Sebastián Carlos Baez has a degree in International Relations, graduated from the University of Morón. He has a solid academic background that includes a master’s degree in International Relations with an orientation in international economics from the FLACSO Argentina program, a postgraduate degree in international business at UADE and a postgraduate degree in economic development at the Universidad Di Tella.

He has been working for 25 years in the Ministry of International Relations of Argentina, where his career has been marked by constant specialization. Initially, she focused on international development cooperation issues aimed at Asia-Pacific countries, particularly Southeast Asia. Subsequently, his area of ​​expertise expanded to the Middle East and Africa, and finally he moved to the Economic and Commercial Area of ​​the Argentine Foreign Ministry, deepening his experience in accessing markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In conversation with ReporteAsia, Baez explains the importance of Southeast Asia, Argentina’s perspectives with that part of the continent and the changes that the country necessarily has to make to adapt to a world that continues to constantly evolve.

The why of Southeast Asia

In the interview with this medium, Baez explained that his interest in Southeast Asia arose unexpectedly when the Foreign Ministry’s international cooperation area entrusted him with taking charge of that region, even though no one wanted to take care of it at that time. . This led him to immerse himself in a completely new and different world, but with interesting similarities despite the cultural differences.

“They told me ‘you have to take charge of this because no one takes charge’ and then one of them put his hand to it, as they say, and more than interesting things emerged that, in truth, professionally and as a person, enriched me a lot, I learned a lot,” he commented. Baez. He highlighted that this learning was fundamental, since “that is what it is about, learning and trying to take the good that others have and the good that we have to be able to complement it.”

The relationship between Argentina and Southeast Asia

In 2012, while Baez was working in international cooperation, they received a detailed request from Laos through the Thai Embassy. This led them to organize an exploratory mission with other public institutions such as SENASA, INTA and the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture.

During the meeting with Lao officials, Baez was pleasantly surprised to hear that they had specifically requested the presence of technical officials from the Argentine INTA due to their recognized capabilities. “I was really very surprised because they told us, ‘we specifically asked for technical officials from INTA to come because we know the capacity they have,'” he said.

This experience had a profound impact on him, since a country like Laos, surrounded by great powers, valued the work of the Argentine INTA. «He clicked on me. In that sense, I see that sometimes we underestimate our capabilities, and there is someone in a distant corner of the world who knows and values ​​our institutions,” Baez reflected.

Unfortunately, as often happens in Argentina, the lack of continuity in public policies due to budgetary problems and management changes prevented the project with Laos from moving forward. Baez stressed that this continuity is something that is demanded both in Southeast Asia and in the rest of the world, especially in the economic and commercial sphere.

Interest beyond China

In the conversation with ReporteAsia, Baez clarified that, when approaching Asia, it is crucial not to consider China as a monolithic unit, but rather to understand that there are “multiple Chinas” within the country, with various regions and markets with different demands and characteristics. «The first thing to understand is that China as a country must then be divided into multiple Chinas. The strategy should be to think, in commercial terms of course, of China as a country made up of several countries, taking into account the great variety of markets existing in each of the cities of that country,” he explained.

He pointed out that, if Argentina wants to continue thinking about accessing these markets by selling mainly commodities, it would not be a good long-term strategy. «Here I want to make a parenthesis, if we want to continue thinking about accessing the market by selling commodities, the truth is, it would not be a good strategy. Soybeans, corn, wheat, yes we can continue selling, because they will continue to demand it, but we need to market products with added value for our insertion in the world”

It is necessary to understand how the world has moved and how it will continue to move, and in that context, Asia occupies a decisive place according to Baez. In addition, he highlighted that, for the Argentine producer to access these markets, conditions are needed, such as free trade agreements, that provide tariff preferences, something that countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the same Asian countries already have. food producers.

He warned ReporteAsia that, if these strategic issues are not addressed, the most attractive markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand will end up competing with Argentina and will stop buying finished products to import only inputs and produce food locally. «At some point you have to try and that is where the public policies are that have to provide that commercial intelligence and that help to production to access the markets that are strategic, that must be attended to, that must not remain only in the cost issue and yes it is a public and private set,” he emphasized.

Can the strategy as a country be changed?

In the interview, Baez stated that Argentina will necessarily have to make a “click” to change strategy, since circumstances will force it to do so. After so many years away from the world, the world continues to turn, and each time that passes, the costs of negotiating a free trade agreement will be higher due to the advantages that countries that have signed agreements in advance already have.

“So today, each time and as time goes by, the costs of carrying out the negotiation of a free trade agreement are going to be higher and higher in the sense that, as time goes by, the more advantages there are. to have what they have already signed free trade agreements that comes with a delay of 10, 15, 20 years,” Baez warned.

He recognized that it is not about an indiscriminate opening, but about negotiating “with the knife between the teeth” to achieve the best access to the markets, but also taking into account the concessions that will be made in exchange. «It does not mean that you say an indiscriminate opening, countries like Australia have celebrated FTA protecting their internal industries. Of course we are going to have to negotiate as they say ‘with the knife between our teeth’ in the sense of trying to get the best advantage of access to the markets, but they are also going to ask things of us.

Baez emphasized to ReporteAsia that, at some point, this change in strategy has to occur, since if the current situation continues, the window of opportunities will increasingly close. “At some point that has to happen because if we continue with this issue, the window is closing more and more.”

The expert highlighted the importance of adopting a long-term vision, similar to that of Asian countries. “While in Asia they are already planning for the next 50 years, we as a country are thinking about our situation, unfortunately we cannot only think in the short term.”

Baez insisted that Argentina must leave behind the short-term focus and move towards an export and insertion strategy in Asian markets that lasts over time. «It seems to me that when a company wants to access and makes the effort as Argentine companies do to reach a certain market, the final objective is to last, for the customer to be satisfied with the product that one exports and for that to last as long as possible. , because if not, they are circumstantial sales due to a certain situation at the moment but they are not part of a strategy,” he explained.


Finally, the interviewee emphasized the need to provide a complete package of goods and services, adapted to the local demands and characteristics of each market. “Today what Southeast Asian countries, as well as other emerging economies, demand is that one create a complete goods and services strategy,” he noted. He gave as an example the export of agricultural machinery, where it is not enough to place the product in the destination market, but complementary services must be offered such as training, after-sales assistance, repair, among others.

Specifically, we can affirm that Baez’s analyzes and statements contain years of training and experience, which is why they should serve as a warning for the productive sectors of the Argentine Republic. The future of markets is with added value.

Law Student at the National University of Cuyo, Argentina; member of the research hotbed of this university. He received a scholarship from Kangwon National University to undertake a study stay in South Korea. He is commercial representative for Latin America of Bridge To Asia (BTA).

Francisco Vasquez

He is a student at the Faculty of Law of the National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. She is a member of the Research Seedbed of said Faculty and the Study Group on India and Southeast Asia of the National University of Rosario. She also completed the Diploma in Law and Digital State 4.0. She is an intern at SHEN, a business consultant with Asia and an editor at ReporteAsia.


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