Countries that help their businesses compete internationally are more likely to prosper in today's global economy. Trade promotion organizations can play an important role in boosting trade, particularly among small firms. Those most successful at helping their country integrate into the world economy encompass more than promoting trade externally--they help develop trade potential in the country. But how best to achieve this? How to break new ground? At their world conference in October 2004, TPOs recognized winners among their peers that are achieving good, quantifiable results through solutions that other countries can adapt.
New international awards
"Over the past several years, TPOs have been forced to re-examine their role and reorganize in light of the rapidly changing trade environment," said J. Denis Belisle, Executive Director of ITC. "These first-time awards recognize those that have made substantial efforts to excel and deliver concrete, measurable results. They are a model for others trying to do the same."
Every country faces different challenges, but the six winners stand out for common approaches:
* They tend to provide more specialized services to customers. In times of smaller budgets, they are looking at ways to do more for less: using information and communications technologies (ICTs) creatively; retraining staff; and targeting "winners" for assistance.
* They set clear business objectives to motivate staff and focus the leadership. Some adopt modern business management systems such as performance-based remuneration schemes.
* They embrace innovation and constantly reassess their services. They venture into new ground, including non-traditional exports from least developed countries, evaluate new areas such as investment promotion and expand out of capitals to regional and overseas offices.
Today, Korea leads innovation
The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, KOTRA, won the award for Best TPO from a Developing Country for its transition from a reactive organization to one that proactively focuses on its performance. It also won the "Best of the Best TPOs" award.
In 2000 and 2001, KOTRA received the worst scores for customer satisfaction among all public enterprises in the Republic of Korea. Beginning in 2002, management made fundamental changes in the organization's approach, information technology (IT) systems and staff attitude.
Customers double, satisfaction grows
In 2000, the number of KOTRA-serviced customers was 7,000 but it doubled that figure to 14,000 by the year 2003. During the same period, the customer satisfaction index rose from 56% in 2000 to 80% in 2003. The latter made it the second-ranked among all Korean public enterprises.
KOTRA achieved this by shifting its administration and management to a customer focus, using technology applications and performance management tools. It introduced a client relations management system. Customers now use an interactive web site to request information by country or industry, which the system provides from any of the organization's 103 offices worldwide. When customers apply for tailored services, a workflow system records progress, which they can track.
In 2002, KOTRA recognized that trade and investment are inextricably linked--trade brings investment and investment creates new trade opportunities. It changed its name to reflect this and expanded its services to include support for inbound and outbound investment and technological cooperation.
Across units worldwide, KOTRA evaluated the performance of units and individuals using a system that measures customer achievements and satisfaction. Staff are now remunerated according to their performance. The annual incentive of 250% of monthly salary is attractive and has helped to change employees' attitudes.
In 2003, the Korean Government recognized KOTRA as an organization leading the innovation of public enterprises, and the Ministry of Budget and Planning nominated it an "Excellent Innovation Leader".
A turnaround in Uganda
The Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) won the award for Best TPO from a Least Developed Country for boosting exports in new sectors, raising the profile of trade and maximizing the value of ICTs and communications for customer services.
UEPB had stagnated while the Government pondered whether to merge it with other agencies. Key staff had left. In 2002, a new executive director decided to give the organization a new customer focus, introduce new services, use new tools, increase revenue and retrain staff' in new methods of working.
The organization has improved the status and recognition for exports in the business community and secured private sector financing for its export bulletin and exporter awards scheme. It is raising 27% of its costs through charging for various aspects of its services and now has 600 registered exporters.
Promoting new products from rural households
In the period from 1998 to 2003, there was a 50% increase in the value of non-traditional exports from Uganda at a time when the value of traditional exports remained almost static.
UEPB decided to use the country's bio-diversity of plant life to develop trade in organic products. In promoting new products, UEPB concentrated on those that can be produced in rural households and where a degree of added value can be achieved within the country. This approach increases the return from small rural agricultural plots.
Maximizing IT and communication
UEPB has put a database of exporters online, replacing printed directories, and sends a quarterly newsletter to registered exporters. To raise the profile of exporters, it initiated an award programme in December 2003 and relaunched the web site. UEPB has rebuilt its information library and acquired new library management software. In partnership with the national mobile telephone service providers, it sends out market information alerts through SMS (short message services).
Colombia applies business management practices
Proexport Colombia applied professional management practices to define a clear and measurable business objective for the organization, which also allowed advancement possibilities for its staff. Its redefined goal is to identify, manage and close business opportunities for Colombian exporters through international marketing activities. Proexport reformulated its services into those that help firms to become export ready or provide general help, and those that identify market opportunities, connect exporters with foreign importers and track outcomes. The organization retrained its staff as "account managers" and remunerates them according to performance.
Proexport received the Panellists' Surprise Award, intended for a TPO that deserves recognition but did not score "best" in a particular category.
A client satisfaction study shows an average 85% satisfaction rate for services, 95% for adviser attitude and 75% for support in business opportunities. Twenty-seven of the 187 staff received an annual bonus and 12 were promoted internally in 2003 to reward performance.
