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Success in China: Market Opportunities & How to Get Started

China market

Success in China: Market Opportunities & How to Get Started

Are you an ambitious entrepreneur from the west seeking to expand to China? Or are you interested in opening a new business in China? If yes, this article is for you. We will explain the 5 most viable business openings in China today and the 5 most reliable tips on how to get started in this highly-competitive market. Please be our guest.

Which Viable Market Opportunities Can You Pursue in China?

As the affluent middle class continues to expand in China, solid economic transformations in the country are being realized day by day. The biggest beneficiaries of these transformations are multinational companies who have set up or are planning to open a shop in China. There are now bigger and better market opportunities to pursue, more advanced industries to invest in, and more tech-intensive manufacturing opportunities to consider. As a matter of fact, China now boasts of a 50% bigger manufacturing economy as compared to the USA.

If you are looking to tap into the continued increase in high value-added production, increased globalization of the service sector, as well as the increased outbound investment in China, these 5 market opportunities would be lucrative enough for you:

Healthcare

Rising wealth often comes with an increase in lifestyle diseases. An increase in manufacturing, on the other hand, brings forth many environmental concerns. These two factors have made the healthcare industry very lucrative in China. You will create a reliable cash cow if you could invest in a business that deals with herbal supplements or small health products- or a mainstream pharmaceutical company, so to speak. Also, the use of skincare products is on the rise in China. It’s best to set up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise for such operations.

Import and export trade

China is currently the largest exporter of tech goods and importer of processed foods globally. That means you can build a profitable importing and exporting business here in a heartbeat. 

Supplementary education

Many middle-class Chinese are keen on improving their English and expanding their knowledge of different aspects of business and politics. If you can offer them after-school private tutoring services, you will be making impressive annual returns on a consistent basis. Moreover, online tutorage is on the rise in China, which enables you to tutor more people in a more cost-effective way.

Food production

This goes without saying: Everyone needs food, everyone loves good food. And now that the middle-class in China is welcoming new entrants in huge numbers, there is a significant supply gap within this class for as long as the food is concerned. A rise in class obviously comes with a change in lifestyle, and food is at the center of every lifestyle. 

Mobile phones and accessories

The whole world has in the recent past turned to China for all its tech needs. The nation is the largest producer and importer of affordable mobile phones and accessories, meaning that a business in this industry would be extremely profitable.

What kind of structure to choose when expanding to China

IF you are considering expanding your business to China, establishing the right business structure is crucial. There are several types of business structures:

-Representative Office – allows foreign companies to open their offices in China and hire staff under their own legal entity. However, the offices are not allowed to perform any business, rather it is done by the parent company which is abroad. 

-Sales Office- this business structure enables foreign businesses to rent an office with a Chinese address for conducting business, without the necessity to establish a separate legal entity. All the activities and costs incurred in this office, are paid by the parent company.

-Foreign Invested Partnership- For this business entity, there is no need for minimum capital requirements. Depending on agreements, two or more investors can be joined and form this type of structure. 

-Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise- Through a wholly foreign-owned enterprise, two or more foreign partners can come together and establish the company which has the same liability as domestic companies. Moreover, it provides the owner with autonomous control and ownership. 

How to Get Started In China

As lucrative as China could be, many investors from the west talk about it with fear. Some of these foreign entrants tried and failed, or struggled to find their footing in this Asian economic giant. But what would render you unable to compete and survive here? For starters, the business environment here is too unforgiving and the competition too stiff for the faint-hearted. Also, cases of language barriers, cultural differences, and bureaucratic government regulations have led to the peril of many. 

In the middle of all these, how do you defy the odds and succeed in China? Here are 5 actionable tips on how to get started in China:

Don’t just translate your content for China; ensure that everything about your business is localized for China. 

It is important to understand and comply with all business regulations in China. The hiring process can be tricky to a new entrant, which necessitates the services of a Chinese recruitment agency. Such an agency will help you with all employment laws, privileges, and remuneration. 

Ensure that you understand and respect the cultural differences that exist between the west and the east. 

Never underestimate the power of customer opinion in China. Let the customer tell what their experience with your product is, respect their opinion, learn from your mistakes, and ensure that you find lasting solutions to all their concerns. 

As much as possible, try to work with a local partner in order to benefit from the many favors local entrepreneurs get from the government.

trade

Trade and the Impact on Imports and Exports in 2020

Significant and sustained increases in the world trade index (an index measuring the number of times the word uncertainty or its variants are mentioned in Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reports at a country level) should be a worry for many as “the increase in trade uncertainty observed in the first quarter could be enough to reduce global growth by up to 0.75 percentage points in 2019”[1]

In August, the US Institute for supply management[2] latest report shows a contraction in production, purchasing, and employment indices.

Ahir, H, N Bloom, and D Furceri (2019), “The global economy hit by higher uncertainty”, VoxEU.org. https://voxeu.org/article/trade-uncertainty-rising-and-can-harm-global-economy

 

Uncertainty generated from Brexit, the US-China trade war, Japan – South Korea trade wars, and general discontentment with global trend towards widening income inequality is creating a toxic mix for politicians to deal with. The irony is the conventional approach of blaming your trading partners for your problems is only likely to exacerbate a general lack of confidence and increase further uncertainty.

The current round of the G7 summit in Biarritz concluded with support “to overhaul the WTO to improve effectiveness with regard to intellectual property protection, to settle disputes more swiftly and to eliminate unfair trade practices.” In essence, it’s signaling a need to strengthen the capabilities of the WTO to act faster and more decisively in resolving disputes that are even more political than structural in nature, requiring a more multi-faceted engagement approach. Whilst this may help in the long-run, in reality, companies will have to contend with uncertainty in global trade for some time to come as well as the impacts on the real economy from these disputes.

And all of this is happening as IMO 2020 approaches, the January 1, 2020, date by which the International Maritime Organization mandates a switch to lower sulfur fuels in order to achieve an 80% reduction in sulfur emissions leading to significant cost increases in the shipping goods via ocean freight (initial estimates between 180USD – 420 USD per TEU dependent on routing, base fuel costs, carrier).

So given the significant uncertainty around global trade agreements, the increasing use of trade as a political football, the increasing costs to trade and the shortening of product lifecycles as customers want faster, newer more differentiated offerings. Is it still worth it?

Of course this is very much dependent on what industry you are in. Whether you’re a global manufacturer or a wholesaler sourcing goods, your perspectives may be different based on investments made, sensitivity to current trade/tariff measures, customer demands, your markets, and the degree to which you are exposed to political debate and targeting.

However, I would offer that the benefits of specialization, economies of scale and unique factors of production that have underpinned global trade still exist as Adam Smith put it in 1776:

“By means of glasses, hotbeds, and hot walls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine too can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgundy in Scotland?”[1]

Today this simple analogy still holds true in skills, competences, capabilities, and access to markets and insights so that over time the expectation is that trade will prevail.

While the recent outlook has been gloomy, opportunities for 2020 include a resolution to a number of ongoing disputes and a final settlement on Brexit (we hope). Additionally, the maturation in technologies such as blockchain, process automation, forecasting and demand management solutions can also offset costs associated with IMO and support greater agility in the uncertain supply-chain world that we currently live in.

