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DESPITE TRADE TENSIONS FIREWORKS EXPORTS FROM CHINA ARE BOOMING

fireworks

DESPITE TRADE TENSIONS FIREWORKS EXPORTS FROM CHINA ARE BOOMING

Liuyang, China: Birthplace and Epicenter of Fireworks Production

Many historians credit the Chinese in ancient Liuyang with creating the first natural firecracker around 200 B.C. Roasting bamboo caused it to explode due to its hollow air pockets. The noise it generated was said to ward off evil spirits. Some 800 to 1,000 years later, Chinese alchemists mixed saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients to discover an early form of gunpowder. When they stuffed that mixture into bamboo shoots and threw them into a fire, boom – the first “modern” fireworks were born.

Capitalizing on its pedigree of two centuries of fireworks production, Liuyang has focused its economy on becoming the undisputed fireworks capital of the world. Overall, China produces some 90 percent of the world’s fireworks. Around 60 percent of those are made in Liuyang.

Global Fireworks Exports in 2017

Potential Powder Keg: Mr. Ding’s Dynasty

Whether you bought a multipack of screamers, bottle rockets, and roman candles from a roadside stand, or plan to watch a professionally-designed community display this Fourth of July, chances are the fireworks themselves were produced in China. In 2016, the United States imported $307.8 million worth of fireworks. Nearly all, $296.2 million worth, came from China. U.S. consumers purchase about half of the pyrotechnics China exports globally.

That may not be very surprising when you consider the abundant use of pyrotechnics at American events and celebrations. “Thunder Over Louisville” is an annual event that blasts through 60 tons of fireworks in 30 minutes.

What might be concerning, however, is the discovery by a Washington Post investigative team that around 70 percent of all Chinese fireworks entering the United States are produced, warehoused, transported, and ultimately imported under the control of companies owned by just one Chinese businessman, Ding Yan Zhong. The reporters estimate that Mr. Ding’s companies have imported 7,400 containers, 241 million pounds, of fireworks so far this year. Of the 108 containers that arrive on average every day, 72 are controlled by Mr. Ding.

Another Example of China on the Smile Curve?

There is a brighter side for the American fireworks industry. While there’s practically no firework manufacturing left in the United States, jobs in and around the fireworks industry follow a familiar pattern where the lower-skilled work is performed in China and other, higher value-added jobs can be found occupied by Americans. Here are some examples.

Pyrotechnic engineers are trained chemists who deploy their knowledge of how certain compounds react with other inputs to create bigger, brighter, and more exciting pyrotechnics. We love the classic chrysanthemum, peonies, and willow fireworks that send bright stars scattering into arcing trails. But we also await each Fourth of July the new patterns and colors these engineers have dreamed up.

The mean salary for a U.S.-based chemical engineer in 2015 was $103,960. Contrast this job with a firework maker in Liuyang, China, where most fireworks are still made by hand, by women for a mere $80-285 a month depending on skill level. It’s not just low paying; it’s dangerous work. According to a Slate article, Wang Haoshui, chief engineer with China’s State Administration of Workplace Safety, told a Chinese newspaper that only coal mining was considered a more dangerous occupation in China.

Today China produces 90% of the world’s fireworks.

In more desirable parts of the fireworks ecosystem, American show producers spend their days “choreographing” pyrotechnic displays for large scale events in sports arenas (Super Bowl halftime show and the Olympics) and concert venues (Kiss and Mötley Crüe). Winco Fireworks in Prairie Village, Kansas, imports and distributes fireworks but also innovates electrical firing systems. The company just launched the FireFly firing system that allows backyard enthusiasts to sync their music using Bluetooth® technology while detonating their fireworks wirelessly. Enthusiasts turned entrepreneurs are also common in the American fireworks industry. Scott Smith is one such example. He’s an electrical and computer systems engineer from Ganesvoort in upstate New York and founded COBRA, a company that creates software for designing fireworks shows.

Growth is Explosive in China

As with so many other consumer products, demand for fireworks is growing so rapidly in China that Liuyang manufacturers are turning their attention inward. China’s Spring Festival and lunar New Year celebrations offer healthy competition to demand for fireworks at American Fourth of July parties.

Chinese manufacturers also say it’s getting harder to export due to strict U.S. requirements. The U.S. American Tobacco and Firearms agency (ATF) requires “anyone in the business of importing, manufacturing, dealing in, or otherwise receiving display fireworks” to first obtain a Federal explosives license or permit from ATF for the specific activity. Firecrackers sold to the American public can only have 50 milligrams or less of pyrotechnic composition per firecracker.

China’s regulations are more permissive, not simply as they pertain to manufacturing, but also with respect to the power consumer fireworks can pack. Fireworks available for purchase can be several times more potent than fireworks that have been banned in the United States.

US fireworks consumption

Trade Ensures the Continuation of an American Tradition

The first American fireworks display is said to have taken place in Jamestown in 1608. According to historians, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife on July 3, 1776 in which he predicted that the Fourth of July, the day on which the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, would be “the most memorable in the history of America… celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

He went on to suggest the commemorations “be solemnized with pomp and parade…and illuminations [fireworks]…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” Wherever and with whomever you enjoy those colorful bursts in the night sky, celebrate this symbol of American independence and also the economic dynamism we currently enjoy thanks to our role in the global economy.

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

risk

How to Get a Handle on Risk in Uncertain Times: 10 Important Considerations

Risk: It’s the operative word on everyone’s mind right now. Whether it’s COVID-19 or oil prices, supply chain impacts or financial market concerns, understanding the impact of macro and micro-events, assessing their impact and putting in place the right action plans to mitigate that risk as best as possible is the priority task at hand.

Here we’ll examine ten steps to consider to ensure you’re being as thoughtful and rigorous as possible in your response to risk.

1. Take Care of Your PeopleHopefully, this has already been priority number one for your business after the past few weeks. How do we safeguard our people? How do we handle work from home – voluntary versus mandatory? What other flexible resourcing options do we provide – from sick leave to absenteeism considerations? What are the IT implications and subsequent human resource and capacity management concerns we need to consider and fully factor in? Err on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry.

2. Analyze Internal Risks – Before you can do that, you need to galvanize the right teams to be able to understand, assess and action against those risks. It’s critical to build the right cross-functional teams to be able to look at, and understand, the relevant issues to consider. This will involve finance, R&D (depending on your business) and marketing and sales. It will also involve teams like quality and sustainability leaders, as there will be implications and follow on ramifications despite your very best efforts.

3. Conduct Scenario Analyses – For critical categories, it’s important to get a handle on what alternative demand/supply options are. What are the pessimistic versus expected versus optimistic cases depending on what happens with the current situation, both in terms of the pandemic but also in terms of current and expected economic conditions? As part of any such assessment, you’ll need to score, assign probabilities and weights and adjust your thinking and actions accordingly.

4. Talk to Customers –This doesn’t tend to be the first thing people think about when it comes to procurement, but understanding the demand side implications for your business will be essential. How will demand be disrupted? Will there be specific products in your portfolio that will be more directly or severely impacted? Will this result in demand cutbacks or surges? Where will you source supply from? Can you cut back supply needs for others? How will buying patterns change – will there be channel shifts from offline to online? How does that play out in terms of critical suppliers and critical buys and requirements in the near to medium terms? Maintaining a dialogue with customers to understand their needs and issues and where all of this plays through for your team is essential.

5. Develop Plans for Strategic Categories –You’ll need to revisit your plans and the related risks around your most critical categories during a time of crisis. Make sure that these plans have been reviewed, the pressure points tested, the risk points analyzed and alternative plans considered. This could mean enhancing inventory levels (and rethinking inventory buffers based on the scenario planning we talked about earlier), assessing implications for delivery performance, gaining a view of multi-tiered supplier performance, increased inbound category visibility and more.

6. Examine Logistics Implications – By the same token, businesses must assess the logistics implications both inbound and outbound, either to make products or to ensure delivery. This has cost and timeline implications. All modes of transportation can be seen to be impacted, not least of which is shipping impacts – especially to and from China, but elsewhere, as well – whether these impacts are halts on movements, ramp downs, or the subsequently phased ramp back up. Or bypassing some of these options and going to airfreight which presents another level of cost to timeline tradeoffs.

7. Assess Liquidity – This will be critical and will call for a stronger partnership and alliance with finance. Looking at cash positions, assessing payables, and of course extending that into receivables, etc. will be essential. Add to this, talk of tightening credit markets and this makes it all the more important. Cash as always will be king if we need to endure near term instabilities, revenue disruptions, supply chain impacts, sourcing problems, and more

8. Assess Supplier Health – Part and parcel to all of this is assessing supplier health and evaluating who will be the most impacted. A clear view of your supplier segments – strategic versus mid-tier versus everyone else – is essential so you can focus your time and analysis accordingly.

