Chinese credit card company enters region via Suriname

PARAMARIBO--China UnionPay International and De Surinaamsche Bank launched the first UnionPay prepaid card in Suriname and Latin America last week. De Surinaamsche Bank will issue the credit cards by the second quarter of 2015, according to a press release.
According to an executive at China UnionPay, the launch of its first official prepaid debit card in Latin America gives it experience in a different culture.
"By offering a prepaid card, they're essentially kicking the tires in that country and conducting an experiment within the payments world," said Alfred Nader, head of Latin America and the Caribbean at Western Union Business Solutions. "Offering a prepaid solution could also be the first time that some of the citizens of Suriname are experimenting with a tool other than cash."
Nader continued: "The Chinese may have experience in the other countries, but Suriname was Dutch so the culture is very different than that of anywhere else in Latin America. Having experience and success in Suriname may not necessarily translate to other countries in that immediate region. But it gives UnionPay experience in a country that may not be as sophisticated in the payments space. At the end of the day, that transcends culture."
Foreign Minister Winston Lackin and Chinese Ambassador Yang Zigang were among the dignitaries who attended the card-issuing ceremony. Also in attendance were Central Bank Governor Gilmore Hoefdraad, Chamber of Commerce Chairman Henk Naarendorp, Liu Shiwen, CEO of Southern Commercial Bank and Miriam Park, Chief Representative of UnionPay Americas.
According to Ambassador Yang, the pact is a new example of the mutually beneficial collaboration between China and Suriname. The deal brings great benefits and convenience to the people of Suriname, he said.
He expressed hopes that more Chinese banks and enterprises would move to Suriname to find their business opportunities, more Chinese tourists would travel to Suriname and more Surinamese people would use UnionPay cards in the future.
Other speakers pointed out that UnionPay has been developing fast and expanding its international influence continuously, with its cards used in more than 140 countries.
The move by the Chinese financial institute into Latin America means that American mainstays like American Express Corp., MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. would be allowed to compete in the Chinese market.
Established in 2002 in Shanghai by the State Council and the People's Bank of China, China UnionPay is the only national bankcard organisation approved for use in clearing transactions in the world's second-largest economy.
UnionPay International, a subsidiary focused on the company's global business, has partnerships with more than 300 organisations and has obtained card acceptance in more than 140 countries. UnionPay cards are also issued in more than 30 countries worldwide. UnionPay cards are now accepted in 12 countries and regions in Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Its local partner, De Surinaamsche Bank is the largest commercial bank in Suriname.
China is the third largest market (14 percent) for goods imported to Suriname, according to data compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Observatory of Economic Complexity. The United States and the Netherlands round out the top three.
China's trade with Latin America has flourished over the past decade, hitting $261.2 billion in 2012 — up from US$100 billion in 2009 and US$10 billion in 2000.

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