Indeed, if 2019 was the year of trade uncertainty, 2020 could be a restorative year in our ability to execute global trade.

Partnering with an experienced supply chain leader will be essential to minimizing cost increases while ensuring the efficient flow of your company’s goods and services.

_____________________________________________________

[1] World Economic Forum:https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/07/how-trade-uncertainty-is-impacting-the-global-economy/

[2]https://www.instituteforsupplymanagement.org/ismreport/mfgrob.cfm?SSO=1

[3]Adam Smith: Wealth of nations 1776

Neil Wheeldon is the Vice Presidents Solutions, BDP International.

vietnam

Is Vietnam the Next China: Myth vs. Reality

The ongoing US-China trade war has brought a renewed urgency in recent months resulting in my crisscrossing this tiny nation from the northern capital of Hanoi to the country’s economic epicenter to the south, Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon, and every stop in between. Once viewed as an emerging market with potential, Vietnam today is considered the hottest “go-to” sourcing destination as supply chains uproot from China and President Trump and President Xi continue to work out their disagreements.

However, despite logging thousands of miles of travel and spending days upon days conducting factory audits in the remotest corners of the country, I’ve discovered Vietnam’s manufacturing industry and export products may not live up to the hype as China’s best alternative.

Myth #1: Vietnam manufacturing is on par with China.

One striking difference I noticed immediately is that Vietnam’s manufacturing is at least 10-15 years behind China. On my factory tours, I witnessed outdated machinery, lack of modern equipment and saw few signs of the latest supply chain best practices, including LEAN certification standards and supply chain manufacturing principles in action. In my daily research on vetting manufacturers, I consistently come across poorly designed websites- if I am lucky to find one at all, sales pages listing professional contacts using Gmail and Yahoo accounts, and often encounter few staff members who can converse or speak English well. These deficiencies contribute to the challenging task of sourcing products meeting global export standards.

Myth #2: Vietnam’s pricing is cheaper than China.  

With labor about one-third of China, the cost of living and land is much cheaper than its northern neighbor, many falsely believe that Vietnam-made products automatically translate into big savings.

There are three contributing factors:

1. In nearly every industry, Vietnam lacks quality raw materials and must import them from China, thereby, increasing costs

2.  As new foreign direct investments set record highs, industrial park land costs have increased dramatically to coincide with this boom

3. Manufacturers (well aware that the US-China trade war has put American buyers in a corner) have raised their prices accordingly.

These all contribute to the drowning out of any major cost savings. In my experience, several times North American buyers have responded that my Vietnam price offer is wildly off the mark and not competitive with their current China suppliers, China tariff included. 

Myth #3: In Vietnam, you can expect to find everything as in China.

In the world of manufacturing and supply chain, I constantly hear: “Just start sourcing from Vietnam.” That would be all fine and dandy assuming an apples to apples comparison, but Vietnam is anything but China. Over the past two decades, China has perfected their manufacturing and supply chains to the point of employing robotics and automation churning out sophisticated products by the millions. Just take a trip to the hugely popular Canton Fair or attend one of the hundreds of trade shows and expos throughout the year; you will find every product imaginable, in every variant and color, too.

Furthermore, China has the most up-to-date and modern infrastructure—from container ports, highways, railways, and warehouses—to deliver goods globally. In contrast, Vietnam only in recent years has started to emerge onto the manufacturing scene, known mostly for light furniture, textiles, sewing, and electronics parts. 

Exasperated by the US-China trade war, Vietnam’s manufacturing industry has been red hot, however, it’s not an equivalent replacement for China. Buyers can expect less-than-stellar quality products and choices than what China offers, met with challenging business practices and frustration due to the lack of manufacturing transparency, data, and information. While Vietnam might be a manufacturing dream destination for many of your gains, it might be just that in the end: a pipe dream. 

business

Why these Elite Lone Star State Cities are Right for Your Business

When it comes to site selection, there are a lot of big choices to be made. From locating a city with a business-friendly environment to selecting the perfect site to build your business, it can be hard to find a place that has everything you need if you go it alone. But that’s not a problem when you “Choose Texas.” The Choose Texas program wants to help you make the easiest choice you’ll ever make: to choose to relocate or expand in the Lone Star State.

The Choose Texas program helps new or expanding businesses looking to relocate in the state by introducing them to cities or towns that match their individual needs. Always free for businesses, the Choose Texas program can help with locating incentives, finding properties and getting valuable facetime with local economic development professionals. For more than 25 years, the team at Choose Texas has been helping new and expanding businesses relocate to Texas, all the while helping grow the economy within the state. 

Whether you’re already considering a move to Texas or are just beginning your site selection journey, these Texas communities are eager to tell you why Choosing Texas is right for your business.

CENTRAL TEXAS

Belton

Located along the I-35 corridor between Waco and Austin, Belton has a population of just under 22,000 and access to a regional population of over 450,000. With current major industries that include military, government, manufacturing, retail, agriculture and medical, the Belton area boasts a young, skilled workforce that is perfect for shift and part-time labor. Belton is also close to Fort Hood, the largest U.S. Army training post in the country, with more than 900 retiring soldiers each month—many of whom elect to remain in the Belton area after discharge.

Ana Borchardt, director of Business Expansion and Retention for the Belton Economic Development Corp., cites the hospitable climate in Texas among the many things that make it prime for incoming businesses. “In most parts of the state, the climate allows for higher productivity, housing costs are mostly below the national average, and the people are friendly,” explains Borchardt. “In addition, the Texas hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and the Gulf Coast shoreline offer many outdoor recreational opportunities.” Belton is no exception. With its captivating scenery, highly rated schools and low crime-rate, the city is poised to welcome a variety of incoming businesses.

Mexia

Located along US 84 in the heart of the “Texas Triangle,” Mexia is just 90 miles south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, and it connects to San Antonio, Houston and Austin via state and interstate highways, making it an ideal distribution hub. In fact, you can reach 93 percent of the U.S. population within 48 hours of Mexia.

Additionally, Mexia boasts a skilled workforce, with access to a more than 40-mile-wide labor pool of over 85,000 workers. Mexia workers excel in manufacturing, customer service administration and distribution, and local workforce training programs such as the Texas Workforce CommissionHeart of Texas Workforce and the Skills Development Fund can assist with training the next generation of employees for incoming businesses.

Click here to listen to their latest podcast.

NORTH TEXAS

Bowie

Just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in the famed Red River Valley area of Texas sits Bowie. Positioned at the crossroads of US 81, US 287 and TX 59, Bowie is just 90 minutes from downtown Dallas, an hour from Fort Worth and under an hour from Wichita Falls. With a variety of available properties and workforce development programs at the ready, Bowie can help your incoming business get off the ground running. 

A designated 4A and 4B sales tax community, Bowie offers incoming businesses a one-stop-shop for economic development. The city of just over 5,500 provides site selectors with a lower cost of doing business, along with highly rated schools, excellent healthcare and a thriving business community.

Corsicana

Located 58 miles south of downtown Dallas, Corsicana has made a name for itself, especially in the food manufacturing industries. Formerly the home of Wolf Chili, Corsicana today boasts the Collin Street Bakery, a famous fruitcake bakery, and Russell Stover. It is also where distribution centers for retail giants like Kohl’s and Home Depot are located. Though the city is outside of the traffic and congestion of its neighbors, thanks to its proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area Corsicana benefits from the convenience and access to the city but provides businesses and residents with lower operational costs than the big city. 

