Linking Business Communities to Export Markets: Romania's National Strategy Connects Regions, Towns and Villages. the Aim Is to Build a Broader Base of Exporters and a New Range of Exports That Meet Demands in New Markets, Especially in the European Union

Article excerpt

Romania's approach to export development can be summed up in one sentence. First, come together at the national level and work out how to act locally; then, make efforts to ensure local impact through a national strategy and an institution that can take care of this process.

In Romania in the past, we suffered from fragmented and incoherent export promotion and export development. The export business is over-concentrated in the capital city, Bucharest, and other main cities. The exporting base is very, very thin at the level of villages.

We realized that this pattern of doing business was no longer sustainable. But as in many countries, there was a tendency towards a dual economy. Current exporters are not necessarily interested in seeing the exporting base enlarged. They appreciate their advantage in drawing on the resources available for export promotion. This "coalition" can only be challenged through a strategic approach and democratic processes.

So, instead of creating an informal public-private partnership, we decided to set up the National Export Council to go local and reach out to the poor, to try to bring them into a democratic process of taking decisions on export strategies.

Build trust

To prepare this process we carried out a thorough analysis of our economic situation involving 21 teams and more than 400 people throughout Romania. We decided where we wanted to go and what kind of exports would be sustainable as an engine for development and for welfare. Our target for 2009 is to change dramatically the conditions of doing business, of doing exports. This means really going local, being present with services for the local business communities. We need to support emerging business clusters, create linkages between different value chains and different industries, and "go local" in awareness campaigns.

We first had to build trust among different stakeholders, then among the politicians, so that the process would survive different political regimes by demonstrating a strong partnership with businesses. As a result of these efforts, all political parties in Romania recognized the institution as an important step to strengthen public-private partnerships in export development.

We began in 2003, when together with businesses we discussed the idea of a national export organization. In April 2004 we created the National Export Council with 14 members from the private sector and 14 from the public sector. We started designing a national export strategy at the end of 2004, applying ITC methodology. By the end of 2005, Romania approved the strategy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As part of our Export 2006 programme, we visited many local authorities to raise awareness of the need to change mentalities so that we could create sustainable exports at a local level. We are trying to stimulate linkages at local level between industries that are important for reducing poverty and for sustainable export development, such as tourism, furniture production, organic farming and handicrafts. …