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Trade Winds Forum Explores Export Opportunities in Africa, Europe, and India

Nearly 300 companies participated in a two-day forum organized by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in Crystal City, Virginia, this May that was designed to help U.S. businesses identify business prospects in key markets.

by Courtney Trumpler

Representatives from nearly 300 U.S. companies learned about some of the latest trade opportunities in Africa, Europe, and India at a conference organized by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS). Called the Trade Winds Forum, the conference was held in Crystal City, Virginia, on May 16–17, 2007. The event was one of the largest USFCS trade promotion forums of the year.

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Participants in the Trade Winds Forum that was held on Crystal City, Virginia, on May 16-17, 2007. Break-out sessions, such as this one on Turkey, allowed attendees to learn region- and country-specific information. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
Participants in the Trade Winds Forum that was held on Crystal City, Virginia, on May 16–17, 2007. Break-out sessions, such as this one on Turkey, allowed attendees to learn region- and country-specific information. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)


“Over the course of two days, we helped U.S. businesses identify export market opportunities and contacts from the fast-growing markets of Africa, Europe, and India,” said Bill Burwell, director of the Baltimore U.S. Export Assistance Center. “Altogether, we held more than 550 private consultation meetings with our visiting senior commercial officers, saving businesses time and resources in development of their export strategies.”

Industry and Country Panels

At the forum, 33 U.S. senior commercial officers from U.S. embassies around the world met with businesses in individual and group settings to discuss opportunities in their respective markets. Commercial officers also addressed topics such as maintaining market presence, finding local partners, obtaining valuable market research, and protecting intellectual property rights.

“Trade Winds Forum is a shining example of the depth and breadth of talent found throughout the Commercial Service and how clients ultimately benefit when the various units of the Commercial Service are aligned on their behalf,” said Joe Hanley, the director of the USFCS’s Mid-Atlantic network.

The event also featured some 40 private-sector speakers in more than 24 panels, with each panel focusing specifically on an industry or country. U.S. Department of Commerce executives, including David A. Sampson, deputy secretary of commerce; Franklin L. Lavin, under secretary for international trade; and Israel Hernandez, director general of the USFCS, also addressed the event.

Opportunities in Key Markets

Burwell commented about opportunities located outside the United States. “More than 95 percent of the world’s consumers are beyond our borders,” Burwell said. He also noted that the conference enabled Commercial Service officers to outline opportunities in key markets, including the following:

  • In 2006, Africa, Europe, and India imported $269 billion—one-quarter of total U.S. exports.
  • More than 450 million consumers are in the European Union, where 27 countries share common trade rules, allowing free movement of trade across borders.
  • India’s gross domestic product is growing at about 8 percent per year, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
  • The government of South Africa plans to spend at least ZAR 6 billion ($860 million) in preparation for the 2010 World Cup.

Private- and Public-Sector Cooperation

Private-sector attendees at the forum came from 25 states, with total attendance exceeding 400. Also present at the forum were 22 Commercial Service partners, including marketing partnership contractors Federal Express and PNC Bank. The support of the Business Council for International Understanding, a business association that promotes dialogue and action between business and government, was instrumental in making the Trade Winds Forum a success.

York Wire and Cable of York, Pennsylvania, was one of the businesses that attended the forum. Robert Wilson, vice president of sales, remarked at how successful the forum was for his company: “As a family-owned business, we don’t always have the manpower and resources to navigate and locate potential partners and opportunities on our own. Trade Winds allowed our company to recognize where we should take our business to next in the international market. We are already doing business in 23 countries, but now we know it is possible to expand further.”

The Trade Winds Forum was led by the cooperative efforts of the U.S. Export Assistance Centers located across the Mid-Atlantic region, including the centers in Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia.

“Many clients that attended have asked, ‘What’s next?’ said Hanley. “We look forward to building upon the success of Trade Winds Forum to further benefit our clients in the months and years to come.”

Courtney Trumpler is an intern in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service’s Office of Marketing.