Commercial flyers are just one hour away from DFW International airport, and those looking for cargo airports are within 75 minutes of Fort Worth Alliance Airport. Just 200 miles from the Port of Houston and 230 from the Port of Beaumont, Corsicana is convenient to ocean freight terminals. It is also accessible by rail, with service from the Union Pacific and Burlington North Santa Fe railroads. It is also just over 30 minutes to the Union Pacific Dallas Intermodal Terminal.

TexAmericas Center

The New Boston, Texas-based TexAmericas Center is one of the largest industrial centers in the Americas. Located just 15 miles west of Texarkana, the center boasts 12,000 acres with 3,000,000 square feet of industrial space, and it is the lowest aggregate mile location in Texas to reach the North American market.

TexAmericas Center Executive Vice President Eric Voyles believes businesses should Choose Texas because of the state’s diverse economy “where many industries can flourish.” According to Voyles, his center prides itself on working with small to medium-sized companies that may not have otherwise gotten a chance—and helping them flourish in a competitive marketplace. “We know these companies are growing and need to move quickly,” says Voyles. “They have opportunity NOW, and our focus is on providing speed-to-market real estate solutions. The match is perfect, and TexAmericas Center has developed a niche of meeting the needs of these often-overlooked employers.”

That’s a sentiment that Voyles says rings true throughout Texas and the Choose Texas partners. “Texas and many of its communities have invested in themselves in order to make choosing the right location less risky, especially when it comes to workforce development decisions. TexAmericas Center prides itself on being a ‘can-do’ company. We actively challenge the companies we work with to ask us to help solve their business problems.” 

 Cedar Hill

Just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill is a rising star in the economic development marketplace. Cedar Hill offers incoming businesses low taxes, low costs of living and a skilled workforce of more than 1 million people within a 30-minute commute. Cedar Hill hosts over 3 million square feet of retail and class-A office space, all without the cost and congestion of larger nearby cities.

Andy Buffington, Marketing and Research manager with the Cedar Hill Economic Development Corp., says site selectors should bring their businesses to Texas because the of the state’s reputation as a growth leader, especially when it comes to business incentives. “It’s estimated the state spends 1.3 percent of its GDP on business incentives,” says Buffington. “Texas also offers a variety of non-profit and government-backed programs for assisting small businesses with funding, coupled with the fact that neither corporate nor personal income tax are put on enterprise.”

DeSoto

Not far south from downtown Dallas, DeSoto is a uniquely poised city with the benefits of access to the big city and major highways, but without the higher cost of doing business in a metropolitan area. DeSoto currently has more than 400 acres of shovel-ready land, and 93 percent of U.S. markets are within two days or less via truck from the city of just over 56,000. With 90 percent of DeSoto’s workforce holding a high school diploma or higher, it’s no wonder that the city boasts a low 5 percent unemployment rate for its labor force of nearly 30,000. In fact, DeSoto’s labor force is growing faster than the national average.

 Joe Newman, CEO of the DeSoto Economic Development Corp., believes that the labor force and partnerships with organizations such as the Texas Workforce Commission are just a few of the key reasons businesses are so eager to call Texas home. That, coupled with a little help from their friends. “Oftentimes large companies see what their peers in other industries are doing and inquire as to why that firm moved,” Newman says. “Most often it is logistics or workforce, and most communities offer attractive incentives to justify such a move. As more and more companies move to Texas, it causes a synergy that attracts others.”

GULF COAST

 Brazoria County

One of the fastest-growing counties in Texas is home to the Brazoria County Alliance, an organization that was formed to “promote and diversify” the county’s economic base and attract high-wage jobs. 

Located in the southeast part of the state in the Houston statistical area, Brazoria County has a population of more than 313,000.

 Matagorda County

Beautiful Matagorda County is halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi and just 65 miles from the Houston metropolitan area. The county boasts a population of more than 36,000 with a total workforce population of over 18,000. The average household income of Matagorda County residents is $40,860, and the major industries include education, healthcare, farming, ranching, seafood, petroleum, manufacturing, pipeline and production among others.

The county, which is part of a growing energy cluster, is seeking retail and residential partners to help fill the growing needs for the workforce of the future and for the tourism industry for beachfront needs. The county is home to the Port of Palacios, which boasts one of the largest shrimping fleets in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Port of Bay City, which is home to a terminal turning basin and includes a modern concrete dock, metal shed and liquid cargo dock. With a 200-foot-wide channel and an average depth of 12 feet, the Port Turning Basin and Terminal Facility are conveniently located 15 miles from the Colorado River locks at the ICW.

EAST TEXAS

Grapeland/Crockett

Named for the legendary David Crockett, who is said to have camped in the town on his way to The Alamo, Crockett, Texas is the Houston County seat. Today, the storied town of 23,000 is more than just a stop along the way; it’s home to a thriving community with industries ranging from manufacturing to logistics.

In fact, Grapeland/Crockett is in an ideal position for your business’ logistics needs of the future. With projected area growth of 25 million more people to the Texas Triangle area in the next 30 years, Grapeland/Crockett provides a low traffic impact that will likely avoid the bottlenecks and traffic congestion that is projected for other nearby areas. Plus, with its proximity to highways US 287, TX 19 and Highways 21, 7 and 9, it has access all its own.

Mount Pleasant

Located in Titus County, Mount Pleasant has a population of 32,000. Thanks to its proximity to major transportation routes, the community owes much of its success to the transportation industry as well as the people working behind the scenes to ensure that sector’s success.

 Also known for its timber and poultry industries, Mount Pleasant is currently working to expand its workforce repertoire through a partnership between the Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corp. and the local community college system. Called the Manufacturing Technology Training Center, this workforce education program trains students in entrepreneurial skills that will help ensure Mount Pleasant remains a leader in Texas business for years to come.

WEST TEXAS

Floydada

Located in Floyd County, Floydada is known as the Pumpkin Capital of Texas. With high premiums on education, Floydada is the only city in the state that has the honor of their schools being Apple Computers’ distinguished schools. 

Floydada also has many free workforce training programs for residents that are run through the Floydada Professional Development Center and the Floydada Economic Development Corporation. Employers can even request financial assistance to train workers through the Skills Development Fund and the Self-Sufficiency Fund as administered by the Texas Workforce Commission

Seminole

Located at the northern portion of the Permian Basin and along the southern portion of the agricultural South Plains of Texas, Seminole is best known for its agriculture and oil and steel production. The town has a highly skilled workforce with expertise in fields ranging from metal and woodworking to carpentry and construction.  

A family-oriented community, Seminole also boasts a low crime rate and diverse business community.

Andrews

A city experiencing tremendous transformation, Andrews was initially built on oil and has since become one of the “most progressive” communities in West Texas, diversifying its portfolio of businesses in recent years. “Andrews is in the middle of the shale oil boom and we provide a great location for companies to set up business and serve clients all over the Permian Basin,” says Morse Haynes, executive director of Economic Development for Andrews.

