ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

Posted on July 20, 2021

FARGO, ND - ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, and North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) Executive Director Drew Combs returned from a successful mission in Qatar and Turkey. NDTO team worked closely with Qatari and Turkish counterparts to ensure a successful mission which included several ND companies with interests in expanding relationships internationally into the region.

The mission was intended to build on NDTO's relationships with Qatar and Turkey that started during the pandemic to create a lasting footprint for the future. The NDTO coordinated a two-part mission, which was completed late last week. Commissioner Goehring and Commissioner Leiman, both NDTO board members, played essential roles in representing ND. "North Dakota is experiencing growing opportunities in multiple sectors," says Commissioner Goehring. "It is a privilege to emphasize all North Dakota has to offer the global marketplace."

Commission Leiman appreciated the opportunity to join the mission to build on a variety of investment opportunities in Qatar and Turkey, saying, "I don’t think this mission could have gone any better. We are looking forward to building many new avenues for businesses in ND."

Over the past year," the NDTO has a budding relationship with Qatar and Turkey, and this was a perfect opportunity to build on those relationships and create a solid foundation for the future with our new friends," says Combs. 

While in Turkey, connections were made with the Turkish Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Industry and Technology, and Ministry of Trade. Other prominent business meetings were held with energy, agriculture, and technology leaders. Both ND and Turkish businesses shared ideas on how to best partner for the future on a variety of projects.

Following Turkey was the Qatari leg of the mission. Meetings with government officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Free Trade Zones Authority,  Qatar Investment Authority, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and Qatar Stock Exchange. Qatari business people with agriculture, energy, and technology expertise welcomed the ND delegation throughout the week of meetings. The meetings focused on the exciting things happening in the state across several industries, as well as the many opportunities for partnership that will increase synergy between ND and Qatar.

"I can certainly say that the hospitality shown by the Qatari government was phenomenal, and we made many new and long-lasting connections," says Combs. Highlighting the success of the mission in both Qatar and Turkey, coupled with the ND businesses traveling with the delegation, there are many opportunities to thrive in the increasingly globalized world. The mission was a success in creating more bridges for communication, idea exchanges, investment opportunities, and cross-pollination for many ND companies in the future. As the world begins to open up and travel is becoming more available, NDTO and ND will continue to engage internationally and promote the state’s abundance in resources to increase ND’s global footprint.


Member Profile: Valley Express Inc.

Member Profile: Valley Express Inc.

Posted on June 30, 2021

From humble beginnings of hauling potatoes in the upper midwest, Valley Express Inc. has grown into a multidimensional global logistics company. With roots well planted in their ND home office, they started as a freight brokerage company that has expanded its services across several locations throughout the US. And through all their growth, Valley Express has maintained an impeccable reputation for consistency.

Within hours of asking if the team would be interested in speaking with NDTO for this article, I had four of their team members on a video call ready to tell me all about their dynamic approach to transportation and logistics. Overwhelmingly responsive is the best way to describe this team of hardworking and approachable professionals. Glenn Nelson, Chief Financial Officer, Wayne Larson, VP- Global Markets, Ian Nicks, VP Intermodal Logistics, and Amie O'Connor VP Global Operations, showed how their web of connectivity for imports and exports results in a highly effective model to benefit all.

Valley Express/ Worldwide moves around $70 million in freight revenue annually. They have grown and added value to their customers along the way with Valley Express, Valley Logistics Solutions, Valley Intermodal Solutions, and more. "Each one of our additional diversifications, like intermodal, has helped us become stronger and more responsive to the local community and customers," says Nelson. He goes on to explain that "just about everything we do comes from a 300-mile radius of the Fargo Moorhead area. We really are supporting this community with their freight needs." Valley Express has participated in trade missions, reverse trade missions, and STEP-funded opportunities with the NDTO throughout the years. These experiences have helped them better understand the business and build upon their connections.

