as geographic positioning, cultural proximity, existing trade agreements, potential sales, as well as difficulties in entering the market (competition, exchange rate issues, tariff barriers, among others) and financing. Once this stage has been completed, it is vital to analyse contact networks such as AICEP delegations, business associations, bilateral chambers of commerce and even the diaspora.
It is important to consider these economic agents, as they have in-depth knowledge and relevant information of the selected market. A well-defined market approach strategy generates positive results. A good example is the jewellery sector.
The Government, in partnership with AICEP, has developed several internationalization support programs. What is the Government's strategy in terms of support for SMEs and micro-enterprises?
Our business scenario predominantly consists of micro-enterprises and SMEs, and public policies have been oriented to meet the needs of this segment. According to the Internationalization Program, the epicentre of the Government's internationalization strategy, there is a set of identified measures. It is worth highlighting that these measures are developed by public entities in articulation with private entities, through the CEIE Working Groups. The measures of the Internationalization Program are focused on five main premises: the promotion of Portugal’s Brand image, as aforementioned; Business and Market Intelligence, which aims at an in-depth survey of available information on target markets; the qualification of human resources and territory; support in the access to markets and investments in Portugal; and, finally, financing. At the financing level, support lines were created in the framework of the Capitalize Program and the reprogramming exercise of Portugal 2020, which will allow us to maintain the investment support levels we reached in previous years.
Another point that characterises the current moment of the jewellery sector is the incorporation of design and creativity through the appearance of new actors coming from different creative areas and who find their creative voice in the field of jewellery. How do you view the role of Associations in fostering these dynamics? AORP has been developing strategies and concerted actions with other associations of the textile and footwear sector, in order to affirm the Portuguese fashion internationally. How do you view this union among associations from different sectors?
Associations have been fundamental economic agents in the internationalization process. Your coordination, which is self-sufficient, is a positive dynamic that can be reported to other sectors. When the industry joins forces with the creative arts, that generates value, not only corporate, but also cultural value. This articulation strengthens the results of companies and associations and contributes decisively to the affirmation and business promotion of the country overseas.
One of the great missions of your tenure has been the attraction of foreign direct investment. How do you see this investment in the jewellery industry and what strategy is being planned in this regard by the Government?
The Government will not discriminate, positively or negatively, any sector. At the level of investment funding, we will always seek to value our competitive advantages as a country against other potential FDI destinations.