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Envoy wooing Petronas to join Peru's oil rush

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SEEKING INVESTORS: New ambassador to Malaysia wants to increase trade and investment in oil, furniture and soft drinks

KUALA LUMPUR: MARCO Balarezo, the new Peruvian ambassador here, is gregarious by nature with a quick laugh and smile, but becomes pensive when the question of bilateral trade and investment crops up.

By his own rueful admission, there is insignificant bilateral trade with Peru selling US$6 million (RM20 million) worth of agricultural products and seafood to Malaysia and Malaysia doing just a shade better.

The 54-year-old career diplomat, who took a short but significant walk into politics as vice-minister of defence, is not about to leave things be as they are.

As his country celebrates its 191st anniversary of the founding of the nation today, the envoy has been talking to Petronas, which is not yet in Peru.

"I am trying to convince it to go to Peru. Most of the international oil companies are already there," he said, rattling off names from a list of international oil giants.

Efforts to develop forest-related products like furniture could also be on the table in the future, given Malaysia's vast experience in the sector.

"I am also trying to get Peruvian soft drink giant, Cola Real, to set up a plant in Malaysia. They are big in Thailand."

Balarezo, who enjoys his tipple like most South Americans, also wants to get a Malaysian distributor to sell the Peruvian national drink, Pisco, here.

The envoy advises that the potent yellowish-to-amber grape brandy be drunk with caution as it packs a hefty wallop.

"We want to introduce it to Malaysia as we feel the cosmopolitan market here will be interested in the drink.

"At the moment, you can only get it at some embassy functions as we are obliged to serve it."

To give Peruvian Pisco a headstart here (a neighbouring country also lays claim to the drink), the embassy has registered the name here.

Over the past three months, he has organised a photographic exhibition here on the famous Inca site, Machu Picchu, besides planning a week-long Peruvian gastronomic fest at the Ritz Carlton here from Oct 4.

Balarezo, who has also been deputy permanent representative of Peru to the United Nations in New York and director-general chief of cabinet and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, has a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Diplomacy and Law.

The chess player, who also plays a little football, wants to contact fellow enthusiasts of the board game here who may enjoy a game or two with him.

For him, the opening move in bilateral relations, as in many a chess game, may have been weak. But he is only interested in ensuring an endgame that mutually benefits both countries.

Marco Balarezo is trying to convince Petronas to invest in Peru as most of the international oil companies are already there


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