"The intention was always to grow Valley Worldwide to support other aspects of the business and facilitate Valley Intermodal," explains Nicks. "Their goal is to grow to the point where our own fleet can handle our own containers through the Valley Worldwide office and vice versa, so that everything is all tied together." Nicks say that one of the biggest headaches he hears from exporters/importers is that they are often surprised by the many parties involved in moving the goods. Valley's role is to help clarify and simplify the process. "What Valley is building is a one-stop-shop. All a customer needs to do is call Valley, and that is it. They [customers] don't have to know anything about import/export documentation or if they need an AES [Automated Export System] filing. They don't have to know who is draying their container, or if there is a container shortage, and how to navigate that," says Nicks.   Customers typically come to Valley Express/ Worldwide in need of trucking services, but this relationship often evolves with the variety of integrated services offered.  The team can navigate all of the specificity of shipping seamlessly without confusing the customers.

Larson, who is based in Duluth, MN, explained that Valley Express/ Worldwide grew close partnerships with the Duluth Seaport Authority and Lake Superior Warehousing to help open an intermodal facility in 2017. The intermodal facility was a game-changer for many businesses, from seeing five containers coming into port weekly to seeing over one hundred. "Part of that is working directly with the Port Authority and Superior Warehousing," Larson explains "we can offer all types of services from freight forwarding, trucking, warehousing, and trans-loading to benefit many companies." A Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) services are also available on-site. US Customs inspections can often be scheduled the next day and take about 15 minutes. This helps to ease the timing and paperwork for many importers.

With its network of connections, Valley Express/ Worldwide has a competitive edge to help customers ship goods more efficiently. They can accommodate heavy commodity weight containers coming through the Duluth Port. The excess weight that is too heavy for roads can be stored and repacked to a manageable road weight and then shipped overland to their final destination. Companies can significantly reduce shipping costs overseas by shipping an overweight container via sea and then repacking it for road weight.

O'Connor manages operations at the Minneapolis, MN office and was described as "the epitome of operational excellence and keeping us all on the straight and narrow," says Nelson. The Minneapolis facility is an FDA-certified warehouse. Their space is also available for projects or to hold items for inventory management. The flexibility with this space is a valuable tool and can help supplement the customer's needs. In addition, O'Connor says, "our team specializes in making it easy for our importers and exporters. They don't do this every day,  and we do! If we can take this portion of their business off their hands and make it simple, we are happy to."

The Minneapolis intermodal trucking fleet operates between 40-50 owner-operators on any given day. Many of these operators are doing one to two loads per day throughout the region. With a "street-turn," meaning when full load is brought to its end destination and then can be reloaded with an export, it can then be brought back to Minneapolis full and ready for export again. The ability to do the street-turns has been invaluable for both companies to reduce costs and move goods more quickly. Valley Intermodal touches between 1000-1200 containers per month out of Minneapolis, many of which can be reused/reloaded or repositioned where they are needed. In Duluth, they are able to match the imports and exports with 50 containers going in and out each week.

Valley Express/ Worldwide is the most extensive intermodal fleet in the state of ND. "Our owner operations and their trucks have Valley Express on the doors. They are running under our licenses, insurance, authority, and their trailers are purchased from us, so we have created a structure where we can say yes to a truck that wants to come on. So we can grow for the customers quite quickly," explains Nelson. The team continues to increase their networking and have contacts in pretty much every location they have freight coming or going. As active members of the International Freight and Logistics Network (IFLN), the alliance is an invaluable resource and provides added security when shipping globally.

Valley Express/ Worldwide continues to grow and serve the community in ND to help build connections, cooperate with many businesses, and aims to simplify logistics for everyone. "Our customers don't have to be experts in international logistics. They just have to have our phone number," says Nicks, and the whole team nods and smiles.

For more information on Valley Express/Worldwide, see their video and visit their website here.

