Commerce departments and international trade agencies of most countries typically supply information about import and export regulations, quality standards, and the size of various markets. These data are normally available directly from these departments, from agencies within each nation, and from the commercial attaché in each country’s embassy abroad. In fact, visiting embassies and attending their social functions while visiting a potential location are excellent ways of making contact with potential future business partners.
Granted, the attractively packaged information supplied by host nations often ignores many potential hazards in a nation’s commercial environment—governments typically try to present their country in the best possible light. By the same token, such sources are prone to paint incomplete or one-sided portraits of the home market. It is important for managers to seek additional sources that take a more objective view of a potential location.
One source that takes a fairly broad view of markets is the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook (www.cia.gov). This source can be a useful tool throughout the entire market- or site-screening process because of its wealth of facts on each nation’s business environment. It identifies each nation’s geography, climate, terrain, natural resources, land use, and important environmental issues in detail. It also examines each nation’s culture, system of government, and economic conditions, including government debt and exchange-rate conditions. It also provides an overview of the quality of each country’s transportation and communication systems.
The Trade Information Center (TIC) (www.export.gov) operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce is a first stop for many importers and exporters. The TIC details product standards in other countries and offers advice on opportunities and best prospects for U.S. companies in individual markets. It also offers information on federal export-assistance programs that can be essential for first-time exporters. Other TIC information includes:
■ National trade laws and other regulations
■ Trade shows, trade missions, and special events
■ Export counseling for specific countries
■ Import tariffs and customs procedures
■ The value of exports to other countries
The Chilean Trade Commission within Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been particularly aggressive in recent years in promoting Chile to the rest of the world. ProChile (www.chileinfo.com) has 35 commercial offices worldwide. The organization assists in developing the export process, establishing international business relationships, fostering international trade, attracting investment, and forging strategic alliances. It offers a wealth of information on all of Chile’s key industries and provides business environment information such as risk ratings. It also provides details on important trade regulations and standards of which exporters, importers, and investors must be aware.5
Commercial offices of the states and provinces of many countries also typically have offices in other countries to promote trade and investment. These offices usually encourage investment in the home market by companies from other countries and will sometimes even help companies in other countries export to the home market. For example, the Lorraine Development Corporation in Atlanta is the investment-promotion office of the Lorraine region of France. This corporation helps U.S. companies evaluate location opportunities in the Lorraine region—a popular area for industrial investment. It supplies information on sites, buildings, financing options, and conditions in the French business environment and conducts 10 to 20 site-selection studies per year for investors.
Finally, many governments open their research libraries to businesspeople from all countries. For example, the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) (www.jetro.go.jp) in central Tokyo has a large library full of trade data that is available to international companies already in Japan. In addition, the JETRO Web site is useful for companies screening the potential of the Japanese market for future business activities from any location. The organization is dedicated to serving companies interested in exporting to or investing in Japan in addition to assisting Japanese companies in going abroad.