April 30, 2024

Interview with Luisa Fernandes, Councilor to the Latin America Regional Hub and International Director of CAESP: Arbitration Council of the State of São Paulo

“Mexico has the potential to make productive investment”

Portuguese people who stand out abroad are helping to find out where business opportunities are and what kind of companies and activities the country can attract. An initiative that brings together Negócios and the Portuguese Diaspora Council.

1. What led you to leave Portugal?

In my particular case, my international experience began with the challenge of accompanying my husband, in his international career, having had the privilege of having worked in the various destinations where we live, over the last 17 years, from Madrid, São Paulo, Bratislava and now Mexico City. After having worked for 6 years as a Lawyer in the litigation department at Rui Gomes da Silva e Associados (in Lisbon), in 2007 I began what would become my international career at the Cuatrecasas Madrid office, where I joined the Public Law teams and then the of International Arbitration, for almost 6 years, allowing me to practice law in several jurisdictions: Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian and American. Later, in the following destination, in São Paulo, he would take on several professional challenges: having started by joining the litigation and arbitration team at the CPBS – Cascione office Pulino Boulos & Santos, I also held

the position of General Director of the Arbitration Center of the CCPB – Portugal-Brazil Chamber of Commerce and, later, as International Director, at CAESP – Arbitration Council of the State of São Paulo from 2016 until today.

2. What advantages or disadvantages does being Portuguese bring you?

In the various countries where I have lived and in the various jobs I have undertaken, being Portuguese has opened doors for me across borders, never having suffered any type of prejudice. On the contrary, being Portuguese allowed me to easily integrate into all the job markets where I carried out my professional activity, on the different continents I passed through in my career. Living in several countries, coming into contact, locally, with various cultures, are part of an irrefutable personal and professional enrichment, always maintaining, with pride, our Portuguese identity and essence – something that I always intend to transmit to my two children, both born outside of Portugal. Portugal, one in Madrid and another in São Paulo.

3. What obstacles did you have to overcome and how did you do it?

Mastering the language when carrying out professional activity in a foreign country indeed plays an important role. While I lived in Bratislava, Slovakia, the lack of command of Slovak – the Slavic language – was an obstacle to pursuing my career locally. However, I was able to work remotely for CAESP, from Bratislava to Brazil, and I was able to take advantage of the strategic location of the city, located in the centre of Europe, to be able to fulfil the aims of the internationalization project of the Arbitration Chamber in Europe under my responsibility, which turned out to be a privilege and an opportunity. Bratislava’s central location allowed me to get to know the neighbouring countries Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Croatia, and their respective professional cultures very closely. Often an initial problem turns into an opportunity – that’s what happened.

4. What do you admire most about the country where you are?

I have lived in Mexico City, with my family, for about 1 and a half years. It is an extremely welcoming country, with warm people, with a unique friendliness, with a culture that is absolutely fascinating for its diversity and antiquity, which manifests itself in its unique, internationally recognized archaeology, music, art, gastronomy and crafts. A fusion of various cultures, ethnicities, architectures, smells and flavours in each Pueblo Mágico that we have the privilege of visiting. Mexico is a truly multicultural country. Its cultural diversity is the result of the encounter of different human groups throughout its history, from indigenous cultures represented by the Maya, Aztec, Zapotec, Olmec civilizations, among others, who lived in Mexico in pre-Hispanic times, to the cultures foreigners who migrated to the country and took root here.

Having previously lived in Spain and Brazil, I feel Mexico City, with its simultaneously Hispanic and Latin American side, as a perfect symbiosis between the experience I lived in Madrid and São Paulo, which led to a very quick adaptation of the entire my family, for the similarities.

5. What do you admire most about the company or organization you are in?

CAESP – Arbitration Council of the State of São Paulo is today one of the most reputable Arbitration Institutions in Brazil, with 26 years of existence, with a historic dedication and contribution to Arbitration and Mediation institutes, with an excellent team and service, with a focus in the innovation and internationalization of its activity. Since 2017, CAESP has started an

admirable Project to Internationalize the Arbitration Chamber in Europe, in the PALOP-Portuguese-Speaking African Countries and in Latin America.

6. What recommendations would you give to Portugal and its entrepreneurs and managers?

Despite its challenges, Portuguese businesspeople consider Mexico as a possible investment destination, due to its potential market and human capital, as it presents several business opportunities. In my opinion, Mexico is a market that is still little known by Portuguese companies. Mexico is one of the most competitive countries for productive investment at an international level, due to its macroeconomic and political stability, controlled inflation levels, size and strength of its internal market, economic growth rate, and excellent supply chains. Mexico has a strategic and privileged geographic location that provides a gateway to the American market and has a qualified and young workforce. Finally, it should be noted that Mexico has more than thirty Reciprocal Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with 33 countries and twelve free trade agreements with 46 countries.

7. In which sectors of the country where you live could Portuguese companies find customers?

Generally speaking, there are several business and investment opportunities in Mexico. Some of the sectors where Portuguese companies could find customers in Mexico could be, among others, Energy, Infrastructure, Industry, Automotive components, Agri-food and Tourism.

8. In which sectors in Portugal could companies from the country where you live want to invest?

Portugal, over the last 15 years, has increasingly consolidated itself as a business destination, currently being a real attraction for those wishing to access Europe due to its strategic location. Portugal has developed several attractive programs for companies to set up shop, and has also developed emerging sectors such as technology, tourism, renewable energy, biotechnology and start-ups. Furthermore, Portugal offers an excellent quality of life and is an extremely safe country.

9. What is the competitive advantage of the country you live in that could be replicated in Portugal?

In my opinion, Mexico has several competitive advantages, although not all of them can be replicated due to the country’s intrinsic characteristics, such as its size, strategic location and extremely young population. However, Mexico presents inspiring realities such as its young workforce, focused on work and in many sectors highly qualified, and has a low tax burden that promotes and encourages investment.

10. Are you thinking of returning to Portugal? Why?

Being Portuguese, I think about one day returning to my country. In the meantime, while I live abroad, I intend to continue learning in each country and in each culture, but always instilling Portuguese identity and culture in my children.