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Kary Van Der Horst

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Economy

Export Cocktail

Executive Vice-President, the Dominican Exporters’ Association (ADOEXPO)

Bio

Kary Van Der Horst has a degree in Business Administration from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra and a joint Master’s in International Business, with a concentration in Strategy and Planning, from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Spain, and Harvard University. She is currently the Executive Vice-President of the Dominican Exporters’ Association (ADOEXPO) and also recently coordinated the trade policies table in the National Industrial Congress and is a member of the Global Shapers Community Santo Domingo Hub, a World Economic Forum initiative.

"We’re trying to adjust our products to suit the foreign market requirements of countries we have trade agreements with."

How has the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) affected the export sector of the Dominican Republic and what opportunities have arisen from it?

At ADOEXPO, we’re very focused on generating diversity for the sector, not only in terms of products, but also diversity of markets. We believe that the CAFTA-DR was a logical and necessary step for our country. The US had been our main market for a very long time, accounting for almost 80% of Dominican exports. Thanks to CAFTA-DR, our products have started entering Central American markets, which has really helped in terms of export diversity. Also, it gave us access to resources intended for export capacity building and technical assistance, which has helped the private sector gain knowledge and skills in trade-related matters. Our commercial structure has evolved since, and nowadays our exports to the US account for less than 50% of our total exports—we aim to diversify even further. In that sense, we admire the Chilean model; Chile’s exports are roughly divided into quadrants: 25% Asia, 25% Europe, 25% US, and 25% Latin America. That’s the model we’re working toward as well. Besides the CAFTA-DR, which has been in effect a long time now, we hold other important free trade agreements (FTAs), such as CARICOM-DR, which still has some difficulties in its implementation, ones we are currently working on solving by strengthening regional communication and integration. Also, we enjoy the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe. We’re trying to adjust our products to suit the foreign market requirements of countries we have trade agreements with, as well as others with great potential and demand for our products. The CAFTA-DR was a learning experience for us because it was our first big trade agreement. We’ve learned a lot since then and have improved our negotiating skills. The EPA is a great example of that, really establishing the parameters in which we’re going to negotiate from now on.

What sectors dominate Dominican exports?

Right now our most demanded products are medical supplies, textiles, mining, agro industrial, and construction products. As for agricultural products, our main exports in 2013 were cocoa, bananas, coffee, and sugar. Agricultural products are being improved and made more sophisticated, becoming value-added products in the Dominican Republic. Right now, we’re the largest exporter of organic bananas and organic cocoa globally. When your products become more sophisticated, they become less sensitive to price fluctuations and they reach specific markets, especially if they are, as is our case, certified in different production and distribution aspects. We are adding value in every step of the process.

“We’re trying to adjust our products to suit the foreign market requirements of countries we have trade agreements with.”

What measures are you taking to help enable SMEs to invest in more technology?

We just finalized a project recently with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Thanks to this program, we were able to assist many SMEs in obtaining different quality certifications such as Best Agricultural Practices and Best Manufacturing Practices. They were also able to adjust their packaging and labeling to market requirements, and some even got certified and recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). Through programs like this one, we are able to give Dominican SMEs the tools and information needed to be able to export successfully. In terms of investment, I could use the example of Dominican melons. Recently, ADOEXPO participated in the celebration of Dominican Week in the UK, during which we met with many buyers and distributors of fresh produce and discovered that our soil has very similar conditions and quality as that of India, for example, which presents Dominican producers and exporters with a great opportunity. The UK has a very large Indian community, and tropical foods and products are very much a trend right now. So, we brought over investors who knew their market and the specifications of the products their consumers demanded and are now studying the possibility of investing in Dominican production. Through the possible joint ventures and agreements that might result from these efforts, we’ll be able to receive important know-how and technology. Now, we’re developing new ideas and products of important varieties and great quality.

How do you help SMEs get easy access to financing their operations?

The creation of a Dominican export bank is underway. It was previously known as the Banco Nacional de la Vivienda, and it was for housing. Now, it has been reformed as BANDEX, the Bank of Development and Exports. President Medina has made it one of his priorities to increase and improve access to finance for producers and exporters, setting up the National Presidential Table for Exports. It’s meant to meet regularly with the President so that he can keep up-to-date with the strengths and weaknesses of different sectors, and help design and implement solutions to our challenges. With BANDEX and the National Table for Exports, our exporters are going to experience a lot of positive developments in the next couple of years.

What is the significance of the transport and logistics sector for the companies engaged in exports?

We’re working toward making the Dominican Republic the Caribbean hub. This is what our government, through the work of the CEI-RD, is stimulating. DP World Caucedo is the most modern and complete port in the Caribbean and the only multi-modal port in the region. The port is constantly being upgraded and renovated to suit the changing demands of the transportation sector.

What changes would you like to see in the regulatory environment that might help further export growth?

We’re working together with the customs department of the Dominican Republic in the development of a single window for foreign trade. It’s an inter-agency tool that will bring together all the different public institutions that work with export and import regulations and requirements. We’re very happy about this one-stop shop for our sector. It should be up and running by the end of 2013.

© The Business Year – October 2013

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