Due to the potential for strong anti-American sentiment because of U.S. retaliatory actions taken in Afghanistan, U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world are at risk. As a result, the U.S. State Department has issued numerous travel warnings.

The State Department urges Americans to “review their circumstances carefully and to take all appropriate measures to ensure their personal safety.” When traveling abroad, Americans are urged to monitor local news and maintain contact with the nearest American embassy or consulate.

Consult the State Dept.’s Website

U.S. citizens planning to travel abroad should go to http://travel.state.gov/ to consult the State Department ‘s Public Announcements, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, Fact Sheets, and regional travel brochures.

American citizens overseas may contact the American Citizens Services unit of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate by telephone or fax for up-to-date information on security conditions. Additionally, U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the State Department at 202-647-5225 or receive information by automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000 from their fax machine.

Review the New FAA Rules

On October 8, 2001 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new guidelines to help air travelers meet heightened security measures implemented since the September 11th attacks.

For starters, air travelers are now limited to one carry-on bag and one personal item (i.e., briefcase, purse). And nail clippers, safety razors (including disposable razors), and tweezers are now permitted in your carry-on bag. For more information, go to http://www.faa.gov/.

Business Travel Will Recover — Slowly

Due to the additional one to three hours needed to satisfy new airline security requirements, coupled with many travelers’ fear of flying, business people are traveling less often. According to a September 18th survey cited by the Conference Board, a global research organization, 58% of corporate travel managers said their companies would reduce travel. Some of the travel reductions are a side effect of slower economic growth.

Foreign travel is down as well. Reported on November 11th, British Airways profits were down 85% from the previous year, KLM profits were down by 77%, and SAS profits were down by 250%. As a substitute to overseas travel, more companies are becoming more familiar with videoconferencing.

New Security Proposals May Increase Travel Confidence

A proposal to make air travel safer while reducing waiting time incorporates technology designed to scan a passenger’s iris, hand or face. This information is compared to the data on the passenger’s ID “smart” card and sent through an FBI watch list. According to the Financial Times, Boston’s Logan Airport has announced plans to introduce facial recognition technology.

This article appeared in October 2001. (CB)
Topic: Strategies
Comment (0) Hits: 2394

Prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, the World Bank projected U.S. and other OECD country growth to reach 1.1% in 2001 and to 2.2% in 2002. However, since September 11th, the 2002 projection has been modified downward by .75-1.25 percentage points — and this is assuming business resumes to normal by mid 2002.

Projections for developing countries also were lowered. Original World Bank forecasts for 2001 and 2002 were 2.9% and 4.3%, respectively. Recent estimates for 2002 have been downgraded by half to three-quarters of 1%. Furthermore, the World Trade Organization forecasts growth in world merchandise trade to drop from 12% in 2000 to 2% in 2001. A major factor is the anticipated decline of information technology product expenditures. Overall, this is expected to result in fewer international sales and higher credit risks.

Topic: Strategies
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Today, sound international research is a necessity if you are to seize opportunities and mitigate risks brought on by globalization. But we understand that your time is valuable. To make your job easier, we’ve reviewed some of the best websites available and listed them below.

A One-Stop Shop: Visit The National Trade Data Bank

The NTDB is one of the best sources of trade information available. It provides access to Country Commercial Guides, Market Research reports, and Best Market reports. This U.S. government site also provides U.S. import and export statistics, as well as over 75 other various reports and programs.

The International Trade Library is a comprehensive collection of over 40,000 documents related to international trade. All are full text searchable, as well as key word searchable by country or product.

For more information, go to www. stat-usa.gov or call 1-800-STAT-USA. The fees are minimal.

Prepare for the FTAA

To prepare for the upcoming Free Trade Area of the Americas, go to the U.S. Trade Representative’s FTAA site at www.ustr.gov/regions/whemisphere/ftaa.shtml.

The site provides press releases, an overview and status of the FTAA negotiations, and data on agriculture, competition policy, dispute settlement, the environment, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, labor, market access, services, subsidies, antidumping and countervailing duties.