For the most strategic suppliers, it’s critical to have a multi-tiered view of their supply base and related dependencies so you can adequately assess their performance and supply chain bottlenecks. This will involve structured risk analyses – looking across multiple variables beyond financials, to operational performance, to industry performance factors, to geographic and locational concerns and more. You’ll also need to identify alternate supply sources to shift production as and where needed, and as quickly as possible. Not all of this can be done at a moment’s notice. Some of it should have been done as part of a prior risk assessment exercise.

9. Think Ahead – Businesses can’t afford to simply think about today. Consider what the next three to six months look like. This is where scenario planning comes into play. It is critical to assess not only how you can react now but also how to prepare for eventualities later, when things are either fully back to normal or in some altered state based on longer-lasting ramifications from the events of today.

10. Work With Facts and Manage Emotion – Fundamentally, the most important thing you can do is to continuously monitor changes in a structured fashion. Have a programmed information collection and analysis mechanism. If we accept that the crisis is still unfolding and that the true impacts from a supply chain disruption perspective may not reveal themselves for months, we need to take tangible steps.  This can be done by establishing a process to monitor other regions outside the infected areas that could be impacted. Are ports outside the infected areas being impacted through disruption or through new regulations to protect against transmission of the virus?  Are suppliers struggling financially without access to the Chinese markets, jeopardizing their viability? Data will be important but data converted to relevant insight for your specific supply chain situation will be essential.

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Omer Abdullah is Co-founder and Managing Director of The Smart Cube and is responsible for managing the company’s Americas business.Omer has more than 25 years of management consulting, global corporate and industry experience across North America, Europe and Asia.

Prior roles include A.T. Kearney (North America), Warner Lambert (USA) and The Perrier Group (Asia-Pacific). Omer has an MBA from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, USA and a BBA from the University of East Asia.

ASEAN

Global Trade Talk: Navigating Geopolitical Currents in a Changing Southeast Asia

Global Trade Talk is part of an ongoing series highlighting international business, trade, investment, and site location issues and opportunities. This article focuses on the conversation between Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Keith Rabin, President, KWR International, Inc.

Hello Simon. How have you been? Before we begin can you tell our readers about your background and current activities?

I am Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). We focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization comprised of ten countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the wider Asia Pacific and Singapore’s role as a hub for trade and investment and greater integration in the region. This includes a range of geopolitical issues including the rise of China, the role of the US, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic, which is serving as an accelerator for changes that have been occurring over the last decade.

Professionally, I am an attorney and was a member of Parliament from 1997-2001, serving during the Asian financial crisis. Then during the 2008 global financial crisis, I was stationed in New York at the Asia Society where we first met. These experiences have given me a unique perspective on the impact of globalization and other trends we have experienced over the past two decades.

While ASEAN currently possesses the third-largest economy in the Indo-Pacific and fifth largest in the world, many foreigners have never even heard of the regional group nor do they recognize its potential. Can you talk about how ASEAN evolved, what it represents as a commercial market and investment destination, and in terms of security and its global importance? What opportunities and obstacles and investment themes are of particular importance to foreign companies and investors in the coming years?

I don’t blame people for not knowing ASEAN. When one looks to Asia, one’s eyes are first drawn to the giants. China in particular has done very well over the past twenty years and no country has grown faster during that time. As it developed and labor costs and standards of living rose, Southeast Asia began to capture the attention of businesses, and deservedly so. ASEAN now has growing appeal, because of greater integration as we create an ASEAN Community with increased consumption and growth. That is why many people refer to us as the fifth largest economy in the world.

The reality, however, is a bit short of that – as we are not really one country or one system. We are, however, working to realize the “ASEAN 2025 Vision.” This is a roadmap adopted in 2015 to articulate regional goals to create a more cohesive ASEAN Community. SIIA is currently working on the ASEAN mid-term review, which is examining our progress, and how crises such as the pandemic can strengthen our will to more fully integrate. While an unfinished project, given the diversity in the region, it is — in some ways — every bit as ambitious as the establishment of the European Union (EU). The trend is toward closer integration.

Before the Asian financial crisis, which began in the summer of 1997, the region was mostly viewed, at least in the US, through the lens of the Vietnam War. Over the last twenty+ years we have advanced, however, and growth in ASEAN has been reinforced. This is true both in developed countries such as Singapore and Thailand, developing nations such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and those in between. Before the pandemic, ASEAN as a whole was growing at a faster rate than China. While the pandemic is hitting our people and economies hard, the region should still outperform the world.

The fundamentals are real. ASEAN is ascending from a lower base, leaving substantial room for further growth. There are many opportunities as countries raise consumption and leapfrog using software, digital innovation, and a greater online presence. Diverse sectors can do well, including labor-intensive manufacturing, infrastructure, services, consumer markets, and others that are part of the new economy.

As you note many people view ASEAN as being similar to the EU, a vehicle grouping together a group of countries into a more integrated market, though without a common currency. Is that fair and can you talk about both the diversity of ASEAN as well as the steps being taken to link these ten nations into a more cohesive entity? Is it possible for companies to have an “ASEAN strategy” or should they be looking at individual markets?

Given what I said about ASEAN, and how it is not yet a cohesive union, that is a very good question. The answer is yes and yes. Movement toward greater integration is very clear but we are not like China or the EU where you can put up one office and that’s it for the region. In a way, this is an economic strength as well as a political challenge.

In ASEAN you have an opportunity to link supply chains from a hub like Singapore, which offers first-class amenities, to less developed markets with eager and driven populations rising out of poverty and looking for jobs in factories and a more modern lifestyle. Myanmar for example is a sizable country with a pool of young people looking for jobs and a government seeking to develop. Myanmar also has a sizable expatriate population that has lived and worked in countries such as Singapore and Thailand, as well as Australia, Europe and the US, where they received education and training. Now their economies are opening – and they are returning with capacity, experience and ideas to implement change. So these countries are not starting from zero.

In between, you have countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Labor there remains hungry for work, the land is relatively cheap and demand is growing. Today, a lot of attention is focused on Vietnam in particular. This is a country of almost 100 million young, dynamic, and hard-working people, which is well on its way to becoming a competitive supply base for many products.

ASEAN also benefits from not being China. Our diversity offers a decentralized model that adds diversification to global supply chains. It can be more complex to work across ASEAN — there is no one President or government to go to – but it is also less risky for those who can manage across borders – as it is not a case where if one government or economy fails, then the investor also fails. Moreover, ASEAN is not a threat to anyone politically. Vietnam for example has a trade surplus with the US whereas Singapore has a deficit.

Those who invest in ASEAN benefit from having an alternative to China, though are still located in this growing region. This allows synergies with production clusters based there. Being in ASEAN allows companies and investors to benefit and participate in this growing regional economy without putting more eggs into the China basket.

You mentioned the US has enjoyed strong ties with ASEAN since its birth in 1967. This was a time when the US sought to develop regional allies in the face of the Vietnam and Cold Wars. Today, however, despite a move to initiate an “Asian Pivot” under the Obama administration and talk of the “Indo-Pacific” under President Trump, some question US commitment to the region. How do you view the US presence and role within ASEAN? What should US companies and leaders know about ASEAN and how does their presence compare to other nations including Japan, Korea, Australia, and the EU?

The US remains an important partner and market for ASEAN and when looking at its involvement in the region, there are three strands we can talk about. The first is like an underlying current in the ocean, the second is the waves on top, and third like a bright object on the surface. If you look at the current, the destiny of the US remains very much an outward one. It is the country that created the modern world and global trading system you and I have grown up in. It was built to America’s advantage and I think this strong current of the US having shaped and benefitted from this world is ever-present despite current tensions. So we have not seen, whichever President, a lack of interest from US business, its military or security establishment. So whether you call it an Asian Pivot, Indo-Pacific region or before that the War on Terrorism, we believe this current can and should have reasons to continue.

At the same time, there are waves on the surface. These are more noticeable, as it is hard to see the underlying current unless you put your hand deep below. The waves do matter and I would say right now they are choppy and we are now going through a period where Americans are questioning globalization and retreating from multilateralism and international engagement. I was in Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests. At the time President Clinton had the political savvy to suggest we let these voices in to assuage concerns – even as he was the president who signed and implemented the NAFTA agreement. As a result, after a time, things calmed down and the situation became less tense for the moment.