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

Posted on June 30, 2021

Trade credit insurance is largely considered a discretionary insurance purchase, but Kimberly Kelly, Founder of Trade Credit Specialty, is on a mission to change that. As one of our newest NDTO Trade Service Provider members, Kelly shares her passion for how trade credit insurance can be leveraged daily to grow domestic and export credit sales safely. Her consultative, client-centered approach is changing views for the better.

Overhead expenses, sales metrics, and achieving quotas can often be barriers to a truly consultative insurance broker relationship. "It's understandable that larger firms must consider their profitability, but this can sometimes present a conflict of interest. I wanted to eliminate that dilemma, so I created a firm with low operating expenses, allowing me to be a true consultant," explains Kelly.

Trade Credit Specialty is an insurance brokerage that operates like a consulting firm. Their focus is to advise, support, and provide technical expertise instead of simply selling insurance. Their business model relies on technology to reduce operating expenses and increase efficiencies for both the broker and the client. "It's this low overhead and increased efficiency that allows us to provide service and expertise at a level often expected from global firms but sometimes not realized with smaller firms," Kelly explains.

For example, the "Next Steps" page of their website houses time-saving embedded documents. Using the "Virtual Meeting Request" button enables a meeting to be scheduled quickly, according to your schedule. The "Relationships" page offers quick links and forms on demand.

Low operating expenses eliminate the need for sales quotas or revenue goals, allowing the only measure of success to be client satisfaction, which is their mission. "I sincerely want to help businesses, and I have no problem assessing the situation, and if trade credit insurance isn't a good fit, I'll admit that."

So, why purchase trade credit insurance? Great question; here are a few benefits:

  • Competition: By relying on a trade credit policy, a company will be able to offer buyers payment options, including higher credit limits or longer payment terms as opposed to limiting themselves to cash-only sales.
  • Non-payment risk mitigation: Policyholders can confidently extend terms to new customers or increase credit for marginal customers. Additionally, the responsibility of determining the creditworthiness of these customers is transferred to the carrier, eliminating that task for the policyholder
  • Preserved cash flow: Trade credit insurance gives confidence that cash flows will not be interrupted by slow pays or insolvencies, particularly when a concentration is identified.
  • Augmented borrowing power: Insured AR will become collateral, allowing banks and lenders to add export, marginal or concentrated risks into the borrowing base.

The examples above illustrate the variety of benefits reaped from an in-force trade credit insurance policy, supporting day-to-day operations beyond filing a claim, and that is Kelly's favorite part about trade credit insurance. "Trade credit insurance isn't a policy that sits on the shelf, tapped only in the event of a loss. It is leveraged on a daily basis to support safe growth. It's really a cost-effective tool," says Kelly.

Overall, trade credit insurance gives a competitive advantage to the policyholder, eliminates the responsibility of due diligence, and mitigates non-payment risk in both the domestic and global marketplace.

For more information on trade credit insurance, use these links to connect with Kimberly Kelly at Trade Credit Specialty or reach out to the NDTO team at  info@ndto.com.

Exporting in the Time of COVID 19- Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

Exporting in the Time of COVID 19- Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

Posted on June 30, 2021

For our last edition in the series of Exporting in the Time of COVID-19, we revisit subjects from our previous topics and look towards the future with lessons learned as more information becomes available. While some of us are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, there are many countries still in the midst of the fight. Keeping that in mind, there are many lessons to be learned so far, and how we can all continue to find ways to rebound and be more resilient in light of this ongoing global pandemic

Global cooperation has become essential on so many levels, including government, for and non-profit businesses, and private and public sectors, to find innovative approaches to keep forward momentum. Teamwork is vital as companies collaborate to spur each other's success. Maham Siddique said it well, when speaking about supply chain resiliency, that "connectivity, transparency, technology, and flexibility will empower buyers and suppliers… The resiliency-building lessons learned from the pandemic have taught us that establishing collaborative solutions can drive better trade outcomes (Teamwork 'Key to Overcome COVID-Induced Trade Hurdles', 2021)." She goes on to highlight four resiliency tactics for the future that every business should know - how their own supply chain works, how to embrace technology, having transparency in business, and how to flexible. All of these items can be identified and utilized to better prepare for the next global disruption – and all experts say there will be another one.