 With significant investments in the city and education system, Andrews is now a modernized community poised to take on new businesses, but with expertise in everything from manufacturing to energy to chemicals. It is that very investment in the Texas workforce that Haynes believes is what sets the state apart from other states. “Texas has over 14 million productive workers along with top-notch schools that continue to grow our workforce,” he says. That, combined with the world’s most diverse economy, “provides job opportunities and a quality of life second to none.”

 Stamford

Part of the Rolling Plains area of Texas, Stamford has a population of just over 3,000 people. Located along US Highway 277, the small town has a strong economy in agriculture and natural resources.

Named in 1900 for the Stamford, Connecticut, birthplace of Central Texas Railroad President Henry King McHarg, the town today boasts a convenient location that is desirable to incoming businesses. Just 41 miles north of Abilene, and fewer than 150 miles west of Fort Worth, Stamford is close to both DFW International airport and the DFW Metroplex. It is also under 150 miles southeast of Lubbock.

Dumas

Located in Moore County, Dumas is halfway between Dallas and Denver, Colorado, and just 45 miles north of Amarillo. With just over 14,691 people, Dumas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., and it leads the state in retail growth. Dumas counts as major industries beef slaughtering, chemicals, gas and oil. 

The city places a high premium on education, with a branch of Amarillo College located in town as well as the North Plains Opportunity Center, a training center for  at-risk students and continuing education.

Check out their GT Podcast here. 

NORTHWEST TEXAS 

 Amarillo

The largest city in the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo is the 14th most populous city in the state, with a population of approximately 276,000 in its metropolitan area. Amarillo boasts a young, educated and non-unionized labor force that grew by more than 15 percent from 2000 to 2011. 

Amarillo prides itself on being able to match incoming businesses with valuable incentives and a skilled workforce, and it offers a number of workforce training programs.

Canadian-Hemphill County

Referred to as the “Oasis of the High Plains,” Canadian-Hemphill County is situated on the Oklahoma border. Founded in 1876, the county was named for Judge John Hemphill. The name Canadian comes from the Canadian River, a nearby tributary of the Arkansas River. Though Canadian-Hemphill County has a population of fewer than 11,000 people, it has a lot to offer incoming businesses, including available land, incentives and access to workforce training programs. 

“Simply put, Texas is open for business,” says Shane Spencer, executive director at the Canadian Hemphill County Economic Development Corporation. “Its lower tax rates and lack of personal income tax make Texas great for employers.” And that includes smaller communities, like Canadian-Hemphill County. “Texas consistently has a growing economy,” Spencer says. “It is such a huge state, there is plenty of room to grow and also to reuse sites for new companies.”

 With connections to nearby highways such as US 60, US 83 and Highway 33, Canadian-Hemphill County is well connected to the rest of Texas and Oklahoma. “Texas has a huge interstate system and roads that are built to carry those across the country,” says Spencer. “The Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston areas can support global sized companies with large amounts employees, and our other towns and cities can play host to smaller ones.”

But don’t let the size of those smaller cities and towns fool you. As Spencer notes, smaller infrastructure doesn’t equate to slower service. “Companies continue to take advantage of Texas’ business climate because of ease and speed of getting a company up and running. Also, infrastructure is always growing to allow expansion of businesses.” Ultimately, Spencer believes when it comes down to it, it’s the people of Texas that make doing business there so much better than anywhere else. “When your employees are happy, the company performs well. Companies have discovered that there are a lot of happy workers in Texas!”

Click here to listen to their GT Podcast.

Shamrock

The first Route 66-city in Texas upon eastern approach, Shamrock is home to not just the famous historic U-Drop Inn but to a vibrant, thriving West Texas community. Located at the intersections of I-40 (Route 66) and 83, the city of just under 2,000 residents is a well-connected cultural hub in the Panhandle, with landmarks, museums and a famous St. Patrick’s Day festival that is so big it’s considered the official St. Patrick’s Day Celebration of the State of Texas.

With more than 600 hotel rooms, the city is well equipped to handle tourism and visiting business guests. It is also a notable hunting community. Shamrock is just 90 minutes from Amarillo (along I-40), three hours to Lubbock and about two-and-a-half hours to Oklahoma City.

SOUTH TEXAS

Harlingen

Located in the Rio Grande Valley, along the border of Mexico, Harlingen, was recently named the No. 1 Least Expensive Urban Area in the U.S. by the Council for Community and Economic Research. Though not a household name, Harlingen has become somewhat of a “best kept secret,” with an economic climate that’s heating up as the city continues to attract more businesses thanks to its proximity to the border. But besides location, Harlingen offers incentives and workforce training programs from South Texas that make it a bargain for many incoming businesses.

“Texas is so appealing to many people because of our diversity in climate, culture, geography and much more,” says Raudel Garza, the manager and CEO of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. “Our workforce training partners such as Texas State Technical College, with campuses throughout the state, work locally to help solve labor requirements for companies. Local utility companies along with the Texas Department of Transportation invest in Texas to improve access to electricity, clean water, great highways, rail and so much more. Texas has everything a growing company needs to succeed, from a young trainable diverse workforce to easy access to markets.”

But, according to Garza, the reason businesses are flocking to Texas is that the state has more to offer than just business incentives. “Texans enjoy all the amenities of both big city life and country living,” he explains “Large companies know about our standard of living and they understand that Texas is drawing people in because of all they can do here—not only during work hours but also when one is at home or nearby at play. Companies want a reliable labor force, and Texas provides all the amenities such a labor force wants, thus keeping people happy and productive.”

Orange County

Located in the southeast corner of Texas, Orange County has a population of more than 81,000. Orange County’s major industries include petroleum, rice farming, shrimping, paper milling and recently, shipbreaking. The county provides workers with training programs and opportunities to help advance skills zero in on the specific industries that help the county thrive. Orange County is home to a workforce of 39,824 workers, with an unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent.

With its convenient border location, Orange County is close to navigable waterways, major railways, interstate highways and the Louisiana border. As for air travel, Orange County has access to 18 airports within 50 miles, including Orange County Airport and Lake Charles Regional Airport in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

SOUTHWEST TEXAS

Boerne-Kendall County

With a growing population that currently exceeds 46,000, Boerne-Kendall County is projected to expand by 24 percent over the next five years. The seventh fastest growing county in the U.S., and the third fastest growing in Texas, Boerne-Kendall County is already home to a vast multi-skilled, multi-cultural workforce with above average levels of education. Boerne-Kendall County workers have a strong background in biosciences, aerospace, cybersecurity, renewable energy, military and more.

The county is also conveniently located just 10 miles north of San Antonio, and it is central to numerous highways that lead to the Dallas and Austin metropolitan areas, as well as the Texas coast. Within 50 miles of Boerne-Kendall County, there are 25 colleges, universities and trade schools that provide a population of nearly 150,000 college students, who add new energy to the pool of approximately 387,000 workers that already call Boerne-Kendall County home.

WEST CENTRAL TEXAS

Leander

Ranked by Forbes magazine as No. 3 in America for the Best Small Cities for Families, Leander is a northwest suburb of Austin that was also named the Fastest Growing City in the Nation with a population of over 15,000 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Leander has all the benefits of doing business in Austin without the high overhead and traffic. Leander has its own commuter rail, a lower cost of living and an award-winning education system that consistently ranks high in Texas’ STAAR testing. The city is poised to welcome not just new businesses but a new workforce, too. With more than 14,000 new housing units expected to be built within the next decade, this dynamic community is prepared to welcome you and your business.