Since then, however, the waves have gotten more turbulent, and it is important to recognize the tensions that brought Trump into office are not singular to him. Remember that Hillary Clinton responded to those choppy waves in her election bid. She supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement while Secretary of State, and yet as a candidate against Trump, she too expressed doubts about the TPP. So it is not just the Trump administration and we can see a wave of US constituencies questioning and expressing concerns.

The concern is rising to the point where now even the underlying current of outward movement that I mentioned is less visible. Companies are now being judged by how many jobs they are reshoring and their loyalty to America and American jobs. This is now seen as more important than an overall win-win growing the global economic pie paradigm, which has guided the thinking of policymakers and companies for decades.

And then there is the ball or float which can be seen in tweets and incendiary rhetoric. These attract a lot of attention and concern but they are not necessarily consistent. You mentioned the Indo-Pacific strategy and frankly, I haven’t really seen one. I have seen Indo-Pacific statements and senior US officials talking about issues, but I haven’t seen an overall strategy tying things together. I have to say I view this from an ASEAN perspective and generally, ASEAN is the final stop after a comprehensive strategy dealing with other parts of Asia is finalized.

There is also much less US involvement in multilateral institutions. This is important given the nature of the problems the world faces today. I also think the State Department itself has less access and the whole US establishment which has guided foreign policy and economic engagement, has been weakened.

At the same time other countries – and China in particular – have upped their game. They engage us, not only at the top level – but very thoroughly on an ongoing basis.  Ambassadors of these countries, whether you agree with them or not, are out all the time engaging people, and are much more present. The US is still here but less than in the past. Take something as simple as Ambassadors. How many ASEAN countries have sitting US Ambassadors? And if you talk with the ones that are here, how much access do they have into Washington and White House decision-making at a high level? Stove-piping is always a problem in big countries, but it is now becoming a more serious issue.

Since the early days of ASEAN, China has developed rapidly and has now become the world’s second-largest economy. It is also a major driver of economic growth and seeks greater regional and global influence through vehicles such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), at a time when the US is backing away from multilateral institutions and its traditional role as a global leader on a range of important issues. As tensions rise between China and the US, both in terms of trade as well as influence and security, how is the region affected, and what are the challenges ASEAN countries face in navigating this changing environment?

The pandemic makes a vast difference. We are trying to figure out in a post-pandemic world whether China or the US will recover faster and at the moment the answer seems to be China. It is still early, however, and of course, there is now an outbreak in Beijing so we will have to see. At the same time within China, there seems to be a growing understanding they need to remain engaged with the outside world. They also did not have this pre-pandemic spirit of isolationism and questioning of whether it is good for China to export and invest abroad. So unlike the US, they did not come into this with a globalization backlash, strengthened further by the pandemic.

Singapore recently entered into a “green lane” agreement with China for business travel and Singapore-based businesses of all nationalities can now travel to six cities and regions of China with minimal testing as a first step toward reopening our borders. This is not political but an effort to restore supply chain links and our ability to operate as a hub while maintaining decent safety levels. We are also trying to open Australia and New Zealand, and other countries in ASEAN, but those discussions are not yet concluded.

Also, if you look back to the global financial crisis of 2008, it is notable that Asia and China kept growing. While the US did not shrink, in relative terms its global market share declined. That caused an adjustment similar to when an elevator goes up and suddenly stops. I feel if the US does not respond correctly to the current situation, we may experience another of those adjustments; it doesn’t mean the US will fade and fall down the elevator shaft, but there will be another jerky moment and perceptions in this part of the world will shift further as they did after the onset of the global financial crisis.

That said, people in ASEAN want more US involvement and encourage US investment and more participation by US firms. We think of the market and technology as rational and neutral, but it is beginning to get colored. Meaning if people think the winner will be China there is a tendency to go more in that direction – even though we are still fighting to keep things as neutral, rational, and as inclusive as possible. You can see that in the struggle over the decision this week to award Singapore’s 5G network to Ericsson and Nokia, though it still maintained a smaller role for Huawei.

In the past, there was a belief in the west that China’s development would lead it toward a more democratic form of government and integration within the global trading system that arose following the Second World War. In recent years it has become apparent this is not the case and China is embarking on its own path. This has led to growing concerns about China’s aspirations and efforts to exert global leadership and establish standards in new technologies as seen its “Made in China 2025 initiative”, its policy toward Hong Kong and Taiwan, cybersecurity and privacy, social credit scoring and other policies, practices, and beliefs. Do you share these concerns? How does China’s model translate to ASEAN and do you see a new “Cold War” developing in which countries will be asked to choose sides?

I have studied, lived in, and like the US, but never assumed China would become more democratic. I believe the Party will have to evolve and change in response to China’s development but never assumed this would necessarily be in a democratic direction. When I look at the region beyond China, I would also say most in Asia are not a democracy in the US-style. Even look at Japan, which you Keith know well. It is not a one-party system like China but it is not a US-style democracy. Neither is Singapore. We will have an election here in less than two weeks, yet there is almost no doubt which party will win. So I am not sure you as an American would describe such systems as democracy.

So I do not look at China through an ideological lens of democracy and have always thought China would do what made sense for China. As neighbors, we do have to figure out whether what is good for China will be a threat to us, rather than win-win. This applies when we look at Chinese investment; we tend to look at it through pragmatic calculations. I do not begin with the assumption that it is an attempt to politically suborn every place where they invest. There are of course risks that remain but they can be managed. For example, with BRI we have talked to Myanmar and others about the risks of unproven projects that burden them with high debt. That is Singapore’s style. We initiate projects incrementally. We start with one terminal and gradually expand to five, or one chemical factory into a large complex as demand is proven. We have an idea of where we want to go – but build incrementally rather than start with grand projects.

That is why you now see a number of Singapore industrial parks in Vietnam. These parks are not just physical spaces. Some provide training, education, and skills development for local workers so they can better serve companies based there. This helps our neighbors while developing our role as a hub. Singapore companies are also involved in BRI. For example, Surbana Jurong provides consultancy services to some Chinese investors in ASEAN countries, as well as acting for the hosts on other occasions. The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) is also pushing out into the region and beyond; recently opening a joint port in Greece with Cosco, a Chinese shipping line. So Singaporean efforts are to seek cooperation and commercial deals that look non-ideologically to support globalization and free trade around the world.

The bigger question is the “new Cold War” between the USA and China. We do feel it. We try to make rational decisions based on market principles but increasingly everything is reduced to whether “you are for or against China or the US.” For the AIIB, Singapore participated from the start because infrastructure is a big issue in the region. We are in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) too and the World Bank. We think there is no reason we can’t be in more than one, and I do not see why the US objected to the AIIB or what was the alternative they were offering. On the other hand, when American’s spoke about the Indo-Pacific we were happy to work with our ASEAN colleagues to develop an ASEAN understanding and response.

The view of the Indo-Pacific that ASEAN has developed is slightly different than the US, as our goal was to make it more inclusive and not just for democracies. But we do agree a larger framework for the region is necessary. For Singapore, as close friends with India, we have no problems working with them as well and continue to hope they will become more and more integrated with the region.

Even before the coronavirus and heightened US-China trade tensions, corporations were beginning to reevaluate global supply chains to lessen their reliance on Chinese production. Many view ASEAN as a natural beneficiary, offering cost and diversification benefits. As a result, we see many clients giving the region more consideration given its strategic location, strong infrastructure and its ability to bridge operations that had been based in China and still rely on inputs from there. How do you view ASEAN’s potential as the region rises in importance as a hub within the global supply chain? What are the prospects for developing and more developed countries in ASEAN– as well as integration between the two, for example, the relationship between Singapore and Batam/Bintan and the Riau Islands, where we have been active for many years, located in Indonesia only 12 miles away?

Our greatest fear is not a splintering of global supply chains but rather the idea of bringing everything back home in response to growing nationalism. Big countries sometimes think they can do that – whether it is the US, China, India, or even Indonesia. They believe they can produce everything for themselves and capture their own market. We used to see this in the “import substitution” and “beggar thy neighbor” days. That is something we need to work together to avoid. Post-pandemic there will be exceptions and a degree of self-supply is important, for example with masks and ventilators, to prevent a cut-off of supply. Similarly, markets such as Singapore which imports almost 100% of its food supply, need to rethink being completely reliant on offshore sourcing. But we need to make sure that tilt does not go too far.

But I would emphasize we are not going to exclude China either. The interesting question is whether we still believe in global supply chains. I think the answer is that we do, provided that security and other key concerns can still be addressed. If that is the case, countries that can provide that, who can reliably manage increasing supply chain complexity with good governance and rule of law, with an ability to deliver will be rewarded. ASEAN and Singapore are well-positioned in that regard.

