I attended the 3rd annual The Americas Business Forum at UCLA on March 2. The LA Chamber organizes this great event, along with the US Foreign Commercial Service and UCLA Anderson School of Management.
As a channel builder for manufacturer-exporters, I seek the fastest, most margin-friendly route to market for my clients. So, for me the most valuable part of the event was to talk with senior foreign commercial service diplomats who are in charge of building US export channels throughout the Americas: from Canada to Chile. In a round-robin of talks, they laid out challenges and opportunities that await US exporters in their respective countries.
As exporters, it’s easy to salivate over the young, growing population and the emerging consumer classes in countries the size of Brazil. The region’s economic growth rate outpaces that of the US right now, too. But, the experts urged listeners to go in with eyes wide open. In fact, the senior commercial officer from Brazil dropped one of the best one-liners of the day: “”Brazil is the country of the future and always will be”.
Collectively, attendees learn all facets of the countries: political trends, challenges in infrastructure, levels of bureaucracy, and which industry sectors are best prospects. Those senior officers stay for a second day of one-on-one counseling sessions, too.
- – learning about the Colon Free Trade Zone in Panama, and its ideal role as a sales channel turnkey site. Engaging the services of an all-in-one representative company in Colon, I can launch my clients’ products in any or all countries in Latin America. Granted, margin discounts would reflect such turnkey services, but the efficiency with which a small or midsized US exporter could reach multiple markets probably can’t be beat. I’ve got three clients in mind right now, all makers of consumer goods, and will report back throughout the upcoming selection and retention process.
- – hearing about Chile’s consistent, pro-business growth and its strategic ties with US partners in higher education, finance and agriculture, among others. Don’t forget that Chileans are recovering from that massive quake in 2010, just over a year ago. Part of the opportunity for US concerns lies within the re-construction efforts there, via government tenders.
UCLA’s student body is truly the Face of the Americas, and meeting on this elegant campus to talk about the future of regional trade only added to the inspiration of the event. Bookmark the event’s website, and plan to attend the 4th annual!