Asia and Latin America: building a virtual bridge from Singapore Perspectives of Asia from lawyer and partner Fernando Hurtado de Mendoza

Fernando Hurtado de Mendoza, Kennedys Law

Fernando Hurtado de Mendoza is a partner at Kennedys Law in Lima, Peru. He is qualified as a lawyer in Peru before the Lima Bar Association (2005) and as an arbitrator before the Lima Chamber of Commerce on transport and insurance matters. Fernando specialises in (re)insurance law, aviation and corporate/commercial law. He regularly acts as counsel to local and foreign clients from different sectors in an array of commercial and corporate matters, related to the initiation, continuation, expansion and exit of local operations, including advising Asian, European and North American investors regarding their potential entry into Peru.

TechLATAMAsia invited him to share his experience living in Singapore when he did his master’s degree at the National University of Singapore and his brief thoughts on Asia-Latin America relations. Due to the sentiment involved, Fernando preferred to write the article in his original language: Spanish. 

In football, it is said that there are matches where you walk onto the pitch and instantly feel a different vibe. Circumstances cause or contribute to a greater passion for the match, and you feel this even before you walk out on the pitch. It could be the stadium, the rival team, a particular omen during the warm-up, or any number of things. This particular lawyer, who loves football despite knowing very little about it, has a similar experience whenever he is involved in any Asia-associated project, and especially when it includes Singapore.

My connection with Asia sparked in 2007, when, rather presciently, I realised that this fascinating continent could become a dominant player in global politics in the coming years, as a result of its peoples, its technology, its advancement, as well as its ancient and recent histories. The beginning of my journey with Singapore happened in 2008, when I started a master’s degree offered jointly by the National University of Singapore and New York University. My contact with the city-state officially started in early 2009, when I arrived at Changi Airport with a suitcase full of excitement – while my eternal love for Singapore began on 6 December 2009, when my first son (Gael) was born at Thomson Medical Centre at 9.36 PM. That very moment, Singapore ceased to be just the country of my master’s degree and became my home, to which I always yearn – and plan – to visit.

Living there was not complicated at all, quite the contrary. Curiously, despite being a country located in Southeast Asia, it boasts many characteristics that are comfortingly familiar to us Latin Americans, who are so rooted in Western culture due to our European and American influences. As a lawyer, for example, knowing the strengths of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the pronouncements of the arbitrators in the application of common law made it easier for those of us who have been working with European and American clients.

But beyond its capacity to host Latin Americans as well as citizens (both lawyers and non-lawyers) of many other nationalities, Singapore is also a leader in innovation. It is in a perpetual search for efficiency and, in that vein, is a constant forerunner of technological development and its application to every possible industry. Therefore, this TechLATAMAsia initiative to link the two regions is commendable. On the one hand, there is a country with technological leadership in terms of resources, competitiveness, initiatives and state support, while on the other side of the globe, there is a thriving region whose entrepreneurship requires a set of technological reinforcements that are currently unavailable.

The coming together of Singapore’s ecosystem – geared towards technological excellence – and the Latin American ambition to continue growing can yield great results. From a legal perspective, as a Latin American example, Peruvian legislation to encourage the development of technology platforms and tools is still in its infancy. It was only at the beginning of 2020 that Emergency Decree No. 013-2020 provided for the promotion of crowdfunding, the promotion of the development of capital markets for start-ups in the consolidation stage, and the strengthening of the provision of technological services provided by the Peruvian state, among other provisions. Following this, during 2020 and 2021 regulations have been implemented relating to initiatives such as the implementation of an electronic wallet, the establishment of a start-up fund and the creation of a new payment service using QR codes, among others.

The belated awakening of Peruvian regulations to the opportunities offered by technology is mirrored in the economic sphere. For example, the nation’s budget allocation to science and technology development has never represented more than 0.2% of Peru’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Moreover, larger Peruvian companies are only now moving towards the healthy practice of allocating a budget line for investment in technology on a regular basis. In other words, there is a need on this side of the world for the development that Asia can offer.

That said, I believe that technology has the necessary conditions to become a virtual bridge between two regions of the world that can be brought closer in meaningful ways in spite of their geographical distance. Interestingly, Asia and Latin America share a number of similar characteristics, such as family values, ancient cultures, religious and culinary traditions. It is these that, for those of us lucky enough to have lived on the other side of the globe, make being so far from home not a difficult challenge but rather, a welcome opportunity.

Today, the generous availability of material and human resources in Latin America and the vertiginous growth of Asia – which will require more growth drivers in the future – means that they are very complementary regions of the world. Moreover, Singapore’s advancement in and vast expertise in services (including urban design, finance, education, airport management, construction, sanitation, and transport, among many others), and the infrastructure gap in Latin America, mean that a closer union between these two parts of the world is only a matter of time – and it will be technology that will move the clock.

Leave a Reply