The larger danger is that countries retreat back completely to a reliance on national production and protectionism. It is a lesser danger for supply chains to split into two, one being the US and the other a Chinese supply chain. Sometimes it is important for other countries to have guts and stand up against that and bullying from either side. This is especially important during the pandemic when some powerful countries were trying to grab masks and other medical supplies for themselves when these had been contracted to others. For Singapore, and for me as an attorney and international lawyer, I emphasize the importance of fulfilling contracts. This does not always work to our advantage in Singapore. Sometimes in the pandemic, neighbors cut off supply but we still try our best to observe our commitments. The rule of law is important. The bottom line is – trust is something you can’t ditch in a crisis.

You ask about Batam and Bintan as part of our strategy to expand across the region. These islands are part of Indonesia but stand just a small distance from Singapore. Back in the early 1990s, there was a lot of excitement in Singapore about their development as an early step in regionalization and cross border cooperation. They are still significant; proximity still matters, but not quite as much as before. Other opportunities arise, and regionalization has deepened. One newer aspect is whether that proximity is connected to another market.

For example, a major Singaporean company now has an industrial park operating in central Java that caters to Indonesia, rather than offshore markets like Batam and Bintan. Singapore also has more than seven industrial parks in Vietnam – and we do more there than in these Indonesian islands nearest us. Why? It is not because we do not like Batam and Bintan; they also have a role to play. But they do not enjoy any special preferences or contiguous market, have no natural workforce so workers there are imported from other parts of Indonesia. In the end, they remain useful, allow easy commuting, but do not provide a definitive advantage in an environment characterized by deeper and more complex regional integration.

ASEAN has been severely affected by the coronavirus – and by most measures handled the pandemic relatively well. Can you talk about how the virus has been handled in Singapore and other countries in ASEAN, the nature of regional cooperation, and how the pandemic is likely to affect economic and other aspects of integration moving forward? What lessons should the US take from the ASEAN experience dealing with the virus?

There are differences in how ASEAN countries have handled this and from what we can see, Vietnam has come out on top in terms of controlling the pandemic. In Singapore, the overall national numbers may look scary, but it is under control for most of the community though the problem is acute within the foreign work dormitories which account for the bulk of numbers.

Singapore has a strong health system and has ramped up testing and treatment facilities; our medical system has coped and there has been a very low mortality rate. Malaysia and Thailand are also doing relatively well. For Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar the numbers seem ok but it is really hard to know for sure, given low levels of testing. In Southeast Asia, I think the biggest worry is Indonesia where numbers are beginning to rise while the country faces strong economic pressure to reopen.

A key question is transparency. The more you test the more you find cases. So we look at testing rates as an indicator. In Singapore, we have good testing for a small population. As testing increased in dorms for migrant workers, this caused our numbers to really jump. It was just last week that Indonesia overtook us as having the most cases – and we have to ask why did it take that long? Basically, many countries are not testing enough. When they do test, it is for confirmed cases and not more generally – and the number of tests per million is very low. So from the reported numbers, the situation may look acceptable, but no one can be quite sure.

The current question is how to ease up the restrictions to restart the economy and allow travel across borders. There are worries about importing cases and all countries have at least temporarily closed off tourism, which are important parts of their economies. In the pipeline, I think green lanes for business are possible. But there will continue to be concerns about large numbers of tourists unless easy and reliable testing and (ideally) vaccines are ready. So we will have to figure out how to manage borders – allowing transport of workers as well as goods and services – to restart our economies and manage our integration and supply chains in an increasingly interdependent region.

One of the things we have learned is we have to be open to help from outside and cooperation is critical. In early February we first had a China-ASEAN meeting on how to deal with the virus and it was just China, but then we had an ASEAN Summit and this was notable in bringing in Japan and Korea – two countries that have the industry and technology needed to help. Now some of us are advocating Australia and New Zealand also need to be added as well. If we address the pandemic together – we have a much better chance of containing and dealing with it. Harmonizing our approaches to treatment and travel is important. Multilateral dialogue and cooperation are essential and world leaders should encourage talk rather than just closing borders.

India also represents a major economy that borders ASEAN and has traditionally had a major impact though often gets overlooked given the attention paid to China. What is your view on India as a regional and global player and how important is its economy to the development of ASEAN and how should companies be approaching this important market? Additionally, any thoughts on current tensions between India and China?

Last year before the pandemic we had the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions which could potentially not only open up India but bring India more into the region as a major global manufacturer and supplier – much as China embarked on that path decades ago. RCEP’s importance rose after the US withdrew from TPP negotiations, and aimed to bring together all ASEAN members and our key trading partners — including India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. But it seems the Indians didn’t like that vision or thought the costs of opening up their market were too high and walked away.

They thought they could scupper the whole initiative, but ASEAN has decided to go ahead without them. That was not our hope and it would have been much better to include them, but we were not going to let India veto RCEP, and it will now proceed, aiming to conclude by the end of 2020. I always tell my Indian friends we have to move – particularly now with the pandemic – and they would be advised to jump on board.

India has tremendous potential and their size and promise will always be there – but it is a bit like a giant universe operating by itself – cut off from the outside. That is sad as there are some really top-class Indian companies that can more than compete in the region. But India as a whole has not really been fully engaged. The politics are complicated – and while Singapore remains great friends of India – it remains to be seen if a path forward can be found. If Prime Minister Modi with all the support he enjoys is not willing to open up, how and when will it happen? Compound that with the pandemic and a lack of desire to integrate, and my fear is India will miss the boat.

For Indonesia, the largest country in ASEAN, it’s different. They know investors are questioning reliance on China because of costs and Sino-American conflict and are working to catch the attention to join global chains and attract more investment to create more and better paying industrial jobs. They are trying but it won’t be easy. China has retained many supply chains, and many that moved decided to go to Vietnam.  One Indonesian minister I know quite well is working hard to attract jobs and promote innovation and some companies are moving to base there. The minister told me his scorecard is based on an ability to attract foreign investors and industry. It will be difficult, but it is good they are trying. India, however, has mostly been sitting on the sidelines and it may only get harder over time.

Singapore is one of the world’s great success stories and has become a preferred destination to establish businesses and operate for companies in a wide range of sectors, including as a world financial center. For many years we operated our own company there as a base for activities in Myanmar, Indonesia and other ASEAN markets which lacked the same level of infrastructure, governance and services. Does the Singapore model hold, and what changes need to be made, as neighboring countries develop? Can you tell us about current Singapore initiatives, the upcoming election and the “bubbles” that are being created for business, travel and trade?

Singapore understands we serve as a hub for the region and if we cut ourselves off due to the pandemic and health reasons, we will find ourselves in a bubble that does not have enough air for all of us. You can live your life that way if you need to, but resources become scarce and it will not be much of a life. So we have to reopen, and all small economies face similar issues. New Zealand for example is further away but faces similar decisions.

That is why we talk about green lanes and bubbles. We need to start but in a controlled way with trusted partners. In the past, we were wide open. When you entered Changi Airport, even before you got to the doors, they opened wide. There was seldom a line and often no one even checked your luggage. Now, while I have not been there in five months, I imagine the scanners are working overtime. You need to show a health certificate and the process is much more cautious and guarded.

My analogy is that we have gone from an automatic door and seamless travel to a situation that requires a special pass and perhaps a key before you will be able to pass. Safety concerns are a priority. But for Singapore, the important thing is the doors need to remain open even if there are more checks and verifications to ensure adequate safety and easy passage. Singapore is committed to that. The government just formed a new public-private partnership called the “Emerging Stronger Task Force”. This will gather ideas on how to develop new processes and procedures to get better ideas on Singapore’s economic strengths, and how to move forward into the “new normal” in the wake of the pandemic.

It won’t be easy. But when I look back, there is reason to believe we can rise to the challenges. Singapore came out stronger from the Asian financial crisis and we are determined to do that again. That was true after the global financial crisis as well. If we get it right, Singapore can come out stronger this time as well. Of course, we could get it wrong and have made mistakes along the way;  two recoveries do not automatically translate into a third so we have to be careful not to have hubris and to work hard and innovate to succeed.

As you know we have been active and involved with Myanmar’s development for many decades, and one of the more interesting developments – at least in terms of Singapore – are long term plans to develop deep seaports in Kyauphyu, which would provide a land route into China. This initiative would allow shippers to bypass the Straits of Malacca and the Port of Singapore which has long dominated trade in the region. How do you view Myanmar’s prospects and the potential of these projects?