Receive a Daily Briefing

For a minimal fee, STRATFOR, a leading provider of global intelligence, will send you an electronic briefing daily. The company’s more than 40 employees are composed of business and intelligence professionals with backgrounds in the military, academia and leading think tanks. A variety of journalists also serve on the staff.

In addition to its Corporate and Government Intelligence practice, STRATFOR also provides intelligence to more than 20,000 individual members via its critically acclaimed website, STRATFOR.com. And the company provides intelligence to leading publishers and selected members of global media, through its media and publishing practice.

Complete Your Deal Faster and Easier

By using the CB&T website, you can expedite your international deals by conveniently and quickly processing your trade documents. Plus, dealing with foreign currencies has never been easier. In addition, through CBTrade®, an automated on-line trade finance system, importers can apply for and send letters of credit (LCs). Exporters can review incoming LCs or other documentary collections, check on their status and more.

This article appeared in July 2001. (CB)
Topic: Strategies
Comment (2) Hits: 2856

When doing business abroad, how well you understand your customer’s culture can give you a competitive advantage. But just what is your level of cultural awareness, and is it benefiting or hurting your business?

The Definition of Culture

Culture is defined as a collection of values, beliefs, behaviors, customs, and attitudes that distinguish a society. It is learned and interrelated, defines group membership and differences, and can’t be ignored. A society’s culture reflects its values and attitudes.

Today, cultural perspectives are at work in just about every endeavor, including hiring, firing, compensation, etiquette, negotiating, office setting, strategy, and personal and business relationships. And, in short, if a foreign customer’s culture is not respected, your business relationship is likely to suffer.

What’s Acceptable Here May Be Disastrous There

Attitudes and societal values differ considerably throughout the world. In fact, acceptable behavior in one cultural setting may be viewed as immoral, unethical, or rude in another. For example, “kickbacks,” while expected in some developing countries may land you in jail in others. And nepotism, while prevalent in some areas of the world, is frowned upon in others, since it may result in incompetence and inefficiencies.

Many cultures have specific customs worth noting. In India, for instance, since the left hand is considered unclean, the right hand should be used for eating, giving and accepting. In Malaysia, pointing with the index finger is considered impolite; it is more appropriate to point with the thumb of the right hand with the fingers folded under.

Furthermore, in France, a firm and pumping handshake is considered uncultured, while in the Middle East, you should not point your finger at someone or show the soles of your feet when seated. The soles are considered unclean and offensive.

Time Is Relative

Many cultures also view time and status very differently. For example, Germans tend to be very punctual, paying much attention to the small hands on a clock. To the contrary, Latin Americans and Italians tend to have a more relaxed sense of time.

This means that a German business person may arrive at 3:50 for a 4:00 appointment, while a Latin American business person may arrive at 4:15. The problem: the value of the meeting may come into question.

Work and Relationship Building

Work standards or ethics also are relative. Generally, U.S. and German business people are considered driven and deterministic. Yet, this can lead to poor results.

When abroad, U.S. business people generally prefer to get right down to business. To others, this is considered premature and does not help establish a friendship — a prerequisite to doing business in many countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the initial business meeting is designed to establish a relationship and build mutual trust. As such, business usually is not even discussed.

Pay Attention to Status

For those doing business in Japan, it is imperative to know that Japanese culture is defined in hierarchical terms with the good of the group reigning supreme. In this case, emphasis is placed on seniority and group well-being instead of individual performance and needs. As a result, seeking a decision from an individual without a group consensus is extremely difficult.

Similarly, status, which can identified by titles on business cards, signifies much importance throughout Asia. When deciding who to address or determining the level of formality to use when speaking to an individual, definitely consider his/her status.

Body Politics Matter

In addition to specific expressed customs, nonverbal communication is also very important because the meaning behind gestures and facial expressions can vary significantly. For example, nodding “yes” in the United States is equivalent to “no” in Bulgaria. Overall, body posture, positioning, and eye contact may influence how one is perceived.