To learn more about doing business in Texas and how the Choose Texas team can aid in finding a new location for your expanding or relocating business, visit www.Choose-Texas.com to register your project or request information. 

pencils

Pencils: Still Teaching Us Lessons About Trade

Pining for Simpler Times

Pencils remind us of simpler times, when writing was an adventure and erasing life’s mistakes was easy.

In the classic 1958 essay I, Pencil, Leonard Read opened a window for readers into the surprisingly complex global supply chain of something everyone holds in their hand, the pencil. Read helps us realize that countless individuals are involved in logging, mining, processing, transporting, and manufacturing the California cedar, Sri Lankan graphite, Mississippi clay, and foreign and domestic copper, zinc, wax, and coatings combined to produce an elegantly simple pencil.

To Read, a pencil is a miracle. No single individual could make one and no “master mind” directs its production. Pencils are made nonetheless because of the “invisible hand” of free markets. In the decades since Read’s essay, commentators have observed that pencil making is not entirely the result of free-market activity. Governments, too, support pencil production by managing forests, educating workers, and building ports and roads.

The question of where and how pencils are made has resurfaced in the current debate over American trade policy. In a recent campaign video by Senator Elizabeth Warren, she criticizes “giant ‘American’ companies” and their U.S. and foreign shareholders for “hollowing out” American communities. Warren offers as a proof point that “the maker of the famous no. 2 pencil” now largely imports pencils made in China and Mexico.

With pencils in the spotlight, we revisit what can they teach us about the complexity and nuances of modern American trade.

Is Trade Erasing U.S. Manufacturing?

American pencil production has plummeted over the last 25 years. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the number of U.S. pencil manufacturers fell from 11 in 1993 to four in 2016.

Dixon Ticonderoga — maker of the iconic green-banded yellow pencil — shuttered plants in Ohio and Missouri in the early 2000s, shedding hundreds of jobs. With the end of production by Sanford L.P. in 2014, U.S. production and capacity plunged further — by more than half. During this period, the domestic share of America’s $557 million pencil market declined markedly, while imports from China, Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere more than quadrupled, growing from 6.7 million gross in 1993 to 28.8 million gross in 2016. (A gross is 144 pencils.)

Trade Vistas- Number of US pencil manufacturers

What’s at the Core?

There has been a significant “hollowing out” of American pencil manufacturing. But is the pencil industry representative of U.S. manufacturing and trade generally? The data suggest it’s not.

America has lost five million manufacturing jobs since the mid-1980s. During this period, however, U.S. manufacturing output has doubled. America is making more stuff with fewer workers largely because U.S. factories are more efficient. Studies show that the loss of American manufacturing jobs is due primarily to improved technology, not trade. Economists at Ball State estimate that, overall, 87 percent of U.S. manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010 were due to automation, while 13 percent resulted from trade. (Automation was by far the predominant cause of job loss for 15 of the 18 manufacturing sectors studied.)

There are, however, certain largely lower-tech U.S. manufacturing sectors where trade has had a much greater impact. Foremost among these are furniture and apparel (Senator Warren’s video also highlights foreign production of Levi’s jeans) where economists estimate that trade accounted for some 40 percent of job losses. Pencil manufacturing is an example of a “mature” industry where there’s little room for manufacturing innovation but space for makers of high quality products for niche markets. Indeed, for American specialty manufacturers like New Jersey-based General Pencil, the process and equipment used to make pencils has hardly changed from over a century ago.

Can Protection Sharpen U.S. Production?

Policymakers often try to revive trade-impacted low-tech sectors through trade protection. The pencil industry’s experience highlights the difficulties of this approach.

In 1994, the United States imposed antidumping duties on pencils from China, after finding that sales of Chinese imports at “less than fair value” were injuring U.S. manufacturers. Imports of pencils from China fell sharply in 1995. By 1998, however, the volume of “subject imports” from China (six million gross) actually exceeded the volume during the original investigation.

The antidumping duty order was continued in 2000, 2005, 2011, and 2016 after the USITC found that revoking the order would cause further injury to U.S. pencil makers. However, despite duties as high as 114.90 percent imposed on “unfair” imports, subject imports continued to grow to 9.2 million gross in 2004 and 10.5 million gross in 2009, and were 8.5 million gross in 2016.

The pencil industry isn’t the only manufacturing sector where efforts at protection have seemingly failed. Over 97 percent of clothing and footwear sold in America is made overseas, despite the fact that America has, for decades, imposed tariffs on these imports that often exceed 30 percent.

Back to School – With Trade, the Consumer Wins

Is “Big Pencil” to blame for the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs? Or, are big retailers who seek lower-cost pencils from overseas? While Dixon Ticonderoga isn’t a large company, it’s now owned by a larger Italian firm and imports most of its pencils. And, according to the USITC, there has been increasing consolidation among U.S. wholesale purchasers of pencils. Office Depot and Office Max have merged and big box stores like Target and Walmart are buying larger volumes and seeking low prices.

These retailers are responding to demand for lower-cost imported pencils — in no small part from America’s parents.

Although there has been a resurgence in demand for high-quality, specialty pencils like the Palomino Blackwing and coloring pencils for stressed-out Boomers, most “commodity” pencils are sold during the “back to school” season. In recent years, schools are increasingly requiring parents to buy student supplies like pencils.

School Supplies Costs to US Parents

In 2018, American parents paid an estimated $941 for school supplies and fees for each middle school child. These costs can be a significant burden, especially for low-income parents. Imported pencils — and binders and backpacks — can help moderate these costs. Studies show that middle-income, and especially lower-income Americans, gain significant buying power, stretching their dollars further, from imports.

Pop Quiz

The pencil has a storied history. According to pencils.com, Ancient Roman scribes introduced the use of thin metal rods as a stylus. In the 1800s, the best graphite was sourced from China. Although the first mass-produced pencils were unpainted to show off high-quality wood casings, pencil makers later painted them yellow, a regal color in China, to demonstrate the quality of the graphite within.

The simple pencil continues to both transcribe and itself illustrate complex stories, including the growth and effects of global trade. It can also evoke fond memories like the time mine saved me on a pop history quiz in the 5th grade:

Question 3: Name three Colonial forts.

My answer: Fort Pitt, Fort William Henry, and . . . uh . . .oh yeah! Fort (Dixon) Ticonderoga!

______________________________________________________________

Ed Gerwin

Ed Gerwin is a lawyer, trade consultant, and President of Trade Guru LLC.

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

China

Amid US-China Trade Battle, Here is how America can Remain the World’s Strongest Economy

The Communist Party of China has laid plans for a century of unlimited Chinese power and, with it, the end of the American era. However, we still can — and must — bet big on the future of American economic power. The best antidote to China’s ambitions is to ensure America’s continued economic and technological preeminence.

Far too many strategists, investors, and policymakers accept China’s economic preeminence as an inevitable outcome, given the country’s enormous population and potential for growth.