Supply Chains

Much was learned in the supply chain and logistics arena from the pandemic. Nimble and agile became two of the descriptors of successful transportation and logistics companies coming through the pandemic. Teamwork, agility, and re-routing goods and supplies became essential to navigate the continuously changing logistics environment during the pandemic. Traditionally, supply chain experts were trained to focus on efficiency and low-cost solutions, but the pandemic forced a paradigm shift taking risk management into account. Evaluating procurement costs, lead times, and material sourcing alongside profitability became essential (Phillips, 2021).  Adopting many digital technologies has become a clear advantage for companies that invested in these products long ago. They now have the intelligence and metrics to determine better logistical operations over their products.

Companies that initially saw a wide gap and disruptions in their supply chains talked early on about potential reshoring or nearshoring operations to provide more control. For many, this has not shown the be the case. Very few companies have taken the steps to re-shore. Better visibility of their supply/value chains and upgrading their logistics processes have proven to do the trick for many and will pay off in the long run.

Trade Policy

With many initial reactions to the pandemic, governments took steps to protect themselves before looking to their neighbors and beyond. Protectionism became a concern with policies focused on reactions to the pandemic in the immediate and not considering the breadth and depth that the pandemic could have globally. A year-plus later, we see that this is not the case. As pandemic restrictions started to ease, the collaboration between governments has started to increase.

Policy shifts will likely be seen as the vaccine rollout becomes more successful. Humanitarian and social programs are increasingly needed globally as food access, agriculture, small businesses and manufacturing industries start rebuilding. The process and structure will look very different depending on the country and the government's focus. We will likely see shifts less concerned with protectionist goals and more emphasis on expansion or loosening of tariffs on certain goods as humanitarian aid increases.

The UN Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) suggests that global trade should focus on climate change actions and developing programs to prioritize people and the environment (Make Trade More Sustainable and Inclusive, Leaders Say, 2021). Hopefully, these priorities of building up developing nations and increasing green energy and climate change initiatives will build towards a better future for the greater good.

Food Insecurity

Globally, there are several counties on the brink of famine, according to the UN World Food Program. The food supply was initially of concern, but as more research has come to light, access to food is a more significant problem in struggling countries. The food supply is available, but for many, it is not affordable. In many countries, food is supplied by small-scale farmers in local markets, and not the large production and complicated supply chain structures we see in the US. As lockdowns and public gathering restrictions were enforced, many local markets were unable to operate. Small-scale farming operations across the globe were more heavily impacted because of the structure of distribution and sales. Low and middle-income countries have been the most affected by hunger historically. What has been a predominantly rural issue now is seen throughout urban low and middle-income areas. The pandemic has increased hunger in urban areas dramatically due to job and wage instability.  (Sova, 2021)

With 50% of pre-pandemic food consumption coming from restaurants, this industry was hard-hit in developed countries. Overall, when the pandemic started to grip the world, many food-related businesses were making short-term adjustments, planning for a few weeks or months. As time when on, those adaptations had to become long-term fixtures. It is often easier to adjust for the short term, explains Brandon Barholt, president of KeHe Distributors, an Illinois bases fresh food distributor. A surprise he noted was that small manufacturers were more agile than anticipated, especially when compared to larger food manufacturers.  (Johns, 2021). The increase in at-home meal consumption, experts say, is likely here to stay. This is explained by a whole generation that did not know how to cook and was now forced to. Additionally, with income still an issue for many, eating out is a luxury that can wait. The pre-pandemic split of 50% restaurant food consumption and 50% at-home food consumption is not likely to return quickly in the US. While the US and other developed countries are not seeing empty shelves anymore, grocers are opting for a more focused inventory, ensuring staples are readily available. Many new products will be limited as grocers become more comfortable with the new buying habits of consumers. Hunger and food insecurity are still prominent in the developed nations, as access and rising food prices are likely to increase over time.