Take for instance the following example: the joining of the thumb and forefinger in a circle while extending the other three fingers means “OK” in the United States. However, in Malta, this symbol signifies homosexuality; in Japan, money; in France, inadequacy; and in many parts of Eastern Europe, vulgarity.

When Yes Means No

In many cultures, employees sometimes will say yes to their ability and willingness to complete a task even though they have no intention of doing so. Why? In the employees’ eyes, saying no to a manager may be considered disrespectful or rude. Or, the employee may feel compelled to say yes for fear of losing face.

Thus, the employee would rather lie than seem incapable of performance. Understanding the motive behind the yes may help improve a poor working relationship.

The Importance of Speaking Their Language

One typical obstacle to building a successful international business relationship is ethnocentric behavior. This often is perceived as arrogance with little desire to accept or adapt to the host country’s culture, including communicating in the host’s country’s language.

When U.S. firms establish foreign subsidiaries, some tend to implement a policy of “one size fits all,” and don’t consider different cultural modes of doing business. This ethnocentric behavior is often regarded by host country employees, managers, and suppliers as rude, and is perceived as an unwillingness to respect the host country’s culture and standards.

To counter this behavior, it is extremely wise for U.S. business people to speak the host country’s language whenever possible. Even simply attempting to communicate in the host country’s native tongue can work wonders in demonstrating mutual respect and a willingness to work together.

Be Culturally Sensitive

U.S. corporations operating in foreign countries often act as agents of change, bringing new operating standards, state-of-the-art technology, values, and best business practices — which in turn, may contribute to the improvement of the host country’s social, labor, and environmental conditions. This, no doubt, can generate very positive public relations for U.S. firms, and go a long way toward building positive and long-lasting relationships.

However, not being culturally sensitive can certainly result in missed opportunities. In summary, a sound understanding of your foreign customer’s culture will help maximize your business successes, and minimize your business failures.

This article appeared in April 2001. (CB)
Topic: Strategies
Comment (0) Hits: 2876

With today’s new technologically-advanced Internet, obtaining the information you need to expand internationally has never been easier. And you can significantly reduce your research costs while greatly improving your results.

Who Has Time to Surf?

The Internet can provide you with intelligence on just about any topic. And surfing the web can be enjoyable. But who’s got the time? To make your job easier, we’ve reviewed several sites you may find extremely useful.

Obtain Government Statistics

More than 70 U.S. government agencies produce data that can help you expand internationally. The Fedstats website (www.fedstats.gov/) directly accesses data from these agencies.

To obtain this data, click on Agencies, Data Access Tools, Programs, Regional Statistics, Press Releases, or additional links.

Visit the CIA

The CIA’s World Factbook (www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html) provides extensive studies on every nation in the world. The studies include demographic data, economic figures, political conditions, maps, etc.

Convert Foreign Currencies Fast

The Universal Currency Converter website (www.xe.net/ucc/) converts currencies in seconds. Simply choose a currency, input an amount and then select the destination currency. Or if you prefer, use CNN’s currency site (cnnfn.com/markets/currencies/).

Global One-Stop Research

If you’re seeking a one-stop site to conduct business research, you’ll want to visit the BizTech Network (www.brint.com). This site provides information on business, technology and management. Click on the Knowledge Map and then onto International Trade. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

Conduct Country-Specific Research

The Internationalist (www. internationalist.com) offers a wide array of international research. For example, under International Business, click on China and access Financial Services, Consultants, Government Links, and Country Business.

Click Here Before Traveling

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs (travel.state. gov) features visa and passport information, customs regulations, locations of U.S. embassies and consulates, health conditions, and much more.

Trade Compass

Trade Compass (www.trade compass.com) is a comprehensive and easy-to-use website. It provides trade contacts and leads, educational information, and sales and marketing tools. Additionally, you can access a help desk, logistics information, reference materials, and a whole lot more.

This article appeared in January 2000. (CB)
Topic: Strategies
Comment (0) Hits: 2331

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