Do we see other ports in the region as a direct threat to Singapore? The answer is no. We think win-win. Our ports are busy and before the pandemic operated almost at full capacity. If Asia continues to grow, the volume of traffic will grow even more. The PSA has been expanding internationally to places in the region and beyond. Moreover, within Singapore land is very valuable and there is a plan to create a new mega port named Tuas in the north of the island. The current site of one port is very close to the city and is such valuable land that, rather than stacking containers, far more value can be realized if it is used for real estate and infrastructure development. So while we do want Singapore to continue as a major port, this means that we welcome and want to participate in growth across the region.

As for Myanmar more generally, we are very encouraged and remain positive. We would love to see them come up like Vietnam. As mentioned, there are several Singaporean industrial parks there and while there are none are as yet in Myanmar – we have very good relationships there and see lots of potential. Many people from Myanmar received their education and training in Singapore and many Myanmar companies rely on Singapore for banking, legal and financial services. So there are extensive people-people relationships and we want to help and be part of their development. Also, two of the most active banks in Myanmar, UOB and OCBC are from Singapore and as Myanmar opens up and liberalizes they are seeking to increase their presence.

Thank you Simon for your time and attention. Look forward to speaking again soon!

_______________________________________________________________

Keith Rabin serves as President at KWR International, Inc., a global consulting firm specializing in international market entry; trade, business, investment and economic development; site location, as well as research and public relations/ public affairs services for a wide range of corporate and government clients.

businesses

Five Ways Businesses Changed Their Daily Operations for Good

The future is arriving quickly. There’s already been talk about how COVID-19 has accelerated automation, and some jobs will be changed if they come back at all. There’s no doubt the recent pandemic is shaping how we do business, from restaurants and retail spaces to even how we manufacture goods. And with many states reopening in phases, or just outright reopening, what does “getting back to business” look like as we forge ahead?

The supply chain gets a wakeup call

During the pandemic, shortages of masks and hand sanitizer rocked many supermarkets like Walmart and Costco. With such a quick spike, and having such a large gap to fill in the supply chain, distilleries stepped in with safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Clothing companies engineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials. Auto manufacturers teamed up to help produce ventilators. The list goes on.

One of the biggest attributes many companies needed to stay successful and stay in business? Flexibility. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, businesses had to figure things out overnight. That included a new way to make goods that people desperately needed.

The upside? Now you can see hand sanitizer in repurposed liquor bottles at many grocery stores across the U.S.

But all of this was a symptom of a larger issue.

“Early on, much of the economic impact that companies in the U.S. experienced were related to supply-side disruption due to shutdowns in other countries,” said Thomas Hartland-Mackie, President & CEO of City Electric Supply. “This pandemic has highlighted the danger of over-relying on a single manufacturing hub as well as a need to diversify sources to include local or domestic suppliers.”

With global trade, a smooth-functioning supply chain doesn’t exactly impact manufacturing. That is, until it gets rocky.

As a few supplies, like masks and hand sanitizers, reached mass critical demand all around the world, they plunged in availability. Hospitals, frontline workers, and more were left without protective gear required to safely do their jobs.

At the time, when these supplies were almost impossible to locate, domestic-made products were a necessity. They were easier to source and easier to ship when time was more important than ever. This could be the wakeup call manufacturing needs to move a little closer to home instead of relying on centralized factories on the other side of the world to fill gaps in the supply chain.

With this catastrophe still fresh in the minds of many businesses and governments, various shock scenarios will have to be considered more heavily to help rebuild the supply chain for a more resilient future.

Staying connected

The businesses that figured out how to stay connected with their customers, whether they were operating in a limited capacity or having to put business on hold completely, were the ones that added to their digital currency. But for most small businesses, digital currency could only take them so far. That meant developing alternative revenue streams to help them stay afloat, even if they were designated as essential businesses.

Restaurants and bars regularly teamed up with delivery services to help them maintain some cash flow during the lean months, including online ordering and curbside pickup. Personal trainers and fitness studios went digital with their classes to help keep their clients working out and to help keep their brand top of mind.

Other companies went a step further and identified gaps in the supply chain to fulfill in meaningful ways. As we mentioned before, distilleries helped make safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and clothing companies reengineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials.

All of this helped these businesses either keep cash flowing into the business, or at the very least, kept them in the minds of their customers long enough until they could reopen. From creative online solutions that let them continue operating to doubling down on marketing efforts to keep in touch virtually, the ones that stayed flexible and stayed connected weathered the pandemic better than others.

But also, what about the flood of statements from companies preaching togetherness in the first few weeks of the pandemic? Did that help customers feel more connected to their favorite businesses? Hartland-Mackie certainly thinks so.

“We’ve all heard those jokes about how people are receiving too many long emails from businesses explaining what they’re doing in response to COVID-19, but the reality is that customers appreciate it,” said Hartland-Mackie. “Customers want to hear from the companies they are loyal to and be reassured – as long as it is authentic – that businesses have their customers in mind as they make decisions.”

Remote work is not remote

Working in offices could be a thing of the past. Already high-profile companies like Twitter have announced indefinite work-from-home plans for their employees, and more will probably follow their lead. In an age of digital nomads, this could be a huge selling point for attracting talented workers.

When the pandemic first started, many companies had to figure out how to work 100% digitally practically overnight. This involved utilizing web-based communication programs like Skype, Zoom, and Slack to ensure teams were in constant communication with each other when it mattered most. Now, with some offices opening back up, some employees could be receiving more lenient work from home policies, or, at the very least, there may be less face-to-face meetings in the workplace.

Another huge benefit to remote working becoming more commonplace? (Aside from less meetings, of course.) Embracing the all-digital transformation can boost productivity. Now with a lot of the same information freely available for employees to do their job, there should be less presentations sharing known information across the company. Now, only vital information can be created and shared, freeing up more resources to resolve the most critical issues at hand along with more focused daily agendas.

It’s not delivery, it’s curbside pickup

Well, it’s a little bit of both. For essential businesses that couldn’t take advantage of “contactless” delivery, the next best bet was curbside pickup.

“As a federally designated essential business, City Electric Supply branches have stayed open, but we needed to provide ways to keep customers and employees as safe as possible. We began offering curbside pickup and it’s been so successful that we’ve received feedback from customers asking us to continue it as an ongoing service,” Hartland-Mackie said.

What was once seen as an added-value service was the main way for many businesses to maintain cash flow when customers were no longer allowed inside. And with the latest reopening efforts, some customers are still opting for curbside pickup in lieu of shopping themselves.

With how convenient curbside pickup is for keeping in-store capacity low — and for saving the time of customers who no longer have to spend time shopping or even getting out of their vehicles — this could soon be the new normal for many businesses.

Temperature checks

Whether or not customers should receive temperature checks has been up for some debate, but temperature checks of employees are being implemented in almost all states in various industries, including food service and healthcare. Even though workers could be asymptomatic, it still helps cut down on cases progressing to severe stages and worsening infection rates.

This has also had a snowball effect on various other issues related to work policies, from sick leave to hazard pay. Most employers are erring on the side of caution, allowing employees to stay home if they or someone they come into regular contact with have health issues that put them at risk of infection.

With daily operations coming under such a heavy microscope, this means that even employers are examining how existing sick policies have hurt more than helped. If more lenient and flexible policies have not already been put in place, expect it to happen as phased reopening progresses.

_________________________________________________________

Brad McElory is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply

post-pandemic

Four Post-Pandemic Technology Solutions for the New Normal

Currently, organizations around the world are strategizing ways to return their workforces to being back in-office and other places of work, as the world begins to re-open post-pandemic. Guidelines and protocols issued by federal, state, and local agencies will be key drivers of what the new normal looks like in a corporate setting. From staggered groups of employees allowed in the office each day, to thermal screenings and the end of communal or high-touch areas, businesses will need to have flexible return to work plans in place that allow for social distancing and reduce the risk spreading COVID-19.

The new reality is that workplace environments will be anything but “normal.” Organizations will operate with reduced in-office staff, manage both remote and in-office team members and combat economic slowdown by reducing spending and optimizing resources. The democratization of technology is essential to accommodating this new post-COVID business environment. While overall budgets will decrease, technology spending will increase.

Here are four technology solutions that will help enterprises navigate and operate in a new reality:

1. Automation Solutions

Business process automation has become a strategic enabler of business agility for present-day organizations, from helping to speed up business processes and reduce errors, to eliminating repetitive work. Specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) has quickly become an essential tool that an increasing number of CIOs are utilizing across their organizations. Through RPA, mid- to large-sized enterprises can configure a “robot” to deal with various interrelated processes, to unify and streamline day-to-day work internally. The right RPA tools can not only save reduce staffing costs and human error, but also streamline communication, improve management and retain customers.