In 2021, many countries and communities will continue to struggle to put nutritious food on the table, warns the UN. Rising food prices are a limiting factor for families across the globe and will continue to be a major hurdle for the foreseeable future. Humanitarian aid, non-profits, and governments will need to embrace many tools to combat the struggles to reduce food insecurities.

Uneven Recovery

International businesses overall fared better than their solely domestic businesses. Global connectedness has been attributes as a key source of success for international firms, but also made international companies more susceptible to the initial pandemic shocks. After the early shock of the pandemic, international firms had multifaceted efforts to respond - employing several tactics like working remotely, adapting products, finding new suppliers, and in some cases loaning out workers to other manufacturing firms (Borino, Carlson, Rollo, & Solleder, 2021). Soley domestic businesses employed many of the same tactics but had fewer options to adjust within their borders.

Downstream supply challenges for many businesses are still a concern. Slow production capacity hampers some of the previously available goods to deliver products to consumers. Wood shortages, for instance, mean that shipping palettes are still in short supply, causing some manufactures to cut back production. Other companies have adapted to new packaging and other staples to move forward despite the shortages (Johns, 2021).

For example, the manufacturing industry is picking up in the UK. It is reported to have the highest growth rate since 1994, including orders, employment, and output (Drives and Controls, 2021). Keeping this momentum going will be a continued battle with embracing greener technologies set forth by UK governments and maintaining a competitive edge with other industrial and manufacturing powerhouses. The UK rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic and succeeded. Keeping the drive from the pandemic will be the key to maintaining greater global competitiveness for the UK manufacturing industry.

The global pandemic is still running amok for many countries, and now more than ever, a call to action for philanthropic endeavors is needed. There is a lot of potential for companies to join in on the continuing pandemic fight. Filipi explores how to identify a niche that your company may be able to fill and promote philanthropy across your organization (Filipi, 2021). We saw many manufacturers in the Midwest transition their production lines for PPE creation or hand sanitizers. This type of ingenuity is still needed as we continue to move through the pandemic waves.

Although resilience and adaptation remain at the forefront of recovery, there is still a long road ahead. Many industries, including food and manufacturing, are overall struggling to fill job vacancies hampering rebound. Additional surges and vaccination rates continue to impact countries across the globe, with travel restrictions still in effect throughout many parts of the world. Many economists and leaders are predicting continued challenges through 2021. However, through continued support, collaborative efforts, and transparency, recovery is happening, although it is a marathon, not a sprint.


Borino, F., Carlson, E., Rollo, V., & Solleder, O. (2021, April 30). International firms: More exposed but more resilient during Covid-19. Retrieved from VOX EU: https://voxeu.org/article/international-firms-more-exposed-more-resilient-during-covid-19

De Bellefonds, C. (2021, June 11). 7 Lessons We've Learned From This Pandemic to Remember for the Next One. Retrieved from Self: https://www.self.com/story/pandemic-lessons

Drives and Controls. (2021, June 15). Retrieved from We Must Apply the Lessons fo COVID to the Future: https://drivesncontrols.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/6750/We_must_apply_the_lessons_of_Covid_to_the_future.html

Filipi, F. (2021, June 23). Lessons Learned from Pandemic Responses that Leverage Philanthropy. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2021/06/23/lessons-learned-from-pandemic-responses-that-leverage-philanthropy/?sh=5b0d69b37851

Harvey, F. (2021, February 15). Risk of Global Food Shortages Due to COVID has Increased, Says UN Envoy. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/15/risk-of-global-food-shortages-covid-increased-un-envoy-agnes-kalibata?CMP=share_btn_tw

Johns, M. (2021, June 11). One Year Later: Lessons Learned in the Food Supply Chain. Retrieved from BMO Capital Markets: https://capitalmarkets.bmo.com/en/news-insights/food-consumer-retail/covid-19-insights/one-year-later-lessons-learned-food-supply-chain/