As the business community looks toward a “partial trade deal” to unwind tariffs and reduce trade hostility between the world’s two largest economies, we must understand that non-negotiable problems in U.S.-China relations will accelerate if China closes the gap with the United States in terms of economic and technological power. With the right strategic mindset and a focus on domestic productivity, America can not only win the economic and technological contest but also turn the tide in the U.S.-China competition for global power.

China’s bid for global power is built on its economic ascendency, which is based on engagement with the United States and our allies. Chinese companies are capturing global markets and climbing the ranks of the Fortune Global 500 by taking advantage of stolen or coerced foreign intellectual property and state-orchestrated market distortions. The Communist Party is converting China’s technological power into a dystopian surveillance state and a military that is focusing its capabilities on the United States and our partners.

Chairman Xi Jinping calls regularly for Chinese forces to “prepare to fight and win wars,” while converting civilian industrial technology into military power through “civil-military fusion.” Meanwhile, China’s current account surplus is employed for global influence, buying “strategic partners” with intercontinental projects like the “Belt and Road Initiative” and state-backed acquisitions of foreign firms.

U.S.-China competition is likely to be the hardest geopolitical contest in generations — but it is a contest that the United States can win if we focus on the right objectives.

The People’s Republic of China is a challenge to America’s values and concept of world order. U.S.-China competition is likely to be the hardest geopolitical contest in generations — but it is a contest that the United States can win if we focus on the right objectives. So, where do we go from here?

Focus on GDP

The first step must be a focus on accelerating U.S. productivity growth. U.S. productivity growth need only increase from 1.3 percent a year to 2.5 percent for U.S. GDP to remain ahead of China’s for the entirety of the 2020s, the decade in which many expect China’s economy to surpass America’s.

By 2030, economic leadership will be easier to maintain as China’s demographic problems set in. Such a productivity increase is realistic, given that productivity growth from 1995 to 2008 was higher than 2.5 percent.

Protect America’s edge

The second step is to preserve our edge in advanced and emerging technologies. America must remain ahead of Communist China, not only in hard sciences, but also in the actual production of advanced goods and services.

If America competes against China only through soybean and oil production, we will fail to counter China in advanced industries such as robotics, semiconductors, aerospace and biopharmaceuticals. China is gaining in these and other technologies and industries and could eventually have a decisive advantage over the United States.

As Alexander Hamilton warned 200 years ago, America can’t be great if it is a “hewer of wood and drawer of water.” We must out-invent and outproduce China in advanced technology and industrial goods.

Maintaining U.S. advantage will require collaboration between government and corporations towards national goals in science, engineering and industry. This approach has long served our nation in times of international struggle and led to lasting commercial and national security breakthroughs.

New and Big

In order to attain these goals, Washington must think new and big. New in the sense of a bipartisan consensus that productivity growth and technological competitiveness must be national priorities.

Big in the sense of big and bold proposals. Here are three: First, implement a robust research, development and investment tax credit that will stimulate innovation and investment on American soil. Second, establish a series of well-funded “moonshot” goals to ensure American leadership in emerging industries such as advanced robotics and quantum computing. Third, develop a national productivity strategy that will take the best ideas of government and industry and focus on building the next $10 trillion in annual U.S. GDP by 2030.

Half a century ago, under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy, America faced a Communist superpower that believed that it would “bury” the United States, much as Chinese Communist leaders today believe that the 21st century belongs to China. Kennedy reminded us then that America would “bear any burden” and “meet any hardship” to prevail in that consequential time.

In the end, it was the power of the American economy, the power of American technology, and the power of American industry that brought victory over our ambitious foe. We must unleash these forces once again, wrestle them into national service, and build on toward the greater good — an American era that can and must prevail.

__________________________________________________________________

Dr. Jonathan D.T. Ward is the author of “China’s Vision of Victory” and founder of Atlas Organization, a strategy consultancy on US-China global competition. Follow him on Twitter @jonathandtward

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson is the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the author of “Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Mythology of Small Business.” Follow him on Twitter @robatkinsonITIF..

This article originally appeared on FoxBusiness.com. Republished with permission. 

automation

Automation Won’t Destroy Trade – It Might Even Boost It

Alarm bells are ringing

Many industry observers are sounding alarms about the looming impact of automation, robots and 3D printing, which they fear will destroy jobsdisrupt value chains and maybe even reduce the need for international trade. Developing countries are particularly concerned because trade has been an avenue to economic development and growth for them. But a recent report released by the World Bank shows that the data and evidence don’t support the hype. Instead, automation, robots and 3D printing might actually increase trade as trade costs continue to fall.

Some business analysts have warned that automation and robots could disrupt and shorten global supply chains. The thinking behind the concern is that, if a computer can design it and a 3D printer can make it, then we won’t need to source it from countries abroad that have more abundant low-cost labor than we do. Instead, companies will drastically shorten their value chains, which could reduce international trade.

The anxieties have gotten the attention of development economists and developing countries. Trade and economic growth go hand-in-hand, both in economic theory and in practice. Multiple studies have shown that firms in developing countries that participate in global value chains outperform their local peers that solely focus on domestic markets. If robots eliminate the need for global value chains, this important avenue for economic development could be threatened.

Anxiety over automation may be overblown

Scare tactics about economic change are attractive because they get our attention. About 15 years ago, we saw headlines about “white collar outsourcing” (once attorneys were added to the list of jobs that could be moved offshore, the panic even spread into boardrooms). Some lawmakers called for restrictions on offshoring, and some of those calls are still alive today. But the mass exodus of white collar jobs did not occur.

The World Bank is a multilateral development agency that makes grants and loans to support capital projects and economic growth in the poorest countries. Anything that reduces the need for trade and global value chains would hit those developing countries hard, putting the automation concerns squarely on the World Bank’s radar.

In its annual World Development Report, the latest released on October 8, the World Bank does not take a definitive stance on the overall effects of automation, and it does not make any bold predictions. But it does make one thing clear: The anxiety over automation hindering trade is not supported by the data and evidence. In fact, the authors show that sectors with the largest increases in automation have also been those with the largest increases in trade. Yep, that’s right: We’re experiencing the opposite phenomenon to what so many are worried about.

Automation actually helping to expand trade

Specifically, the report shows that the percentage change in imports of parts from developing countries from 1995 to 2015 is higher in industries that are more automated. Agriculture and textiles are among the least-automated industries and have the smallest change. Metal, rubber and plastics, and automotive sectors have the highest rates of automation and the largest increases in trade.

Automation in industrial countries has boosted imports from developing countries

Why? Because automation, like robotic assembly and 3D printing, leads to an expansion in output and demand for material inputs. Automation can also lead to the creation of new tasks. So while it brings labor market adjustment pains — like technology and progress always do — automation will not necessarily reduce trade or shorten global value chains.

Meanwhile, investments in digital technologies continue to lower the costs of coordinating across long distances. These lower trade costs are expected to promote trade and lead to a continued expansion of global value chains, particularly for developing countries.

The big picture

Here’s the big picture: Change is the one thing in the economy you can count on. Improvements in how we make things and advanced production technologies are likely to continue, and workers and firms that adapt and embrace these changes are likely to outperform those that do not. But a wide-sweeping elimination of trade and global value chains due to automation and robots? Don’t believe the hype.

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The original version of this article was published in The Hill.

