HIS EXCELLENCY FERNANDO JULIO ANTONIO QUIRÓS CAMPOS- PERUVIAN AMBASSADOR AIMS TO PROMOTE EXPORTS AND THAI INVESTMENT IN PERU
His Excellency Fernando Julio Antonio Quirós Campos, Ambassador of the Republic of Peru to the Kingdom of Thailand, is a diplomat whose charm is as substantial as his title. Over the course of an enjoyable afternoon at his official residence in mid-March, the ambassador interspersed the interview questions with interesting anecdotes about himself and his country. His delightful wife, María Ximena Ríos Hamann, offered us delicious snacks prepared by the embassy’s female Peruvian chef.
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
At the outset of the interview Ambassador Quirós paid tribute to former Peruvian Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ambassador Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who passed away in early March this year not long after his 100th birthday on January 20.
“Javier Pérez de Cuéllar has been the most distinguished and universal Peruvian ambassador of all time. He joined the Peruvian diplomatic service in 1940 when he was 20 years old, and he was active until recently. He was a key figure in so many important moments in the history of the world and Peru. After completing his two brilliant terms as UNSG (1982-1991) he was first a presidential candidate and then Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru. The Diplomatic Academy in Lima is named after him. His passing is a big loss for Peru and for the world.
Coping with the virus
“At this moment I can’t travel to the Philippines because of the coronavirus, but we are very fortunate to have in Manila an outstanding honorary consul general. He has been there for 20 years and is helping us a lot. There are a number of Peruvians in the Philippines and some are stranded in small islands. With the help of our honorary consul we are providing them support in extending their visas, finding ways back to Manila and collecting important information for them.
“The Peruvian government is considering putting together a charter flight to bring them back home, but we need to combine this with similar efforts for our citizens in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos and, of course, in all countries in Southeast Asia to bring them all home.”
At publishing time (April 30) Peru had recorded 33,931 confirmed cases of the virus, 943 deaths and 10,037 recovered patients.
“Many of my professors and fellow students at university spent hours discussing the legal and political aspects of the controversy arguing about what had to be done and what was the right diplomatic solution to this historic problem that had been around for so many years. Participating as a young law student in this debate was a key element that finally pushed me to make the decision to become a diplomat.
“In addition, given that Peru is a developing country with so many resources but also with so many needs, I thought that diplomacy was an interesting profession from which I could contribute to an efficient insertion of my country to the world. We need to make available whatever the world can bring to Peru, and also to bring what Peru has to offer to the world.
“To join the Peruvian foreign service you first need to possess a university degree, and then be selected through a public contest to become a student of the Diplomatic Academy of Peru, where I studied from 1983-1985. After graduating from the academy in December 1985, I joined the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on January 1, 1986 as a Third Secretary of Chancellery. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe it has been already 34 years since I took my first assignment.
“In our system, after you graduate from the diplomatic academy you need to work two years at the MFA in Lima. So I worked there in 1986 and 1987, and in 1988 I was posted to the permanent mission of Peru to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The first two years I was covering the ‘Uruguay Round’ negotiations at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and then I also attended several years the UN Human Rights Commission, the Conference on Disarmament and almost all the other international organisations based in Geneva. I returned to Lima in 1993 and worked at the Peruvian MFA covering multilateral political affairs.
“I got married in 1991 and our first daughter was born in Lima in 1994. In 1996, I was posted to the Peruvian embassy in Venezuela. That was a big change because after 10 years in multilateral affairs I finally took my first steps into bilateral diplomacy. Venezuela is a very important Latin American country, very similar in size and population to Peru but with a much bigger economy mostly thanks to its enormous oil resources. Back then it was much more prosperous than now. Migrants from almost every corner of Latin America wanted to go there to live and work because the standard quality of life was higher. We used to call it ‘Saudi Venezuela’. I served there from 1996 to 2001, and our two sons were born there.
“I was Counselor, Head of the Economic and Trade Section of the Embassy, devoting most of my time to promote Peruvian business and exports to Venezuela. In those days, Venezuela became the first destination for our exports, excluding raw materials – manufactured goods, textiles, clothing, and other products. Many Peruvian exporters were coming at that time to Venezuela and I loved the job, knowing I was helping them and helping to promote Peru’s economy.
