Journal of Commerce / August 12, 1998
By Larry Luxner
WASHINGTON -- Americans often look at U.S. embassies abroad as places of refuge in time of crisis, or as a source of emergency cash when they run out of money.
But for the Latin American-bound executive, U.S. embassies can offer an array of useful services -- from providing translation services to arranging meetings with prospective joint-venture partners.
Through the U.S. Commercial Service's Gold Key Program, trade specialists arrange pre-screened appointments with interested foreign customers and/or qualified sales agents or distributors. This involves making all the necessary phone calls and setting up meetings well ahead of time. This customized business service allows visiting U.S. company representatives to get a first-hand understanding of the local market and to make key contacts so critical to successful exporting.
Americo Tadeu, deputy senior commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, says his office charges $550 a day for the Gold Key Program, and that it must have 15 to 20 sets of company literature to get started.
"Trust us in the search of who we set you up with," says Tadeu. "It takes three weeks to set up one day's appointments. You can spend more than $550 just on phone calls and faxes to and from Brazil."
U.S. embassies in Latin America also prepare detailed Country Commercial Guides which are generally updated every year to reflect current political and economic conditions. The guides -- sold via the Internet and by the embassies themselves -- present a comprehensive look at a country's commercial environment, and cover nations as small as Belize and as large as Brazil. The guides were established by a recommendation of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, a multi-agency task force, to consolidate various reporting documents prepared for the U.S. business community.
Consuelo Alarcon, commercial specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, says at least two executives a month take advantage of the embassy's Gold Key Program, which is a little cheaper than in Brazil; $250 for the first day, and $150 for each additional day.
"If the executive is coming to Bogota, we will coordinate the visit and select interested people according to the company's special interests," she says, "whether they're interested in joint ventures, franchises or whatever. It saves executives a lot of time."
Alarcon adds that if a visiting executive doesn't speak Spanish, the embassy will gladly recommend interpreters, but it doesn't hire them directly. "We also recommend that businessmen visit companies at their facilities. We don't like meetings at hotels, because we think they should see who they're dealing with."
Here's a list of key contacts at major U.S. embassies in Latin America:
ARGENTINA: Mike Likila, senior commercial officer, U.S. Embassy, Buenos Aires. Tel: +54 1 777-2169. Fax: +54 1 777-0673.
BOLIVIA: Paul Larsen, commercial attache, Av. Arce 2780, La Paz. Tel: +591 2 430251. Fax: +591 2 433900.
BRAZIL: Americo Tadeu, Embaixada Americana, Av. das Nacoes, Quadra 801, Lote 3, 70403-900 Brasília DF. Tel: +55 61 321-7272. Fax: +55 61 225-3981.
CHILE: Carlos Poza, U.S. Embassy, Av. Andres Bello 2800, Santiago. Tel: +56 2 330-3705. Fax: +56 2 330-3172.
COLOMBIA: Consuelo Alarcon, commercial specialist, U.S. Embassy, Calle 22D-Bis #47-51, Apartado 21632, Bogota. Tel: +57 1 315-2126. Fax: +57 1 315-2171.
COSTA RICA: Franklin Foster, U.S. Commercial Service, San Jose. Tel: +506 220-3939. Fax: +506 231-4783.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Larry Farris, regional commercial counselor, U.S. Embassy, Cesar Nicolas Penson and Leopoldo Navarro, Santo Domingo. Tel: (809) 221-2171. Fax: (809) 688-4838.
ECUADOR: Janice Corbett, U.S. Commercial Service, Av. 12 de Octubre y Patria, Quito. Tel: +593 2 562890. Fax: +593 2 504550.
HAITI: U.S. Commercial Service, Harry Truman Blvd., P.O. Box 761, Port-au-Prince. Tel: +509 235511. Fax: +509 235515.
JAMAICA: Emile Finalay, U.S. Commercial Service, Jamaica Mutual Life Center, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5. Tel: (876) 929-4850. Fax: (876) 920-2580.
MEXICO: Kevin C. Brennan, counselor for commercial affairs, U.S. Embassy, Paseo de la Reforma 305, 06500 Mexico DF. Tel: +52 5 209-9100. Fax: +52 5 511-9980.
PARAGUAY: Francisco Fernandez, U.S. Commercial Service, Avda. Mariscal Lopez 1776, Asunción. Tel: +595 21 213715. Fax: +595 21 215079.
PERU: John Riddle, economic counselor, Av. Encalada, Cuadra 17 s/n, Urb. Monterrico Sur, Surco, Lima 33. Tel: +51 1 434-3000. Fax: +51 1 954-3221
URUGUAY: Daniel Vernon, Economics Officer, U.S. Embassy, Lauro Muller 1776, Montevideo. Tel: +598 2 203-6061. Fax: +598 2 408-8581.
VENEZUELA: Eric Sletten, senior commercial officer, U.S. Embassy, Calle F con Calle Suapure, Colinas de Valle Arriba, Caracas. Tel: +58 2 977-2011. Fax: +58 2 977-2177.
For countries not listed, please call the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Washington at (202) 482-2736.