Friday, April 8, 2011

NMI encouraged to tap federal resources for exports

IN pursuit of developing an export industry, the Northern Mariana Islands can tap into resources available in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

John Holman, director, Pacific Islands, U.S. Commercial Service, in a teleconference call from Hawaii, told participants to the 2011 Economic Restoration Summit that his office’s mission “is to help U.S. firms sell their products and services internationally.”

He said their office has a global network in more than 80 countries worldwide “of the best professionals in the world.”

“Our global presence and international marketing expertise helps U.S. companies compete and win in global markets.”

Holman said that his office offers four major services for businesses to grow internationally: market research, trade events, international partners, and consulting and advocacy.”

Holman offered that they have a market research library that businesspersons in the CNMI can freely access. “Register and you have access to thousands of reports on markets and industry sectors all over the globe.”

He said the over 100,000 country and industry-specific market reports can tell trends, demographics, method of entry method, trade shows, and other opportunities to get products and services into the market.

“Another resource is country commercial report that tells you everything you need to know about doing business in [for example] Hong Kong, in Japan, in Brazil, from a U.S. perspective. These reports are extremely beneficial.”

The United States Commercial Service also supports trade events. According to Holman, “We take companies on trade missions to countries where they have a chance to meet with partners and government officials. We also have an international buyer delegation program where we bring delegation of buyers to major U.S. trade shows each year. Many of them take place in Las Vegas.”

Matchmaking of American firms with foreign companies usually transpires in these trade shows.

He added that they conduct “certified trade fairs.” Through these trade fairs, Holman said they put a stamp of approval of the U.S. Dep’t. of Commerce on international trade fairs that are good shows for U.S. companies to participate in and find partners where they do matchmaking as well.

Apart from trade shows, the agency also conducts single company promotion, inviting tour operators, professionals, or journalist to promote an American company’s products or services.

“This is especially effective in tourism and educational services. We might have a workshop or seminar to invite in key tour operators, or industry professionals, or journalists, to come in and hear about the destinations and they have a chance to network and discuss doing business together in the future,” Holman said.

He stressed on the importance of finding quality partners in doing business on an international scale and this is where his agency can help businesses in the NMI with.

He said his agency’s Gold Key Service helps businesses in the NMI to partner with overseas firms. “Our colleagues in that country will then go out and contact firms on your behalf that meet your criteria; what type of partnership you would like to work with whether distributor, or agent, or direct retail and promote your product or service.”

Through the overseas network, Holman said the agency will try to arrange one-on-one meetings. “We arrange everything, the transportation and the agenda. We can secure a translator if necessary.”

Since his office is a governmental agency, Holman said American businesses are assured they’ll find legitimate partners through its services.

The agency, Holman said, has international company profiles which are low-cost due diligence and credit check on buyers and distributors.

“It’s a background check on the legal and financial standing of foreign partners,” he said.

Aside from these services, they also have a Featured U.S. Exporter section online highlighting an American company in its preferred market choice.

There is also an official trade magazine that promotes American firms to over 400,000 international buyers.

They also offer consultancy work where a local office can help businesses with their export strategy and financing.

It also assists in resolving regulatory hurdles and recovering payments.

To make sure that American firms compete on an equal footing overseas, the agency also helps in leveling the playing field for businesses, to ensure that the American business has a fair chance in winning a bid for a project.

He also said that additional resources can be found at www.export.gov.

Earlier in his presentation before participants to the 2011 Economic Restoration Council, Holman said 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside the United States. He said exports help diversify the U.S. economy and support six million American jobs.

For those in the islands that would like to seek assistance through their agency, Holman recommended them to contact Philip Mendiola Long, a member of Hawaii Pacific Export Council, who can assist them with their export strategies.

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