2. Chatbots

As social distancing and a global remote workforce are the new normal during these unprecedented times, it’s helpful to boost collaboration and productive engagement across an organization’s remote teams through chatbots. Chatbots help reduce the load on the technical support team and cut operational costs. Furthermore, they offer a progressive avenue for marketing and sales departments to streamline customer and client communications, ultimately improving sales and customer services. In a time of a pandemic, combined with the increasing number of remote workers, the adoption and implementation of chatbots will only continue to grow.

3. Communication and Collaboration Platforms

Communication and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, and others help bridge the gap between physical presence and remote collaboration. With the new social distancing guidelines and protocols, a combination of virtual and in-person work environments will be essential to ensuring business continuity across an enterprise. Whether an employee is in-office or remote, a robust communication and collaboration platform ensures they can take and access their work anywhere. It enables employees to give optimal output, while also minimizing the physical disruptions caused by COVID-19.

4. Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Hybrid cloud infrastructures have changed the way enterprises store, access and exchange data. In the wake of the global pandemic, it will tremendously alter the landscape of corporate environments. Hybrid cloud is a computing environment that uses a combination of private cloud and public cloud services. Organizations can achieve the perfect equilibrium between private and public clouds by leveraging both platforms to run critical workloads. This architecture provides businesses greater flexibility and more data deployment options when working with a reduced workforce.

As a result of the business impacts that COVID-19 has had on the business world, a new wave of technological innovation is sweeping across the industry to help transform various aspects of business. As organizations look to combat an economic depression, they will need to implement technology solutions to “get the job done” with the limited staff they have on hand. Therefore, tools and platforms that allow employees to perform tasks without any high-level coding or professional development skills will be high in demand. Automation solutions, chatbots, communication platforms, and hybrid cloud infrastructures will provide the businesses of tomorrow the ability and flexibility to operate successfully and competitively in a post-pandemic “new normal.”

___________________________________________________________

Ajay Kaul is a visionary leader and a trendsetter. As managing partner of AgreeYa Solutions, he has been instrumental in leading the company through solid growth and international expansion for the past 20 years. Kaul has three decades of experience in building powerful and innovative solutions for businesses across various industries and verticals. His expertise and knowledge expand across enterprise sales management, marketing and strategy, global delivery, and mergers and acquisitions.

canned food

The EU Canned Food Market Picks Up the Momentum

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘EU – Canned Food – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

After two years of decline, the EU canned food market increased by 3.6% to $7.7B in 2019. Over the period under review, consumption, however, continues to indicate a mild downturn. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2016 when the market value increased by 7.7% against the previous year. The level of consumption peaked at $8.9B in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2019, consumption remained at a lower figure.

Consumption by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of canned food consumption in 2019 were Germany (445K tonnes), France (380K tonnes) and the UK (357K tonnes), together accounting for 50% of total consumption. These countries were followed by Spain, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, which together accounted for a further 31%.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of canned food consumption, amongst the leading consuming countries, was attained by Ireland, while canned food consumption for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest canned food markets in the European Union were Germany ($1.5B), France ($1.3B) and Ireland ($1.2B), with a combined 52% share of the total market.

In 2019, the highest levels of canned food per capita consumption was registered in Ireland (40 kg per person), followed by the Netherlands (9.33 kg per person), France (5.78 kg per person) and Germany (5.43 kg per person), while the world average per capita consumption of canned food was estimated at 4.65 kg per person.

Market Forecast 2019-2030

Driven by rising demand for canned food in the European Union, the market is expected to start an upward consumption trend over the next decade. The performance of the market is forecast to increase slightly, with an anticipated CAGR of +0.2% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 2.4M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production in the EU

After two years of decline, production of canned food increased by 2.9% to 3M tonnes in 2019. In general, production continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2016 when the production volume increased by 15% year-to-year. As a result, production reached the peak volume of 3M tonnes; afterwards, it flattened through to 2019.

In value terms, canned food production stood at $11.2B in 2019 estimated in export prices. Overall, production saw a relatively flat trend pattern. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2016 when the production volume increased by 12% year-to-year. The level of production peaked in 2019 and is expected to retain growth in years to come.

Production by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of canned food production in 2019 were France (510K tonnes), Germany (462K tonnes) and Spain (382K tonnes), together comprising 46% of total production. These countries were followed by the Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, Poland and Italy, which together accounted for a further 41%.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of canned food production, amongst the leading producing countries, was attained by Ireland, while canned food production for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Exports in the EU

In 2019, exports of canned food in the European Union expanded to 1.6M tonnes, with an increase of 3.5% on the previous year’s figure. Total exports indicated a temperate expansion from 2007 to 2019: its volume increased at an average annual rate of +4.8% over the last twelve-year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2019 figures, exports increased by +59.8% against 2010 indices. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2008 when exports increased by 16% y-o-y. The volume of export peaked in 2019 and is likely to see gradual growth in the near future.

In value terms, canned food exports rose to $9.1B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. Overall, exports posted a buoyant increase. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2008 with an increase of 28% year-to-year. Over the period under review, exports hit record highs in 2019 and are likely to continue growth in the immediate term.

Exports by Country

The biggest shipments were from the Netherlands (313K tonnes), France (228K tonnes), Spain (221K tonnes), Germany (165K tonnes), Ireland (150K tonnes) and Poland (137K tonnes), together amounting to 76% of total export. Italy (58K tonnes), Denmark (48K tonnes), Belgium (46K tonnes), the UK (36K tonnes) and Austria (28K tonnes) took a minor share of total exports.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of shipments, amongst the main exporting countries, was attained by Spain, while exports for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the Netherlands ($3.2B) remains the largest canned food supplier in the European Union, comprising 35% of total exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by France ($1.3B), with a 15% share of total exports. It was followed by Ireland, with a 11% share.

From 2007 to 2019, the average annual growth rate of value in the Netherlands stood at +15.4%. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: France (+7.9% per year) and Ireland (+2.4% per year).

Export Prices by Country

The canned food export price in the European Union stood at $5,724 per tonne in 2019, remaining stable against the previous year. Over the last twelve years, it increased at an average annual rate of +3.1%. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2008 when the export price increased by 10% against the previous year. Over the period under review, export prices attained the maximum in 2019 and is expected to retain growth in the immediate term.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was the Netherlands ($10,124 per tonne), while Spain ($2,617 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by the Netherlands, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Imports in the EU

In 2019, approx. 1M tonnes of canned food were imported in the European Union; increasing by 6.2% in 2018. The total import volume increased at an average annual rate of +3.1% over the period from 2007 to 2019; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Over the period under review, imports attained the peak figure in 2019 and are expected to retain growth in years to come.

In value terms, canned food imports reached $3.5B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. The total import value increased at an average annual rate of +3.7% over the period from 2007 to 2019; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded in certain years.

Imports by Country

The UK (151K tonnes), Germany (149K tonnes), the Netherlands (122K tonnes), France (98K tonnes), Italy (75K tonnes) and Belgium (75K tonnes) represented roughly 66% of total imports of canned food in 2019. The following importers – Spain (44K tonnes), Ireland (43K tonnes), Sweden (42K tonnes), Poland (39K tonnes), Austria (26K tonnes) and the Czech Republic (23K tonnes) – together made up 22% of total imports.

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Germany, while purchases for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest canned food importing markets in the European Union were Germany ($602M), the UK ($529M) and the Netherlands ($432M), with a combined 44% share of total imports.

Germany recorded the highest growth rate of the value of imports, among the main importing countries over the period under review, while purchases for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Import Prices by Country

In 2019, the canned food import price in the European Union amounted to $3,500 per tonne, which is down by -3.9% against the previous year. Overall, the import price, however, showed a relatively flat trend pattern. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2008 when the import price increased by 7.1% year-to-year. The level of import peaked at $3,673 per tonne in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2019, import prices remained at a lower figure.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of destination; the country with the highest price was Austria ($4,650 per tonne), while Belgium ($2,162 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by France, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

education

IS THERE A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR TRADE IN EDUCATION?

American University Blues

The arrival of COVID-19 sent students packing mid-semester as many universities continue to mull over options for restarting in-person classes in the fall. Many international students who had returned home for the spring break were unable to return to the United States to finish out their studies.

Travel restrictions and changing student visa rules will have international applicants questioning whether to pursue studies abroad. Universities are working to increase their capabilities to deliver courses virtually but online classes may be less attractive when part of the allure and prestige of American universities is associated with the campus experience. Prospective foreign students may also decline to enroll if they cannot network to secure post-degree employment in the United States.

