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    Portugal: A Closer Look at Public-Private Partnerships


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2000

    Encouraging public-private partnerships is not a luxury. Linking these diverse networks effectively is one of the five keys to effective trade promotion. Portugal's approach provides food for thought.

    ICEP Portugal - Investimento, Comércio e Turismo - Investments, Trade and Tourism of Portugal - is the operational arm of Portugal's Ministry of Commerce. The institute is a public service and is financed principally by the state budget. ICEP is charged with Portugal's trade promotion, foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism and brand image.

    Distinguishing features

    While the area of operations and its financial resources are typical for this sort of public institution, what is specific to ICEP is its involvement in four different areas: trade, investment, tourism and brand image.

    The reason for this is historical: the conventional organization for promoting external trade, established in 1949, was merged with the Institute for Foreign Investment in the 1980s. In the 1990s, tourism was also incorporated into the organization. More recently, ICEP was given responsibility for external promotion and Portugal's brand image.

    But how can such a model work? Can it function as a whole, setting aside the separate cultures of the various organizations that merged with it?

    Integration has been total in all sectors except tourism, where the practices of a separate corporate culture remain. This is coupled with a clear trend in conceiving and promoting the tourism sector in a separate way from the other business areas.

    Overseas offices: Towards an integrated approach

    The aim is to establish a single address for all of Portugal's external promotion activities. This requires efficient coordination of activities at ICEP offices abroad (dependent on the Ministry of Commerce and heirs to a long tradition of institutional autonomy) with the network of embassies and consulates that fall under the Foreign Ministry.

    The challenge facing ICEP is: how to ensure coherent marketing abroad without confusing autonomously sanctioned, technical promotional activities with diplomatic activities?

    Once a certain balance between the institutions has been achieved, how can the activities of informal networks, the contributions of sector lobbies, the involvement of chambers of commerce and individual business players be integrated into ICEP's corporate culture?

    Clearly, we do not have the answer to all these questions, otherwise ICEP would be the most efficient promotion body in this field.

    Relations with the consular and diplomatic network

    After many years of parallel efforts - and as geometry shows, parallel lines never meet - the parties involved have agreed to a coordination plan. A Foreign Ministry representative is now part of ICEP's board and has been tasked with coordinating the network. This kind of cross-representation allows us to tackle more advanced and integrated tasks.

    It has also resulted in an important conclusion: it is absolutely vital that we review our network, its current locations and the tasks of our overseas offices. We are systematically doing so at the moment.

    We have started testing various models for covering our markets, using a pilot programme in countries with differing levels of development and varied interests for Portuguese business.

    We believe that in less than a year we should see a markedly different approach to external operations. This will comprise a lighter structure that performs well, by making better use of the competencies and merits of both ministries.

    Linking to broader networks

    We have also focused on improving the links between Portugal's formal network of external, institutional representations (its diplomatic, consular and ICEP networks) and other, informal channels operating outside the country. These comprise:

    • bilateral chambers of commerce;
    • businesses among Portuguese communities abroad; and
    • trainees in an ICEP-financed training project abroad.

    The formula for network linkages is predominantly institutional for chambers of commerce; consultation-focused for Portuguese community business sectors; and totally interactive for the informal trainees network.


    To achieve these different objectives, different kinds of instruments are used:

    • Traditional annual plans, consultative councils and workshops for the first two groups (chambers of commerce and Portuguese business sectors).
    • Research systems, on-the-job training and permanent supervision by tutors through web-based communication and chats for the trainees' network. Although still in an experimental stage, a second phase is also under way. As part of enlarging network links between tutors, central and peripheral services and training elements, degrees of access and differentiated analysis will be introduced, helping to integrate network proposals in an organized and more systematic fashion.

    Our assessment of the efficiency of the links between these various parties is not equal: in short, the first two groups are as efficient as can be expected, while the trainees' group has proved extremely effective.

    Although the effects of this interactive process are still limited and at a trial stage, a very positive aspect for ICEP has been the impact on people throughout the networks/delegations/head office departments, involving them as integrated work elements in a conservative institution such as ICEP.

    Changes to the operational support for promoting Portugal abroad will be complemented by changes to the IT system. Absolute priority will be given to ongoing support and promotion for, and encouraging companies in all forms of, e-commerce.

    Currently, private sector involvement in individual promotional and associative activities is very significant. We intend to extend this involvement by:

    • launching joint public-private financing mechanisms for promotional activities by sector and under integrated management; and
    • establishing projects that can become self-supporting and subsequently privatized.

    José Vieira Branco is Vice President of ICEP, Portugal.
    This article is adapted from a presentation delivered at the third World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations (Marrakech, 25-27 October 2000).
    Mr. Vieira Branco can be contacted at josebra@icep.pt or icep@icep.pt

    National profile at a glance: ICEP Portugal - Investimento, Comércio e Turismo

    Mandate: Trade promotion; foreign direct investment; tourism; and Portugal's brand image.

    Institutional positioning: Operational arm of the Ministry of Economy. ICEP is governed by a council with seven members appointed by the government.

    Founded: 1949

    Location: Based in Lisbon, ICEP has five domestic and 51 overseas offices.

    Funding: Roughly US$ 130 million annually, funded 95% by the national budget and 5% by charges for services.

    Staff: About 800 permanent members of staff at head office and abroad.

    Of interest:
    • Portugal's new approaches to cooperation within government, with chambers of commerce and Portuguese businesses abroad.
    • Potential for synergy by bringing together trade promotion, foreign direct investment, tourism and national image 'branding'.

    ICEP, Av. 5 de Outubro, 101, 1050-051 Lisbon, Portugal
    Tel.: + 35121 790 9500; Fax: +351221 793 5028; E-mail: icep@icep.pt
    Web site: http://www.icep.pt (Portuguese) and http://www.portugalinbusiness.com (English)