In 2003, Proexport provided services to 6,479 businesses, an increase of 142% over 2002. Business matchmaking forums in 2003-2004 led to medium- and long-term business opportunities totalling US$150 million; 1,124 international buyers and 8,200 Colombian firms participated in 14,500 individual business meetings.
Improved service, training and reach
Proexport, like KOTRA, has implemented a client relations management system for buyers and sellers and developed new web-based tools to deliver its services. Registered firms receive tailored information about selected markets and sectors, as well as newsletters.
It offers a 120-hour academic programme to help companies create an export business plan and a web site on sector opportunities; 2,107 companies have completed the programme, of which 732 became successful exporters by 2003.
Proexport replicated an information centre in Bogota through a domestic network of local partners in 20 locations. Under its business opportunities matching services, Proexport mobilized international support and prepared 300 sector studies in 25 countries.
Jamaica strives for efficiency
Jamaica Promotions Corporation, JAMPRO, received the Best TPO from a Small Country award. As part of the country's public sector modernization programme, a streamlined JAMPRO focused on increasing export competitiveness. It supported brand development, quality assurance and effective use of technology as part of a move to support trade development, rather than focusing solely on trade promotion and facilitation.
With guidance from UNCTAD, JAMPRO created a Trade Point network that integrates its business services, the Customs Authority and the Trade Board, offering exporters a "one-stop shop".
Investing in export "winners"
To give client focus a higher profile, JAMPRO is devoting more resources to core client "winners" that are typically ready to export, are competitive locally or internationally, and hold significant export potential.
JAMPRO, like KOTRA and Proexport Colombia, implemented a client relations management system to reduce the time and cost of managing clients' needs more effectively. In the area of business advocacy, it moved away from informing the Government on what position to adopt during trade negotiations into a sponsorship role for the industries with which it is working.
"Achieving the same with less"
In 2003-2004 JAMPRO helped 73 companies, using individual plans for each one. Clients increased export sales by an average 20% and JAMPRO registered 700 companies on its online system.
The streamlining of the organization together with its reputation for efficiency enabled JAMPRO to secure funding from the European Union to run a four-year private sector development programme. By reducing its staff by 22 in 2003, it claims it is "achieving the same with less" and has become much more efficient in the use of its resources following a budget reduction of about 4%.
Australia aims to double exporters
Australia's TPO, Austrade, which won the award for Best TPO from a Developed Country, has a New Exporter Development Program (NEDP), launched in 2002 to help potential exporters become successful new exporters.
This programme is Austrade's answer to a 2000 analysis that showed that just 4% of Australian businesses export, about half the percentage in most developed economies. Market research also showed that Austrade was not effectively meeting the needs of potential exporters.
Hundreds start their "export journey"
The Australian Government has aimed to double the number of firms exporting from the base point of 25,000 in 2000-2001 to 50,000 by 2006. By 2003, Austrade had helped to increase the number of exporters by 8,431 to 30,788. In 2003-2004, Austrade assisted 1,193 new exporters to make an initial export sale and helped hundreds more starters on their export journey. Austrade's client satisfaction rate in 2003-2004 was 88%.
After studying TPOs in similar developed economies, Austrade challenged its assumption that new and potential exporters needed just general information, and developed a programme to meet their needs.
The NEDP has a network of 125 export advisers across the country that assess firms and help them to become export ready through coaching. The programme also provides them with 20 hours of free access to Austrade's international network, delivering services such as partner and buyer searches, market research, promotional activities and assistance on the ground in foreign markets. Companies take part in the programme for about 18 months, which Austrade believes is long enough to make the first export sale, if the company is going to succeed in exports. Austrade's client services director ensures consistency in programme delivery across the network of its own offices and those of its partner organizations within Australia.
Bulgaria picks a winning sector
Bulgaria's Trade Promotion Agency (BTPA), created in 2002, won the award for the Best TPO from a Transition Economy for its Food Industry Export Promotion Programme to remedy structural weaknesses in that sector.
Drawing on previous research and taking advantage of tools such as ITC's Trade Performance index, BTPA identified processed food products as a sector that held potential for future investment and competitive exports. It focused on canned vegetables and fruits, honey products, spices, dairy products and wine.
Foreign trade statistics for 2002 show an increase of 49% in the value of exports of processed food compared with 2001, and 3% in the case of wine. In 2003, there was a further increase of 5% in the processed food area and 70% in wine. In 2004, the increase of processed food exports was 71% over the previous year and wine exports increased by 175%.
Research also indicated a lack of information, professional advice and management skills, insufficient technical and economic know-how, and unattractive packaging. To address these issues, BTPA assigned five staff to the programme to implement a range of services, including trade and market information, databases of Bulgarian companies, an online matchmaking system, trainers, advertising, missions abroad and participation at international trade fairs.
Today, BTPA reports 501 enquiries regarding trade in the target sector and for potential partners. Fifty people have been trained in foreign trade issues for the subsectors and guides have been published.
For more information about the winning TPOs, visit the TPONet web site at http://www.tpo-net.com
Contributors: Alan Reynolds, Philip Williams, Natalie Domeisen, Prema de Sousa. Writer: Dianna Rienstra.…