ChristineMcDaniel

Christine McDaniel a former senior economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers and deputy assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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

maker

The Maker Movement can Flourish Thanks to Trade

The Maker Movement

Life is pretty cushy. We long ago stopped having to make everything we need: forging tools, handcrafting shoes from hides and weaving textiles for clothing. Manufacturers eventually specialized where they had comparative advantage and produced at scale. Specialization led to more trade in goods and services. Today, anything we need can be obtained at the push of a computer button from almost anywhere in the world.

While much attention is being paid to the potential for new technologies to displace manufacturing workers, there’s an interesting phenomenon afoot. Bits and bytes are bringing us back to our “maker” roots by making information and technologies more accessible to everyone. The smallest inventors and producers can integrate into globally distributed production chains and sell into global markets. Basically, trade is providing us the luxury of producing again at a small scale, and it’s the art of inventing nimbly and producing small that just might help us stay globally competitive.

Re-Making our Workforce

“Makerspaces,” TechShops and FabLabs are popping up in cities all over the country and they are playing an increasingly vital role in education, workforce development, entrepreneurship and even revolutionizing advanced manufacturing.

Memberships give hobbyists, tinkerers, students and entrepreneurs alike access to tools, machines and materials to gain experience with 3D printing, CAD/CAM, electronics, robotics, plastics and composites, fabrication, welding, coding and programming, woodworking and more. Students and young workers can be exposed to industrial careers in a relatively low-cost, low-risk environment, picking up skills in weeks — not months and years. They can create portfolios to demonstrate competency in the skills employers require.

By partnering with local colleges and employers, training in Makerspaces can culminate in recognized and portable credentials that prove mastery of a specific skill or set of equipment, enabling companies to develop talent pipelines with less direct investment. Meanwhile, students are not just gaining experience working with materials and machines. They are also putting math and measurement into practice, reading blueprints, and using design software — the knowledge skills associated with modern manufacturing and foundational competencies for a wide variety of jobs that lie in between traditional “blue collar” and executive levels.

TradeVistas- Maker movement graphic

Small Batch Production

“Making” can create new pathways to working at established manufacturing companies, but it is also spawning a resurgence of custom fabricators who are positioned for small-batch or on-demand manufacturing. The current trend of “niche consumerism” is responding to demand for tailored products in small lots, even by the big brands.

Makers can iterate quickly in response to consumer feedback or engage in rapid prototyping to optimize product design. Makers can offer these services to larger firms or they can leverage the resources of Makerspaces to keep costs down and retain control during product development, iteration and initial production of their own invention. The difficulty of communicating well with manufacturers or visiting facilities in China is a common refrain for small entrepreneurs.

Reverse Engineering

Makers and Makerspaces are attracting the attention of major corporations. GE and National Instruments were among the first to emulate Makerspaces to support open innovation on their corporate campuses. Ford Motor Company worked with a company called TechShop to build a world-class Makerspace for Detroit, becoming the facility’s anchor tenant. Affording their engineers the opportunity to cross-pollinate with other inventors and have a freer hand in direct and more rapid prototyping, Ford says that within one year, the company doubled the number of patents the company produced.

Large companies recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere, from hobbyists to amateur scientists and roboticists. Some Makerspaces cater more to small designers and inventors, but others are more like modern-day Edison workshops hosting sophisticated “experiments” employing biotechnology, nanotechnology and additive manufacturing. As such, they have become ecosystems of innovation where individuals, small businesses and large corporations can come together to incubate and accelerate ideas in a decentralized and agile network — emulating the same set of activities and interactions that were once only housed inside the corporation.

Manufacturing Renaissance?

Putting compact versions of industrial tools in the hands of millions more people means that inventors can get a “minimum viable product” out in the world faster and at much lower cost. Small and growing manufacturers can take smaller bets on the market with lower volume commitments or put a wider variety of products out for testing consumer preferences.

Specialty manufacturers that can re-tool quickly are filling an increasingly important role offering “manufacturing-as-a-service.” The Maker Movement encourages innovation through co-creation and crowdsourced designs, rapid prototyping and experimentation with new production processes. Maker facilities enable micro-factories that can service orders from anywhere in the world. Some notable inventions in Makerspaces have even transformed commerce itself. For example, millions of small businesses now use Square to take payments.

Join the Movement

Makers aren’t likely to replace mass production anytime soon, but they are an important source for training the next generation of inventors and manufacturing workers. Makerspaces are poised to drive real economic benefits for cities that embrace and support them. For example, the Brooklyn Navy Yard brings together makers, artisans, and manufacturers. The more than 10,000 people working within the complex generate some $390 million in economic output, supporting an estimated $2 billion in indirect earnings and an additional 15,500 jobs in 2011. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development, it’s a model producing similar results from across the country from Chicago to Minden, Nevada.

The famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has supported a TechShop in Pittsburgh and provides membership for thousands of veterans. With funding from the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO and Carnegie Mellon University partnered with TechShop Pittsburgh to create apprenticeship programs for workers and to encourage startups to manufacture locally. As Brooking’s Mark Muro has written, the Maker Movement is “a deeply American source of decentralized creativity for rebuilding America’s thinning manufacturing ecosystems…hacking the new industrial revolution one town at a time.”

#Thankstrade

Makers are able to access the materials and tools they need because of trade. Take the 3D printer, for example. The global market for 3D printers, plastics and related services have exploded in recent years. And perhaps one could even be so bold as to say that it’s the expansion of global trade that affords us the opportunity to rediscover and reinvent the art of “making” itself, which could in turn profoundly impact what we make and what we trade.

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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 fourteen 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.

uae

The UAE Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Law

For a great many years, global businesses have viewed the United Arab Emirates as an attractive global investment market. With a strong presence of high-net-worth consumers and a geographically strategic location from which to distribute throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the UAE is rife with opportunity.

Yet, many international corporations could not own companies outright in the UAE and were restricted to a maximum ownership of 49%. Ownership laws, however, are now being revisited to diversify the country’s economy beyond the energy sector, which has been the source of UAE wealth for decades. But precisely the degree to which economic liberalization is taking place is very much based on one’s perspective.

Background

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven Emirates (member states), has served as a global centre for trade for centuries. However, most global businesses had often expressed discomfort with the country’s investment laws which, despite allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses in the country’s Free Trade Zones (FTZs), stipulated that at least 51 percent of a company established  within the UAE, and outside a Free Trade Zone, must be owned by UAE citizens, or companies wholly owned by UAE citizens.

In addition, agency and distributor laws require that only a local commercial agent could sell products in the UAE market; and only UAE citizens or companies wholly owned by UAE citizens could register with the Ministry of Economy as commercial agents. Regulations also prevent the termination, or non-renewal, of a commercial agency contract unless the principal has a material reason to justify the termination or non-renewal; and the principal must often approach a court to terminate a contract.

Legislating Economic Diversification

The most recent Trade Policy Statement issued by the UAE through the World Trade Organization’s Trade Policy Review mechanism in 2016 stated the country aims to drive towards economic diversification by being less reliant on the oil sector and to increase its attractiveness to foreign investment.

The UAE enacted Federal Law No. 19, the Foreign Direct Investment Law (FDI Law) in November 2018. To promote and develop the investment environment and attract foreign direct investment in line with the developmental policies of the country, the Law established a framework for the country’s Cabinet to mandate which sectors and activities of the economy would be eligible for 100 percent foreign ownership. However, a list of eligible economic sectors and activities was not published by the UAE Cabinet until July 2019.

