The embassies of a country are a reflection of the country abroad. When it comes to the world of business, embassies should promote the business interests of the country that they are representing and identify possible opportunities the country it is based in may offer regarding business back home.
Useful connections between firms in each country should be made. Embassies should try to deal with any problems that arise and host events with firms from the country they represent and representatives from the country in which they are based. They should follow developments and make suggestions to their government back home and the Ministry of Commerce in particular regarding what action firms there should take.
Are our embassies up to these basic requirements? We very much doubt it. From what we read, we are under the impression that the staff are looking after themselves and out for personal gain and a recent report from the auditor-general added to this, revealing excess costs and such.
In terms of business promotion our embassies are mostly useless.
A few years ago our company wished to expand our activities in Germany in order to promote real estate investment in Cyprus to this affluent country. We even visited the then Minister of Commerce because we received no response from our embassy in Germany. We proposed that the embassy invite certain business firms in Germany to the embassy house, and offered to pay whatever the cost was. After the minister’s intervention, we duly got an German directory for estate agents for us to makes calls and so on with no investigation on their part.
We also offered our Iranian ambassador a similar proposal at the time. He replied that he had no staff to deal with it. We understand that we pay the diplomatic staff and yet they show no interest.
Embassies should be major assets for a country in business development. For example, the former British High Commissioner in Cyprus Mr M. Kidd, who did not let a month go by without some sort of reminder of their presence and the need for exchange of views. He would reach out based on enquiries by UK firms, arrange lunches for example and sent out a questionnaire to get our views on Brexit and so on. Well done Mr High Commissioner.
Business associations in Cyprus should pressure the government in hope that it will wake up the staff in our embassies abroad, especially who bear the title ‘commercial attaché’. A business forum should be set up in order to plan a road map for Cyprus business promotion through our embassies abroad.
For this to be successful, those positioned in the ohter countries must have the aptitude and the energy to investigate opportunities there, to report back to the foreign ministry and set up meetings with commercial representatives.
Will it happen? We very much doubt it. The indifferent civil service reigns in Cyprus.
Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers, Estate Agents & Property Consultants, www.aloizou.com.cy, [email protected]