Make Trade More Sustainable and Inclusive, Leaders Say. (2021, June 16). Retrieved from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: 2021

Pearson, J., & Altman, S. A. (2021, May 18). How DHL Express Navigated the Pause — and Rebound — of Global Trade. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/05/how-dhl-express-navigated-the-pause-and-rebound-of-global-trade

Phillips, S. (2021, May 15). How COVID-19 Took the Supply Chain to a New Place. Retrieved from Global Trade Magazine: https://www.globaltrademag.com/how-covid-19-took-the-supply-chain-to-a-new-place/

Sova, C. (2021, April 2). After One Year of COVID-19, What Lessons Have We Learned About Hunger? Retrieved from UN World Food Program: https://www.wfpusa.org/articles/after-one-year-of-covid-19-what-lessons-have-we-learned-about-hunger/

Teamwork 'Key to Overcome COVID-Induced Trade Hurdles'. (2021, June 9). Retrieved from Trade Arabia Business News and Information: http://www.tradearabia.com/news/REAL_383327.html

Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks, Oh My! How Intellectual Property Rights Vary Globally 

Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks, Oh My! How Intellectual Property Rights Vary Globally 

Posted on June 30, 2021

Navigating through the process of registering your trademarks and confirming copyrights and patents can be a challenge, but taking those items internationally brings about a whole new set of rules, regulations, and decisions for the future of your business.

Intellectual Property (IP) rights exist to protect innovation. One of the driving forces for change in this world is the innovation of new ideas, processes, materials, and goods. Being able to protect the ideas and innovations, if only for a short period of time, allows the creator to benefit from their ideas financially. The laws give the creator ownership and control over how their creation is used, ultimately allowing them to benefit and recoup the time and investment on their creations.

As far back as 1886, in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, businesses were thinking about protecting intellectual property.  Today, there are more than 25 international treaties on IP, and the world is constantly changing to keep up.

Let's dive into the different types of IPs and how to protect them.

Intellectual Property

Intellection Property (IP) is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as "creations of the mind – everything from works of art to inventions, computer programs to trademarks and other commercial signs." It refers to a variety of rights by those who create works that are protected under copyright laws, patent laws, and trademark laws. Each item has different laws and regulations based on the type of item/work. We can think of IP as the umbrella over copyrighted, trademarked, and patented materials.

Typically, there are two categories when discussing IP, copyrights, and industrial property rights, including patents, industrial design, and trademarks. Below are some details about each and things to consider before taking your products or services international.


Copyrights encompass a large body of work - from individual writings, music, movies, and one-of-a-kind works of art to databases, computer code/programming, maps, and architecture. The copyright allows control over how the distribution of work and the creator's right to be acknowledged. Transfer of copyright is quite common and happens when the original owner gives the rights to someone else to benefit or utilize while also collecting a fee for use (also known as royalties).

Internationally, many copyright laws have both criminal and civil penalties that the copyright owner regulates. Rights are often defined in two categories - economic and moral rights. Economic rights include the right to profit from one's creative project. Moral rights, including the right to be acknowledged and alterations to their work, are limited as not to cause damage to the creator.  Economic rights typically have international time limits, which after the period expires, the work enters the public domain for use. Time limits for moral rights are indefinite in some countries, both others have specific time limits.  While full international copyright does not exist, many international protections and policies are in place through government treaties and agreements.

Industrial Property Rights


Patents are typically reserved for inventions and provide the patent owner with exclusive rights to the product for a set period of time and legally allow control over who uses, sells, or makes the invention. After the exclusivity time has passed, others can utilize the design.  The key to a patent is that the protection granted is for something completely new, a new product, a new process, or a new solution. Some inventions that may not be eligible for patients include scientific or mathematical theories, flora and fauna species, and medical treatments. These non-patentable items intend to benefit humankind without formal control or restriction.

