Nigeria, Taiwan, Austria and Brazil have little in common, but thanks to a local trade group, their Atlanta-based representatives came together to outline how U.S. companies can benefit from tapping each market.
Three diplomats and an attorney sat shoulder-to-shoulder on an “around-the-world” panel discussion at the Nov. 16 gathering of the Technology Association of Georgia‘s International Business Society at the headquarters of United Parcel Service Inc.
Anna Kao, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and the only female on stage, focused on Taiwan’s advantages as a high-tech hub and its longstanding ties to Georgia. Atlanta and Taipei have been sister cities since 1974. Since then, Macon, Columbus and Brunswick have also linked up with Taiwanese cities.
Ms. Kao began by rattling off the many areas in which Taiwan excels. Not only is it the 17th largest economy in the world despite having only 23 million people and a landmass one-fourth the size of Georgia’s, it also is among the world’s top producers of LED lighting, semiconductor chips, solar-powered batteries and yachts. It’s also the ninth largest trading partner of the U.S., Ms. Kao said.
Still, many business leaders don’t know that Taiwan is a signatory to the government-procurement agreement, or GPA, at the World Trade Organization. The voluntary designation allows U.S. companies to compete with the same benefits as local firms for Taiwanese government contracts. One notable country missing from the list? China.
Brazil also has an edge over other emerging economies in certain areas, said Robert West, principal at law firm Wasserman West LLC. With lower piracy rates than China, India and Russia, it also has a long legal tradition that makes contracts and intellectual-property agreements more predictable and enforceable than in many developing markets.
The country is also globally competitive in many industries, such as manufacturing small jets as well as agriculture and renewable energy, said Mr. West, who also chairs the Brazilian-Amerian Chamber of Commerce Southeast.
Wearing the “business suit” of northern Nigeria – a rimless hat with a flowing shirt – Baba Garba, consul in charge of economic affairs at the Nigerian Consulate General in Atlanta, presented his country’s case as a pitch to potential investors.
With nearly 160 million people, Nigeria offers a burgeoning consumer market with a government that is slashing red tape and fighting both corruption and financial crime, Mr. Garba said.
He acknowledged some of its problems but said American firms are losing opportunities to their Chinese and European counterparts simply because they ignore Nigeria’s potential. The national government has set up a “one-stop shop” to help foreign investors start their businesses in the country. The consulate can help interested parties find contacts and vet partners, he said.
“We will verify for you that you’re with the right person,” Mr. Garba said.
Unlike Nigeria, Austria has a small population of nearly 8.4 million, even less than Georgia’s 9.8 million. At a time when companies keep costs down by outsourcing production to markets with cheap labor, Austria has stayed competitive by using skilled workers to make high-end products, said Ferdinand Seefried, the country’s honorary consul in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
Mr. Seefried, an Austria native whose real-estate development firm has succeeded by building warehouses near airports and other logistics hubs, has represented his country in the South for 21 years.
Austria gets 25 million tourists each year, but it’s also a good place for American businesspeople, especially for those firms looking to “conquer Eastern Europe,” Mr. Seefried said. With historical connections throughout the region and with many Vienna residents who still speak the languages of surrounding countries, Austria has attracted regional headquarters of many American firms.
But the relationship between Austria and Georgia goes both ways. About 2,500 Austrians live in the state, with some 60 Austrian companies employing more than 3,000 people here, Mr. Seefried said.
He mentioned pistol manufacturer Glock Inc. and Alpla, which makes machines used to produce plastic bottles and containers, among the Austrian companies with factories in metro Atlanta.
Visit http://www.tagonline.org/TAG-International-Business.php for more information on the Technology Association of Georgia and its International Business Society, one of nearly 30 industry- or interest-specific groups operating under the umbrella organization.