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US Foreign Commercial Service on doing business in Nordics/Norway

Wednesday 21 November, 2012

The Norwegian & Swedish Chambers of Commerce hosted Jeffrey Graber of the US Dept. of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) in Chicago who talked about DOING BUSINESS IN THE NORDIC REGIONS.  Jeff spent his junior year of high school abroad studying in Norway & has kept a deep affection for the country ever since then.  From a business perspective, he highlighted the National Export Initiative, the goal of which is to double exports & create 2M jobs by 2015.

Jeff 1st summarized the Foreign Commercial Service, which was founded in 1980 & promotes American exports in 74 countries.  Exports support 12M jobs & 1 in 5 manufacturing jobs is supported by exports, & employees who work for these firms earn 13-18% higher wages.  Typically $1 invested in the FCS services yields $235 in export sales.  FCS employees work together with the Export/Import Bank & international group of the Small Business Administration out of Export Assistance Centers in the US, of which there are 8 in Illinois, & embassies & consulates throughout the world.  Illinois is the #6 exporting state in the US with export sales of $65B, up 29% over 2010.  In 2010 the FCS in Illinois claims 1162 export success stories.   He’s currently working with about 40-50 clients.

Moving on the the Nordic region, there are a number of advantages to doing business there:

  • low inflation
  • stability
  • wide English-speaking ability
  • early adopters
  • environmentally conscious

The area encompasses a population of 25M in an area 2X the size of Texas.  Governments are run by 3 constitutional monarchies & 1 parliamentary republic (Finland).  This region has a GDP of about the size of Canada or India @ $1622B & is a good market for US imports @ $14.7B.  These countries export $30.1B to the US.  All of these countries rank highly in the global competitiveness rankings.  The FCS recommends seeking local distribution & notes they:

  • will pay for quality
  • are not tactical negotiators, so do not try a hard sell
  • are predictable, stable, ethical, & avoid corruption
  • have high standards,  service levels, & taxes

In discussing opportunities in each country, Jeff highlighted Norway:

  • they submit their income tax returns via mobile phone
  • ranked as the #1 country to live
  • 3rd largest exporter of natural gas & #5 exporter of crude oil in the world
  • 99% of their electrical power is generated by renewable/hydro-power

Graber based his presentation on a webinar given by the US Dept of Commerce, for which I searched but could not find.  We were told we would receive a copy of his presentation, but I haven’t received it yet.

After spending 6 months in Sweden 15 years ago, I’m a huge fan of doing business in Scandinavia.  They are very high tech, surprisingly entrepreneurial, very practical to do business with.  They are expensive & competitive, but good markets for American products that offer high quality.

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