Hamburg, a strong partner of Latin America

As a centre of competence, EZLA particularly helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in entering European markets

Hamburg, a strong partner of Latin America

In mid-August, the European Centre for Latin America  (EZLA) was inaugurated in Hamburg. At its premises, Latin American companies planning to set up their European business from Hamburg are able to simultaneously access networks, receive consultancy and use a flexible working environment plus the advantages of a business office in a Northern European business metropolis. The EZLA is supported by a registered association, initiated by the Honorary Consul of the Mexican States in Hamburg, Frank K. Westermann, HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation and other business partners. Jutta Ludwig, CEO of HWF, said: "With its unique all-inclusive business solution, the EZLA helps small and medium-sized enterprises from Latin America in setting up a sustainable and successful business in European markets." Frank K. Westermann, chairman of the EZLA foundation, added: "Not striving for profits, the Association for the Promotion of the European Centre for Latin America in Hamburg – EZLA – pursues a concept that is both unique and truly innovative within the European Union, as confirmed by the European Commission in Brussels. Nowhere else in Europe, you will find another Latin America cluster with such an extensive and integrated spectrum." EZLA’s official inaugural speech was held by Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary to the Senate Chancellery, to the Federal Government, to the European Union, and for Foreign Affairs.

vergrößern EZLA Frank K. Westermann (Bild: HWF)

Hamburg is of the most important centres of Hispanic-American trade in Europe. Therefore, the city expanded its commitment to the region. This also applies for the promotion of economic development. "A major goal of HWF is to increase the awareness of Hamburg in Latin American countries in order to increase the attractiveness of the location for companies from the region. A Spanish version of our website has thus been launched on the Internet", continued Jutta Ludwig. In Hamburg, entrepreneurs from Latin America will find perfect conditions to enter the European market. The economic relations between the two regions can look back on a centuries-old tradition. In 2011, Brazil was Hamburg’s tenth most important trade partner in seaborne container cargo, and the country was even ranked fourth in regard to entire trading volumes. For Latin America, Hamburg is a major port of call in Europe. Back in January, Maersk shipping thus introduced a new liner service from Hamburg to South America. And after the opening of the EU-LAC Foundation last November, a second important facility in the co-operation of the two continents has now been inaugurated with EZLA.

As a centre of competence, EZLA particularly helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in entering European markets. EZLA was developed by HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation with NPU Trade and LaConSA a corporate co-operation partners. EZLA offers all elements of the business chains, ranging from market information and representation, logistics and distribution to a business centre cum show room.

EZLA is supported by the Association for the Promotion of the European Centre for Latin America. The association is financed by membership fees and donations. As an NGO with no economic profit targets, it directly promotes the centre and serves for this purpose as partner of EZLA GmbH. The latter manages the property and the offices in the business centre leased at market prices.

EZLA came at the right time. Latin America currently enjoys stable growth. According to a survey by Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) of June 2012, Latin America’s economic stability is little affected by the current financial crisis in Europe. Many countries used their high revenues for the development of infrastructure and energy supply. Also, mining and industrial production was expanded.

The latest developments in Latin America are impressive. In the past two years, the region’s economy enjoyed an average growth of 5.4 per cent and thereby contributed 14 per cent to the global economic growth. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay particularly boomed with growth values of seven to twelve per cent. And the trend continues: according to the International Monetary Fund (IWF), the region’s economic power will continue to grow in 2012 and 2013 by 3.7 and 4.1 per cent, respectively.

Catalysts of this development are the major economies of South America. After a long phase of macro-economic stability in many sectors, Brazil expands and particularly develops its infrastructure in view of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the Olympic Summer Games 2016. Also in Argentina and Columbia, a strong domestic consumption and high world prices for export goods heat up economic activities. A few days ago, Goldman Sachs called Mexico one of the world’s most important and interesting emerging markets along with Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey.

Since November 2011, the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean Foundation (EU-LAC) has been headquartered in Hamburg. By promoting the co-operation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, EU-LAC significantly contributes to take the well-established relations between the two regions to new levels. During the next summit meeting in Santiago de Chile in January 2013, the foundation is to be converted into an international organisation. Then, the interdisciplinary relations between the EU and the Latin American-Caribbean region will be directed from Hamburg. Jorge Valdez, EU-LAC Foundation’s managing director thus emphasises the importance of concrete incentives for economic co-operation: "Today, the strengthening of relations between Latin America and Europe has a much greater weight and plays a more significant role than in other times of our joint history. As one of Europe’s leading seaports, Hamburg has consequently been called upon to play a major role. The fact that EZLA is located in Hamburg offers an enormous potential in form of a platform unique in Europe, promoting not only the business between the two regions, but also the development of joint opportunities in third markets. Convinced by the SME’s decisive and important role played in the connection, the realisation of a far-reaching initiative such as EZLA is essential to the goals of the EU-LAC foundation."

The Hanseatic city thus invests into a promising future of the traditional ties between Latin America and Hamburg. In the year 1826, Hamburg was the first city to officially recognise the South American states and to establish trade relations. The excellent business relations to the regions are still actively maintained by many Hanseatic traders today. Already in 1871, the shipping line Aliança, nowadays known as "Hamburg Süd", established the first direct liner service to Brazil. Today, Hamburg is twinned with León in Nicaragua, and has signed dedicated bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with many Latin American states. Numerous associations and institutions support connections with these countries, inter alia the Latin America Association founded as early as 1916 by Hamburg merchants.

"Latin America and the Caribbean are becoming increasingly attractive for Europe. Hamburg has understood this for a long time, and supported the EZLA initiative. A wealth of raw materials, growing domestic markets, and high potentials in the development of renewable energies – these factors ensure the region’s bright future. Positive is also the fact that the Federal Government increased its focus on Latin America. For Hamburg, this has been a matter of fact for centuries. Now, a new and important offer for companies from that region has been added to the city’s portfolio“, commented Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary to the Senate Chancellery, to the Federal Government, to the European Union, and for Foreign Affairs.

Next to trade and business, this long-standing partnership also finds its expression in a friendly and cultural exchange reflected by strong institutional links. With more than 20 consulates, the Latin American countries form the largest group of the city’s 100 consular missions. The nationwide active Latin America Association, the Latin America Centre at the University of Hamburg, the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies, the Instituto Cervantes, the twinning with León, the Clube Brasileiro de Hamburgo as Hamburg’s oldest migrants’ association, and the supra-regional German-Mexican Society – this impressive list could still be further extended. The Latin American community in Hamburg is very present in the city and organised in many networks. Its more than 15,000 Spanish and Portuguese native speakers form an important part of Hamburg’s cultural, musical, artistic, and culinary diversity.