This is happening against a backdrop of declining new enrollment in American universities by foreign students after a decade-long boom. New international student enrollment has decreased year on year since the 2016/2017 academic year, though the overall number of international students in the United States has increased as more students take advantage of Optional Practical Training, which allows them to stay under their student visa to work for one year.

Education as an Export for International Students

During the 2017/2018 academic year, American educational institutions hosted over one million students. When foreign students come to the United States to study, those institutions are exporting their educational services. Perhaps surprisingly, educational service exports ranked 5th among all U.S. services exports, valued at $45.3 billion in 2018, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Services trade can be described as supplied in one or more of four ways: the service itself travels over a border but the provider and consumer remain in their home countries; the consumer travels across a border to receive a service; the provider establishes a commercial presence in another country to provide the service; and/or, the service provider travels to another country to provide the service.

Educational services – to varying degrees – are being provided today in all four of these ways. Of course, the most traditional approach is for students to enroll and travel to attend classes in educational institutions abroad for a semester, a year or for a full degree. To a lesser extent, professors may travel to campuses overseas to teach in residence.

As communications technologies improve and become more widely used, virtual education is increasing in popularity. Think: distance learning, corporate training online and expansion of educational software and platforms. Lastly, it has become much more popular in recent years for large universities to open satellite campuses overseas.

Limited Trade Commitments

In the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), members have taken commitments to create more market access, enabling the expansion of global educational exports. However, education services still rank among the least committed of all sectors subject to GATS coverage (after audio-visual and energy services).

WTO members are not required to make any commitments to liberalize their markets for educational services and GATS provides exemptions for members to avoid commitments where services are supplied “in the exercise of governmental authority,” or in other words, providing a public service. Furthermore, where educational services are covered in a country’s commitments, they may maintain some limitations on foreign investment, or set limits on the number of service suppliers, on the total value of service transactions or assets, or other types of limitations such as ensuring that quality standards are maintained.

U.S. is Still Top Destination

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that 8 million students will be studying abroad by 2025.

The United States has long held the number one spot for students seeking an international education. According to the Institute of International Education’s 2019 Open Doors Report, the United States played host to over 30,000 students per year during the 1950s. By the late 1990s, that number reached 500,000 and reached an all-time high of 1,095,299 students in the 2018/2019 academic year, including undergraduates, graduate-level students, and students undertaking a one- or two-year post-graduation experience under their student visa.

The U.S. education system attracts students from virtually every country of the world. China sends the most students to the United States by far. India is a not-so-close second.
As a percentage of total students in higher education, however, the United States has relatively fewer international students than many other countries, at only 5.5 percent. By comparison, Australia’s average foreign student body is 28.0 percent, Canada’s 21.4 percent, the U.K.’s 20.9 percent, France’s 12.8 percent, and Russia’s 8.6 percent.

The Foreign Student Premium

It pays for universities and governments to attract international students. Aside from the cultural value, diversity of perspectives and ideas they bring, international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion in revenue and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018/19 academic year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

International students in the United States, as well as in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, pay on average double the tuition fees paid by domestic students. In the United States, this is largely due to the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public universities, but in other countries, international students are charged separate – often much higher – tuition rates.

In addition to padding university budgets, international students bring additional spending to local shops and restaurants, and tend to travel in their host country, helping to support jobs in the community and through tourism. For example, NAFSA found that international students in the top two enrolling states, California and New York, contributed $6.8 billion and $5.3 billion to each state’s economy, and supported 74,814 and 59,586 jobs, respectively.

Graduating to the Next Level?

Educational service exports are facing some serious headwinds. If schools want to keep hold of the huge benefits international students bring, they must incentivize new student enrollment and ensure safe returns to campus. One country doing just that is Australia, which is trialing a pilot scheme to gradually reintroduce international students, whose presence in the country supports 259,000 jobs.

In addition to delivering their educational services on campus, the global health pandemic is forcing universities to adapt and innovate to deliver education online. The mainstreaming of distance learning may also create opportunities for more providers to offer educational services across international borders. We’re all learning in this new environment.

__________________________________________________________

Alice Calder received her MA in Applied Economics at GMU. Originally from the UK, where she received her BA in Philosophy and Political Economy from the University of Exeter, living and working internationally sparked her interest in trade issues as well as the intersection of economics and culture.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.
risk mitigation strategies

Moving Past COVID-19: Risk Mitigation Strategies to Drive Supply Chain Resilience

As the world begins to ease movement restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are wondering where they go from here and how they can reduce risks moving forward.

These questions are especially relevant to supply chains, as the pandemic disrupted trade flows across borders, from raw materials to finished products. The initial decline in production in China rippled across the world, as the country sits at the heart of many global manufacturing networks. As the virus spread west, more nations instituted lockdowns to protect public health, leading to an increase in factory closures and a sudden drop in consumer demand.

The shock to the global economy was breathtaking in both scope and speed. The search for efficiencies within disrupted supply chains is now driving organizations to look at the lessons that can be learned, in order to better manage and mitigate risk of disruption from future events.

Before you develop risk mitigation strategies, you have to first understand how your suppliers were affected by the pandemic. Are they considered essential? Did they have trouble sourcing raw materials or run low on critical inventory? Did they suffer a shortage of labor due to workers falling sick? Did they face transportation issues?

Once these questions have been answered, then you can start developing and implementing risk mitigation strategies: from immediate actions to enhance supply chain resilience and reduce future supply bottlenecks, to longer-term strategies that require a greater investment of time and resources.

Short- to Medium-Term Strategies

1. Develop a supply chain risk monitoring program

If not already in place, companies should integrate risk management into their supply chain, sourcing strategies and ongoing category management processes. A comprehensive risk monitoring framework should capture the following key elements:

-Understanding the critical risk-prone categories and level of risk across the supply chain

-Regular monitoring of different risk types across suppliers – going beyond just financial indicators, to cover operational, compliance, strategic and geographic risks

-Scenario and contingency planning for unforeseen situations

2. Identity alternative logistics partners for future contingencies

Companies trying to recover from economic lockdowns will face hurdles in shipping markets roiled by deep capacity cuts and weeks of disruption. Airfreight could be constrained for months as airlines continue to operate reduced schedules. Identify and qualify alternative logistics providers to mitigate service failures by an existing partner.

3. Shift supplier base to other low-cost countries

The drop in exports from China in the first quarter led to a significant increase in sourcing from other countries for many product categories. American and European manufacturers started sourcing raw materials and goods from low-cost countries such as India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Turkey. A diversified geographical sourcing strategy is an effective way to ensure supply chain continuity. Larger companies are leading the charge in this respect: Apple, for example, recently pledged to invest more in Vietnam.

4. Adequate focus on ensuring compliance with new regulatory norms

Companies need to assess new regulations put in place by regulatory bodies across the globe, and identify those that impact their supply chains, manufacturing processes or end products. Dedicating time and resources to reviewing and adapting existing procedures will be critical to ensure compliance with the latest requirements.

Long-Term Strategies

1. Implement a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) model for uninterrupted supply

COVID-19 has affected many e-commerce businesses as well as how consumers shop. Brands need to be agile and able to move at speed to find and meet demand. Many B2C businesses (and their partners) are pivoting to a direct-to-consumer model because it helps strengthen brand loyalty and increase consumer confidence in terms of certainty and guaranteed supply of goods and products.

2. Develop alternative supply chains

Developing new supply chains in collaboration with respective governments can ensure faster delivery of key raw materials. Further, to avoid supply chain disruptions arising from factory shutdowns in the future, companies can develop a manufacturing network strategy that leverages government economic development programs that encourage domestic production.

3. Consider supply chain digitalization supported by automation

The coronavirus crisis may be a tipping point in the transition to digital platforms and applications that help establish an interconnected network of supply chain components. In a digital supply chain, every activity is able to interact with one another, allowing for greater connectivity between areas that previously did not exist.

Investment in technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and Internet of Things can help companies gain real-time visibility, better manage inventories, improve logistics tracking and make better-informed decisions. These alternatives to often error-prone ERP systems and manual spreadsheets can help businesses predict disruptions and design actionable mitigation strategies.

4. Adopt robust demand planning practices

Traditional planning tries to match demand with supply for the next 30 days. The problem with this process is that a lot of things can change in a month, or even a week. Today’s fast-moving markets require more forward-looking planning to correctly determine demand for future production and identify potential material and manufacturing capacity shortages. Companies should also invest in strengthening their online presence, and focus on quality assurance and delivery timelines, as more and more customers become reliant on e-commerce channels.

Outlook for the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant effects on international supply chains. Going forward, the crisis is likely to give further impetus to trends already underway. More companies are seeking to leverage their production plants outside China or are planning to build production in new locations. The shift to online shopping will accelerate, putting more pressure on companies to meet expectations in an on-demand economy.