The list comprised of 122 economic activities across 13 sectors that would be eligible for up to 100 percent foreign ownership. The decision simultaneously conveyed that each emirate (member state of the UAE) could determine the percentage of foreign ownership under each activity suggesting that foreign ownership levels could vary from emirate to emirate. It was also clarified that oil & gas production and exploration sectors, air transport, and security and military sectors would be excluded from the purview of the FDI Law.

A Method of Recourse

It is also of interest that news reports indicate that for activities that are not included in the list of activities/sectors eligible for 100 percent foreign ownership, companies could approach the government for permission for a higher level of ownership; and that approvals may be granted on a case-by-case basis. The sectors that would allow 100 percent foreign ownership include:

-Space

-Renewable Energy

-Agriculture

Manufacturing

-Road Transport & Storage

-Hospitality and Food Services

-Information and Communication Services

-Professional, Scientific and Technical activities

-Administration and Support Services

-Education

-Healthcare

-Art & Entertainment; and

-Construction

For those businesses that do qualify under the FDI law, their products will be treated as being of UAE origin and therefore, eligible for such treatment under international agreements to which the UAE is a party. This is a privilege that is not available to goods manufactured by foreign-owned companies based in UAE Free Trade Zones. In addition, they can transfer abroad operating profits and proceeds from sale of investment or other assets.

Measuring Success

The Emirate of Dubai has reported that it has attracted US $12.7 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first half of 2019 thereby ranking the emirate third globally in FDI capital flows into Greenfield Projects. Also, in October 2019, Dubai assumed the presidency of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), a global entity that works for the smooth flow of cross-border investments.

Although it is still too early to gauge the impact of the FDI Law and other developments, the consensus is that the UAE has taken steps to accelerate foreign direct investment into the country. It remains to be seen whether further steps such as changes to the agency and distributor laws, and changes to regulations related to the termination of agency contracts will be implemented to enhance the attractiveness of the UAE to foreign investors.

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JC Pachakkil is a senior consultant in Global Trade Management at trade services firm Livingston International.

e-commerce

5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce

E-commerce is everywhere — unless, of course, you look in the B2B space. Unfortunately, one segment lags behind all the rest when it comes to online sales: manufacturers. Just 38% of manufacturers have e-commerce websites, and only 6% of all manufacturer sales come through this particular channel. 

Part of the reason manufacturers are so slow to adopt e-commerce can be traced back to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional ways of doing business largely haven’t posed a problem yet, so many manufacturers don’t feel a real sense of urgency to explore the increasingly relevant direct-to-consumer model. 

It also has a lot to do with technical hurdles. For many manufacturers, moving to e-commerce involves taking on yet one more system to master — that or an expensive integration with their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. It’s nearly impossible to get an e-commerce platform to talk to an old “closed” mainframe, so plans to upgrade often involve a two-year timeframe or longer to get everything up and running. They might also involve a million-dollar price tag. Not surprisingly, this tends to put e-commerce on the back burner pretty quickly. 

And it’s important to note, too, that most manufacturers work through distributors and dealers, making e-commerce seem like nothing more than a mere alternative to their current traditional sales channels. 

A Missed Opportunity

What many manufacturers seem to be missing, though, is that B2B customers are also B2C customers. Chances are that they’re already shopping online for their personal needs, and not having a way to buy their business products and services online can have a hefty negative impact on the customer experience. If you’re manufacturing a commodity product and your sales process lacks the convenience of shopping for that product online, your customers might begin to look elsewhere. 

Remaining passive about e-commerce is simply the wrong approach, especially with B2B buyers moving more of their purchases online all the time. As it stands, nearly half of all companies utilize online channels for 50% to 74% of all their corporate purchases. Not being online just means you’ve missed out on an opportunity — not only to secure additional sales, but also to broaden your reach to a global level

Also, remember that it’s easier than ever for competition and new players in the market to get in front of your customers via Google, Facebook, and email. Not having an e-commerce site could easily cost you market share, even if the competition’s product isn’t as good as yours.

Beyond the Basics

Knowing that it isn’t enough to conduct all business offline, know, too, that it isn’t enough to just invest in getting an e-commerce platform, leave it there, and call it good. Your site has to offer the functionalities necessary to run an online business. If your system doesn’t support multiple pricing tiers, it probably also doesn’t mimic your current sales process. Clearly, that’s not a good thing. 

Your site needs to be able to support multiple buying options, such as “requests for quotes” as opposed to a shopping cart model. It can take time to arrive at a number in a complex B2B transaction, and the last thing you want is for a customer to have to take the interaction offline just to finalize scope and nail down specifics. 

This naturally leads to my next point. Assuming your e-commerce site comes equipped with all the basics like browse, add to cart, checkout, email confirmation, etc., there are a few features to look out for at the enterprise level. Those often include the following:

System integration options

In e-commerce, a certain amount of coordination is necessary between the website itself and your back-end system that you use for inventory and accounting purposes. Without proper integration, order fulfillment can easily get problematic. Focus on maintenance, data input, and offering a seamless user experience. Most of all, understand all the system integration options of your marketplace website before going with one provider over another.

Proper data to support search

Product information is important. It’s what consumers see prior to making a purchase decision. But it can sometimes pale in comparison to the product data used behind the scenes. A number of data fields and HTML tags enable your products and website to rank in both Google and on-site search results. Make sure your platform accommodates these options. Also, inquire about the tracking capabilities of your on-site search function. It can be useful to monitor what users found — and didn’t find — during a visit.

Customer tiers

At the enterprise level, you’ll likely run across different types of customers. Being able to segment these customers into various tiers can come in handy. Based on their purchase history, for example, you might determine that one tier would respond well to a certain promotion while another’s browsing behavior could inform subsequent product recommendations. In other words, segmenting tiers allows you to personalize your messaging, pricing, and other marketing efforts to fit the needs of your customers. So look into this functionality while reviewing your e-commerce options.

Analytics integration

Whether you’re looking at an off-the-shelf platform or a custom solution, reporting is very important. At a bare minimum, make sure a standard tool like Google Analytics can be integrated with your e-commerce system. You’ll also want to inquire about the setup of advanced features like e-commerce tracking.

Merchandising

Generally, any platform you go with will provide the functionality of assigning products to categories. This can help with on-site search and make it easier for visitors to browse your product line. Beyond that, you might wish to feature certain products. The question, then, is what ability do you have in the platform to create banner ads, highlight related products on a product page, create landing pages around a spotlight topic for the month, and feature products in other ways? 

Providing a good online experience naturally makes customers feel good about doing business with you. It also increases the likelihood of driving new customers to your business without needing to invest in additional resources. 

Ultimately, you can handle more transactions with an e-commerce site in your corner. Just make sure your site provides you with all of the functionalities you need to keep your business running smoothly and your customers happy. 

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Michael Bird is the CEO of Spindustry, a digital agency focused on e-commerce, SharePoint portals, and enterprise websites. He has almost 30 years of experience in interactive development, user behavior, and business solutions. His successful agency, Spindustry, puts these strategies into practice to help businesses grow.