“We went back to Lima in 2001 and, after few years working at the MFA, the Andean Community General Secretariat and the Ministry of Defense, I was posted to Washington D.C. and stayed there five years (2007-2012), the first two and a half years as consul general and then as Deputy Head of the Peruvian Embassy. It is no secret to anyone that since our independence in 1821, bilateral relations with the US have always been one of the main concerns and priorities of Peruvian foreign policy. So those were five very interesting years, both professionally and personally. We were there, for example, on that historical day when Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African American president of that country.”
“I was appointed ambassador to Thailand by the Peruvian president in 2017, and I was extremely happy when I received the news because it was my preferred destination. My wife and I immediately celebrated after learning about the appointment.”
Duties and bilateral relations
“This year we celebrate 55 years of diplomatic relations between Peru and Thailand. We opened our embassy in Bangkok in 1992. Before that, Thailand was overseen from our embassy in Delhi, India.
“At the embassy here are three Peruvian diplomats and six local staff. It is a relatively small embassy. Consular issues are always very important but I must say that with just 100 Peruvians living in Thailand, it is easily manageable. For comparison, as consul-general of Peru in Washington D.C., I had under my jurisdiction 150,000 Peruvians. The total number of Peruvians in the US was then around 1.5 million. During my posting in the US, I learned that in the 1850s a big group of Peruvians migrated to New Jersey. At the time it was a big center for textile manufacturing. Today there are around 400,000 Peruvians living between New Jersey and New York.
“Peru is a mining country, and minerals are our number one export to Thailand – copper, tin and others. Secondly, we are exporting fruits. Over the years, Thailand has imported tons of Peruvian grapes and berries and starting last year, we began exporting avocados to Thailand. We are also exporting pota, a giant calamari (squid). Also last year we resumed exports of natural gas to this country. Thailand also imports from us small quantities of other products, including specialized textiles with our famous pima cotton.
“On the other hand, we are buying a lot of automotive goods from Thailand, especially Toyota Hilux pickup trucks. There are many of these vehicles circulating in Peru and they are all made in Thailand. We also buy a lot of spare parts for different types of vehicles. The import of Toyota Hilux to Peru is absolutely profitable for both sides. We used to manufacture cars in the 1970s, but decided many years ago to stop production. Now we import cars from all over the world – Japan, China, Europe and America – but the Toyota Hilux remains a top seller. It is quite competitive in price and quality, and it is extremely durable. This is important in a mining country with huge mountains.
“We also buy from Thailand air conditioning equipment,washing and drying machines, computers, computer parts and many rubber products, like gloves and surgical gloves. We import rice from Thailand to supplement what is grown in Peru, and we also buy tuna from Thailand to supplement what is caught by Peruvian fishing vessels in our own very rich Economic Exclusive Zone.
“Peru has an incredible richness of tourist attractions. Many of these are historical gems like the splendid Machu Picchu built high up in the Andes by the Incas. We also have a 3,000 kilometer coast to the Pacific Ocean. It is true that the water is cold – and this is one of the secrets to our fishing wealth – but in the north of Peru there are beautiful sandy beaches with warmer waters. Maybe some Thai investors should come and have a look at these places.
“Currently, the shortest way to Peru from Thailand is to fly from Bangkok to Amsterdam and then on to Lima. It is a 24 hour flight, plus two hours in transit. Maybe one day there will be direct flights between Bangkok and Lima, but today the 19,000 km distance is still a real challenge.”
Investment and cooperation opportunities
“An important objective of the Embassy is to promote Thai investment in Peru, but on the other hand, we also very much want to encourage more of a Peruvian presence in Thailand. One successful story is a Peruvian soft drink company that came to Chonburi province 16 years ago. They produce cola and 10 other beverages. The company was very successful in Peru in the eighties, in the nineties they expanded first to Venezuela and Mexico and then jumped to Thailand in 2006. I am not quite sure why the owners chose Thailand, but it was a good move. They are quite successful here, and exporting to Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. It is considered a Thai product, not Peruvian.
“One area Thailand and Peru work very successfully together is South-South cooperation and this has been true for many years,” the ambassador said.
South-South cooperation refers to the exchange of resources, technology and knowledge between developing countries in specific areas such as SMEs, agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, sports, disaster risk management, alternative development, among others.