When planning ahead, timely, relevant market intelligence is fundamental to making complex decisions and embedding long-term strategies.

Access to timely, relevant market intelligence, conducting the right analysis and asking the right questions now, will provide the opportunity to build a robust, agile procurement strategy that minimizes risk and safeguards business continuity, without sacrificing profitability.

__________________________________________________

Tavleen Kaur and P Vijay are Research Managers at The Smart Cube

polyethylene

Turkey Ranks As the Largest Market for Imported Polyethylene in the Middle East, with $1B in 2018

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Middle East – Polyethylene – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends And Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Polyethylene Exports in the Middle East

The exports totaled 7.8M tonnes in 2018, rising by 27% against the previous year. The total export volume increased at an average annual rate of +7.3% from 2013 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded over the period under review.

In value terms, polyethylene exports amounted to $8.8B (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Exports by Country

Saudi Arabia was the key exporter of polyethylene in the Middle East, with the volume of exports recording 4.8M tonnes, which was approx. 61% of total exports in 2018. Iran (1,086K tonnes) ranks second in terms of the total exports with a 14% share, followed by Qatar (13%) and the United Arab Emirates (8.1%). Kuwait (167K tonnes) took a relatively small share of total exports.

Exports from Saudi Arabia increased at an average annual rate of +8.4% from 2013 to 2018. At the same time, the United Arab Emirates (+20.0%) and Iran (+13.6%) displayed outstripping paces of growth. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates emerged as the fastest-growing exporter exported in the Middle East, with a CAGR of +20.0% from 2013-2018. Qatar experienced a relatively flat trend pattern. By contrast, Kuwait (-8.9%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. While the share of Saudi Arabia (+20 p.p.), Iran (+6.6 p.p.) and the United Arab Emirates (+4.8 p.p.) increased significantly, the shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

In value terms, Saudi Arabia ($5.2B) remains the largest polyethylene supplier in the Middle East, comprising 59% of total polyethylene exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Iran ($1.2B), with a 14% share of total exports. It was followed by Qatar, with a 14% share.

In Saudi Arabia, polyethylene exports expanded at an average annual rate of +5.1% over the period from 2013-2018. The remaining exporting countries recorded the following average annual rates of exports growth: Iran (+7.9% per year) and Qatar (-5.1% per year).

Export Prices by Country

In 2018, the polyethylene export price in the Middle East amounted to $1,128 per tonne, waning by -9.6% against the previous year. Overall, the polyethylene export price continues to indicate a perceptible shrinkage. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2017 when the export price increased by 16% year-to-year. The level of export price peaked at $1,431 per tonne in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2018, export prices stood at a somewhat lower figure.

Average prices varied noticeably amongst the major exporting countries. In 2018, major exporting countries recorded the following prices: in the United Arab Emirates ($1,245 per tonne) and Qatar ($1,227 per tonne), while Saudi Arabia ($1,080 per tonne) and Kuwait ($1,144 per tonne) were amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Saudi Arabia, while the other leaders experienced a decline in the export price figures.

Polyethylene Imports in the Middle East

In 2018, the amount of polyethylene imported in the Middle East totaled 1.6M tonnes, jumping by 11% against the previous year. Over the period under review, polyethylene imports, however, continue to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern.

In value terms, polyethylene imports totaled $2.1B (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Imports by Country

Turkey was the main importer of polyethylene in the Middle East, with the volume of imports accounting for 803K tonnes, which was approx. 51% of total imports in 2018. The United Arab Emirates (271K tonnes) ranks second in terms of the total imports with a 17% share, followed by Jordan (7%), Israel (6.3%) and Lebanon (4.8%). The following importers – Saudi Arabia (63K tonnes) and Yemen (43K tonnes) – together made up 6.7% of total imports.

Imports into Turkey increased at an average annual rate of +5.3% from 2013 to 2018. At the same time, Jordan (+8.1%), Lebanon (+2.6%) and Yemen (+2.4%) displayed positive paces of growth. Moreover, Jordan emerged as the fastest-growing importer imported in the Middle East, with a CAGR of +8.1% from 2013-2018. By contrast, Israel (-3.0%), the United Arab Emirates (-6.7%) and Saudi Arabia (-11.7%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. While the share of Turkey (+12 p.p.) and Jordan (+2.2 p.p.) increased significantly in terms of the total imports from 2013-2018, the share of Saudi Arabia (-3.4 p.p.) and the United Arab Emirates (-7.1 p.p.) displayed negative dynamics. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

In value terms, Turkey ($1B) constitutes the largest market for imported polyethylene in the Middle East, comprising 49% of total polyethylene imports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by the United Arab Emirates ($362M), with a 17% share of total imports. It was followed by Israel, with a 6.8% share.

Import Prices by Country

The polyethylene import price in the Middle East stood at $1,315 per tonne in 2018, waning by -2.9% against the previous year.

Average prices varied somewhat amongst the major importing countries. In 2018, major importing countries recorded the following prices: in Saudi Arabia ($1,736 per tonne) and Israel ($1,412 per tonne), while Lebanon ($1,167 per tonne) and Jordan ($1,222 per tonne) were amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Saudi Arabia, while the other leaders experienced a decline in the import price figures.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

shipments

Best Ways to Keep Track of Your Freight Shipments

When shipments are late, so much becomes inconvenienced. Production stops, work gets backed up, further shipments are delayed. Then, the phone calls arrive with customers wanting to know the status. If you have ever had to ask “Where is my freight?” then, it’s time to learn about the best ways to keep track of it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options that are helpful for tracking freight from the moment it leaves the original location all the way to the final destination. Many of them are under your control. If you follow best practices and meet the needs of shipping company regulations, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about where your freight is, as it should arrive on time.

Tip #1: Accuracy Matters with Time and Cost

When you ship freight, the accuracy of the information improves your shipping speed. Your shipments need to have accurate measurements of length, width, height, and weight. If you have fractions, they should be rounded up.

When your measurements are inaccurate, the shipping company has to make adjustments which can be costly in both time and money. Shipping companies do not set their own freight weight regulations; the Department of Transportation does. Companies have to comply with the DOT rules. If you give the shipping company inaccurate dimensions, they have to make adjustments that could cause your shipment to be delayed.

Tip #2: Package Properly for Pallets

Another reason your items could be delayed is another one that is under your control. When you ship freight, you should expect that it will sit on a typical 40” x 48” pallet. Your best bet for timely shipping is to package your freight to fit on a standard pallet. If you cannot do that, then you should take time to talk to your freight company for the best advice. If the freight company has to take care of poorly packaged items, they are slowed.

Tip #3: Learn About AEI Tags

Shipping companies of all types rely on Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI) tags. These passive tags help shipping companies see where their rail cars and semi-trucks are when they are in transit. With various types of AEI readers, real-time information about the location of the freight cars and the items they are carrying can be shared with shipping companies and their customers. AEI tags can help you not only see where your freight is in real-time, but they can also provide you with alerts when the shipment is expected to be delayed.

Tip #4: Use a Transportation Management System

Freight or transportation management systems help you keep track of what you are shipping, where it is, and when it arrived. They are designed to create helpful reports in real-time, and they can help you manage all of your freight to optimize your business. Some systems can be connected with AEI readers to create timelines for arrivals and to show what is happening when shipments are delayed.

Tip #5: Put Your Smartphone to Use

Along with a transportation management system, mobile apps can help you track your freight. Businesses rely on apps that provide GPS tracking and confirmation. Delivery logs are helpful, too. Some freight companies offer their own branded, specific apps to follow shipments. Some apps even get down to fuel efficiency and how to save money that way. When you are able to see all the data regarding your freight and shipping, you will be able to save more money in the long run.

Tip #6: Know Where Your Freight is Going

Sometimes, when things go too well, it can be too good to be true. Imagine the freight that is packaged perfectly and arrives on time to the destination without any hitches along the way. But, once the freight arrives, no one is there to meet it and assist in unpacking. Then, there’s no loading dock. It is just as important to know where your freight is going, so there aren’t any unexpected delays at the arrival end.

Tip #7: Watch the Road Conditions

There are times and places where road conditions become impossible to maneuver. When the weather is bad or traffic is at a stand-still, freight companies cannot do anything about it. But, when they use apps or tracking software, you can find out where your freight is and realize the problem.

If you require shipments to arrive on time and weather could affect your production, then you should do what you can to plan your shipments in advance. For example, it can be tough to trust the road conditions in the northern United States in the middle of January. So, planning for delays should be part of your production design.