By Yingtao Xie | August 7, 2017
Founded in 1951, the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) is the highest-level organization that coordinates the economic interests of Brazil’s agriculture, livestock, and related sectors. This summer, I am a trade intelligence intern at the Office of International Relations (SRI), whose mission is to promote exports of Brazilian agricultural products to existing and new foreign markets.
At CNA, my routine tasks include conducting a tariff peak analysis of South Korea with national and international data sets, drafting articles for CNA publications and looking for potential partners of CNA within China. All these tasks aim to promote Brazilian exports by providing better trade intelligence services for local institutions and producers.
The primary objective of my internship is to promote export diversification and to facilitate exportation of higher value-added agricultural products from Brazil to the Chinese market. This general goal fits well with the research project that I am trying to push for with Professor Weiyi Shi. We plan to launch a randomized control trial to learn about the impact of using a Chinese e-commerce platform on Brazilians’ perception of China. The focus on the Chinese online marketplace will not only provide new opportunities for local producers that have never considered selling their products abroad, but will also enable Brazil to sell premium products that are still not familiar to Chinese consumers.
In order to make online sales possible for local farmers, I have been engaging in conversations with various parties, including the Chinese embassy in Brazil, the Alibaba Group, APEX-Brazil, and farmer associations since the first week of my internship. With data provided by CNA and Alibaba, I succeeded in narrowing the focus to a few high value-added featured products, such as fruit juice, dried fruits, coffee, honey and pine nuts in the first two weeks. My current task is to present the idea of e-commerce to the president of CNA as well as representatives of local producers, and explore the feasibility of exporting those goods in the short run. By the end of my internship, I hope to organize a multi-party meeting in which Brazilian producers and agencies would be able to reach some preliminary agreements with Alibaba to sell agricultural products via its online platforms.
The experience as the coordinator of the e-commerce project is rewarding in three principal ways. First, I obtained valuable opportunities to network with various people that I might have not been able to talk with if I had not presented my ideas as a representative of SRI.
Second, the overall slow process of multi-party negotiations has allowed me to experience common obstacles faced by whoever hopes to promote international trade and market integration. A high-quality product is not sufficient to generate trade flows. Institutional support, logistics, financial resources, custom requirements, and knowledge of technologies are necessary elements that I must investigate and explain to potential exporters in order to instill confidence in them and push forward the project. Although the lengthy negotiation process makes it unlikely that a collective entry of Brazilian agricultural products into the online Chinese market can occur within 10 weeks, I enjoy the honor to be one of the first few individuals to propose the e-commerce initiative to my Brazilian colleagues and suggest a possible way to increase profits generated by agricultural activities.
Third, as a project coordinator, I realized the importance of foreign language skills. In several occasions, I was able to build stronger connections with my Brazilian colleagues and have a less stressful start in formal negotiations. I have learned that the benefit of knowing the local language goes beyond just having a sense of ease in conversations.
Yingtao Xie is a second-year BA-MIA student at GPS with a focus on International Economics, as well as regional specializations in China and Latin America. Yingtao has a strong interest in data collection and data analysis and accumulated some field experience by working with a local community in Honduras during the 2017 Spring break. With the goal to be a professional specializing in international trade, Yingtao plans to improve regional expertise and develop better quantitative skills during her second year at GPS.