Trade missions: gathering here or there to make things happen.

Author:Wolf, Greg
Position:SPECIAL SECTION: World Trade

Trade missions are an important element of any successful trade promotion effort. But, what exactly is a trade mission? provides this definition:

"Coordinated overseas visit by a group of business executives to meet potential buyers or agents, usually after market research by a chamber of commerce, industry or trade association, or the visitors' embassy."

So, a trade mission is more than just a group of people making a trip to a foreign country. It is travel with the intent of promoting trade opportunities or, in some cases, involves the participating companies meeting with potential customers in the country being visited by the mission. Their purpose may be to introduce their company and its product or services or, in some cases, it may be to conduct business with a new or existing customer.

Trade missions are typically organized by either a private sector trade organization, as in the case of World Trade Center Alaska, or a government entity, such as state or local government. At the state-level, for example, it may be a mission led by the Governor or a department commissioner. At the federal level, the Secretary of Commerce often leads trade missions abroad that are industry focused.

Mission participants frequently include both private sector executives and public sector officials. Both can play an important role in the successful conduct of a mission. While the business executives have their own products or services to sell, the policy makers can deliver the message about a positive business environment and highlight particular opportunities or legislation that supports trade activities. The presence of government officials is especially valuable in certain parts of world. Asia comes to mind, for example, where governments play a more direct role in business. Indeed, in some cases, major companies in those countries may be wholly or partially owned by the government.

Trade missions can be conducted in two directions: outbound or inbound. The first would be, for example, a group of Alaska companies visiting China on a trade mission. In other words, outbound means from Alaska to a foreign country. An inbound mission represents the reverse scenario: a group of companies or trade officials visiting Alaska from a foreign country. Sometimes they make the visit at the invitation of an entity in Alaska or they are making the visit on their own initiative.

Missions can be either vertical or horizontal. A vertical mission...

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