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Creating Overseas Market Opportunities for U.S. Companies

by John Champagne & Erin Webster

Support for incoming and outgoing trade missions are among the business outreach and support services offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Global Technology Network (GTN) program. USAID, in turn, draws heavily on expertise from the International executive Service Corps (IESC) in organizing and implementing these trade missions.

In January 2000, a USAID supported, IESC-assisted, incoming trade mission from Mongolia was instrumental in introducing Mongolian businesses to the American construction industry. Dubbed "U.S.-Mongolian Construct 2000," the "reverse" trade mission brought representatives from 15 Mongolian construction firms to meet one-on-one with American companies in Dallas, Seattle and Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. The Mongolian trade mission began in Dallas, where the group attended the National Association of Home Builders' Show (NAHB) - the largest event of its kind in the country. Next, they traveled to Seattle for the Evergreen Gateway Building Products program. In Alaska, the group learned how U.S. construction companies handle building on permafrost and deal with extreme cold weather conditions. According to the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, Alphonse F. LaPorta, "Mongolia is at the center of a region undergoing substantial infrastructure upgrading, as the market economy takes hold."

U.S. Department of State reports indicate that the Mongolian construction trade mission resulted in 10 confirmed business deals involving export of U.S. products and services. Exposure to U.S. construction product suppliers at the Dallas Home Builders' show produced several deals, including an agreement with Home Depot to supply kitchen units, other building materials and tools. As a result of the Alaska meetings, the Alaska Export Assistance Center and Cold Regions Technology, Inc. will soon begin a World Bank-funded infrastructure project in Mongolia. In addition to helping organize the mission, resident IESC "volunteer executives" in each of the cities visited, escorted the group throughout their stay. IESC technical advice and support was also key to in helping the Mongolians form a "Mongolian Builders Association."

Success Breeds Success

Based on the overall success of the first Mongolian construction trade mission, a second mission, consisting of 12 companies and 20 individuals - and financed entirely by the Mongolian trade delegation - attended the National Association of Home Builders Show (NAHB) in Atlanta, Georgia, February 9to12, 2001. One-on-one business meetings, visits to construction sites, and tours of sand, gravel and cement plants were included in their Atlanta tour.

According to Brian DaRin, former Country Director, GTN/IESC, Mongolia, "one of the greatest benefits that Mongolian construction and building materials companies receive from the trade missions is the technical knowledge exchange with U.S. counterparts in the industry. By bringing back U.S. "know-how" in the form of design, techniques, manufacturing assembly, management style, and equipment, Mongolian companies are helping to modernize their economy and improve the lives of the population as a whole."

The success of the first two missions, has encouraged more Mongolian companies to participate, and a group of 60 Mongolian company representatives attended the NAHB Show again in Atlanta, February 7to13. It is important to note that all of the attendees are paying their own way and will not require any type of grant or other funding. This characterizes not only the strength of the sector in Mongolia but the dedication and financial capability of these companies to do business with U.S. firms.

Aiding Other Countries Helps American Business

Edmund Wise, IESC Senior Business Advisor, who helped organize the Mongolia and other USAID/GTN trade missions, commented "programs like GTN, with support from partner organizations like IESC, contribute to the growth of free enterprise in and the stability of Mongolia and other developing countries." At the same time, such efforts are helping introduce American businesses to new and potentially profitable overseas markets, which serve both U.S. foreign policy and overall U.S. economic interests."

According to Mr. Carruthers from the Mongolian Desk, Highway Construction Division at the World Bank, indicated in a conversation with Construction Business Review, that there is a great need for help with small and medium size commercial construction partnerships with the Mongolian companies to facilitate bids, proposals, resolutions, arbitrations, accounting methods, new technologies, and develop concepts and legally binding contracts. He also indicated that there might be many small size projects and partnership opportunities to assist Mongolian companies in these bids and proposals. In fact, often times the smaller contracts are better business opportunities than the larger ones.

About USAID and GTN

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is responsible for U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries and emerging democracies in Asia and the Near East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Eurasia. USAID was formally created in 1961, but traces its origins back to the U.S. Marshall Plan and the Point Four Program of President Truman. Since that time, USAID has been the principal U.S. agency providing assistance to countries recovering from natural and other disasters, working to escape poverty, and engaging in economic and democratic reforms.

During the 1950s to 1970s, U.S. economic assistance abroad was heavily oriented towards infrastructure development. Roads, dams, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics, and other essential infrastructure facilities received priority attention during this period - with much of the work done by U.S. construction companies. By the mid-1970s, USAID program priorities and resources shifted from infrastructure development to technical assistance - with U.S. expertise and know-how used to help strengthen developing country institutions and human resources.

Today, the agency works to support long-term and equitable economic growth and advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agricultural and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance.

The GTN program represents a new and innovative approach to development and falls under USAID's strategic area of Economic Growth. GTN is an internet-based trade lead, business matching service that uses U.S. private sector technology and expertise to address critical development problems in emerging economies worldwide. Focus sectors for GTN include: agribusiness, communications and information technology, environment and energy, and health technology. Some 2,000 small to medium-sized U.S. firms are currently registered with GTN to receive trade leads from 37 developing countries. Since 1998, GTN has help to generate more than $300 million in U.S. exports. GTN services are also provided at no charge to interested U.S. companies.

How It Works

Business opportunities in the form of trade leads, which can be described as products, services, joint ventures, or agent/distributorship arrangements are identified by a network of in-country GTN Overseas Representatives. Trade leads are developed to meet sector and quality standards before they are transmitted to the GTN Program in Washington, D.C., at the USAID headquarters in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center where they are qualified, matched and electronically disseminated to U.S. firms registered in GTN's database, within 48 hours. Each GTN lead is tracked and follow-up services are made available to help turn leads into deals. U.S. firms are eligible to register free of charge to receive GTN trade leads.

About the IESC

The International Executive Service Corps (IESC) is a private, voluntary, not-for-profit organization, which works with USAID to contribute to global stability by assisting in the development of free-market economies and democratic societies. Expertise provided by senior-level industry experts strengthens private-sector enterprises and government entities to enable self-sufficiency and participation in the world economy. As a result, IESC strengthens the U.S. economy through the promotion of trade, investment, and alliances between overseas companies and American businesses.

U.S. Domestic Services

GTN domestic efforts are aided by a network of federal and state partners. Trade leads are shared with U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Centers (USEACs), the States International Developer's Organization, 37 state trade organizations across the country and when export financing is needed, with the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

For more information about the program see the GTN website at HYPERLINK

Erin Webster is Outreach Program Manager and John Champagne is Senior Marketing Advisor for the United States Agency for International Development's Global Technology Network in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.