“A big success in our bilateral cooperation has been the exchange of experiences and good practices in the field of ‘alternative development’, that’s the substitution of illicit crops for legal ones. We share our experiences and strategies. Instead of growing opium to make heroin in the case of Thailand or coca leaves to make cocaine in Peru, we produce coffee, pineapple, cacao, oil palm, heart of palm or any crop that can be grown in the same areas and generate a good income for farmers. This has been very successful in the Golden Triangle with the Royal Projects. It is not only agricultural alternatives that provide farmers with income. There are other options for rural people to make good money, like tourism, handicrafts and so on. We have been working with Thailand for some years now. In Peru we have a big area in the north, the San Martin Region, which is almost totally free of coca bush cultivation.”
Asked about high-level visitor exchanges, the ambassador was eager to talk about one in particular. “Last year in April, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn came to Peru. She stayed eight days. She visited Lima and then she went to the mountains, to Cusco and then on to the city of Puno, which sits on the edge of Lake Titicaca. This is an enormous lake 4,000 meters above sea level. Her Royal Highness was most impressed. When she came back she published a book with photos she’d taken and provided for an exhibition in the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre. I am sure that this has made a lot of Thai people to start thinking about visiting Peru.
“I had the great privilege and pleasure of talking with HRH Princess Sirindhorn several times before her departure to Peru. I gave her books about my country and answered some of her very perceptive questions. Unfortunately I was unable to accompany Her Royal Highness to Peru, but I was at Suvarnabhumi airport when she departed and I also welcomed her back.”
The ambassador said this was probably the most noteworthy of many wonderful experiences in Thailand. “Initially I wanted to come to Thailand because I thought that at this point of my career it was very important for me to have work experience in Asia, as I had spent my diplomatic life in Latin America, Europe, and the US. Little did I know how important it would also be in other ways.”
CV of H.E. Fernando Julio Antonio Quirós Campos
• 1978-1983: Law, Catholic University of Peru.
• 1983-1985: Diplomacy and International Relations, Peruvian Diplomatic Academy.
• 1986-1987: Diploma of “Diplomatic Studies”, IUHEI, Geneva, Switzerland.
• 1994: Peruvian Diplomatic Academy XXXIII’s Refreshing Cycle.
• 2001: Strategic Management Course for Defense and Crisis Management, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, NDU and Naval War College.
• 1983: Bachelor of Law, Catholic University of Peru. • 1993: Masters in International Relations, with mention on International History and Politics, Graduate Institute of International Studies, IUHEI, Geneva, Switzerland.
• 1985: Career diplomat, Diplomatic Academy of Peru
• 1985: B.A. in International Relations, Diplomatic Academy of Peru.
• 1995: Attorney at Law, Catholic University of Peru.
Positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• 1986: Third Secretary of Chancellery at the General Direction for International Organizations and Conferences.
• 1987: Third Secretary of Chancellery at the General Direction for Multilateral Affairs.
• 1993: Second Secretary at the United Nations Office, General Direction for Political Affairs.
• 1994: First Secretary at the United Nations Office, General Direction for Political Affairs.
• 2001: Counsellor at the Binational Peru-Ecuador Plan for Border Development and Integration.
• 2001: Counsellor at the General Direction for Research and Situation Analysis, Secretariat for Strategic Planning.
• 2002: Minister-Counsellor at the Office of Economic and Trade Promotion.
• 2003: Minister-Counsellor, Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
• 2004: Minister-Counsellor, Chief of Staff of the Secretary General of the Andean Community (Lima, Peru).
• 2006: Minister, Special Advisor to the Minister of Defense.
• 2012: Minister, Advisor to the Director General for Peruvian Communities Abroad and Consul Affairs.
• 2013: Ambassador, Director of National Protection and Assistance, Direction General for Peruvian Communities Abroad and Consular Affairs.
• 2014: Ambassador, Director General for International Relations, Ministry of Defense.
• 2016: Ambassador, Specialized Advisor to the Director General for Peruvian Communities Abroad and Consular Affairs.
• 1988: Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of Peru to the UN and other International. Organizations based in Geneva, Switzerland.
• 1991: Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Peru to the UN and other International. Organizations based in Geneva, Switzerland.
• 1996: First Secretary, Embassy of Peru in the Republic of Venezuela.
• 1998: Counsellor, Head of the Economic and Commercial Section, Embassy of Peru in the Republic of Venezuela.
• 2007: Minister, Consul General of Peru in Washington D.C., United States of America.
• 2010: Minister, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Peru to the United States of America.
• 2017: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Peru to the Kingdom of Thailand, and concurrent Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and the Republic of the Philippines.
In addition to the achievements listed above, Ambassador Quirós has participated as a delegate and representative for Peru in numerous meetings and international conferences.