Domestically and internationally, there is an application process for patents, which varies by region and often involves a fee. It is recommended to seek local legal representation for each international patent application in each country you intend to file.  Some regional patent systems exist where one patent can cover multiple regions, such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) or the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT System).

Industrial Design

A little more abstract than a patent, industrial design encompasses a product's look and feel, and is prevalent on the consumer level with a product's design or aesthetic elements and details considered "ornamental." For example, the industrial design could be a new ergonomic chair that is exclusively designed to be unique, the chair itself is just a chair, but the ornaments adorning the chair could be a discerning factor for consumer preferences. Other aspects of industrial design include two-dimensional features like lines, patterns, and colors.

Internationally, for the industrial design protection to apply, the products should show originality and be produced on a larger scale (not a one-of-a-kind piece). Laws vary widely for industrial design and should be carefully considered before beginning the process of registration.


Since ancient times, trademarks have been in practice when Roman brick makers would each have their own mark to signify the maker, gaining a reputation for quality, craftsmanship, or lack thereof. Today, trademarks work in much the same way - to indicate the origin of the goods or maker. There are legal protections to control the use of a specific mark to deter counterfeiters.

The trademark itself can be represented by letters, words, numbers, symbols, colors, or pictures, as well as 3-dimensional designs, packaging, and even sounds. As long as the mark is distinct and not already registered similarly, it can qualify as a trademark. Registration will often be granted for a set period of time and needs renewal. Additionally, trademark registration requires a fee and disclosure of the types of goods and services provided by the mark. Once granted, if the trademark is used fraudulently, the trademark owner has legal ground to defend their product.

Counterfeited goods are harmful to legitimate businesses, and they often support not-so-savory endeavors. They also undermine the IP of the legitimate business, which can damage their reputation and reduce their success.

The best way to protect the IP from counterfeiters is to register the copyright, trademark, industrial design, or patent in each market, country, or territory you intend to use it in. Some countries have a higher amount of counterfeit goods, so it is a good idea to seek out protecting your companies' goods in higher-risk markets first. Other best practices to consider when selling your IP globally are using vetted or reputable dealers or partners in foreign countries and building relationships to understand how your IP will be respected if exported.

Because IP laws and regulations vary widely globally, it is best to engage with international legal advisors to navigate the process. There are several agreements, systems, and treaties that companies can use to maximize their efforts in registering their products for multiple countries all at once.

The WIPO administers 26 treaties regarding IP rights. The list, along with more specific information on treaties, can be found in the references below. The World Trade Organization and its members also utilize the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

The information presented above is intended to familiarize you with some of the issues regarding IP and variations worldwide. Legal advice is highly recommended for IP questions and legal matters. For more information on legal providers who specialize in international law, please reach out to info@ndto.com


Basic Facts About Trademarks: What Every Small Business Should Know. (2021, June). Retrieved from United States Patent and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/uspto-videos/basic-facts-about-trademarks-what-every-small-business-should

International Copyright Law. (2021, June ). Retrieved from International Trade Administration: https://legacy.export.gov/article?id=International-Copyright-Law

Trademark Information Network. (2021, June). Retrieved from United States Patent and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/trademark-information-network

TRIPS — Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. (2021, June ). Retrieved from World Trade Organization: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/trips_e.htm

WIPO-Administered Treaties. (2021, June ). Retrieved from World Intellectual Property Organization: https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/

World Intellectual Property Organization. (2021, June). Retrieved from https://www.wipo.int/portal/en/

NDTO Creates New Connections to Foster Growth in ND

NDTO Creates New Connections to Foster Growth in ND

Posted on June 17, 2021

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO), in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, engaged in eleven meetings with key consulates, country-specific partners, and a handful of associations last week. The primary focus was international trade and investment.

It was wonderful to visit and reestablish relationships with partners and create new connections after living with the pandemic restrictions for the past several months. In most cases, the North Dakota team was the first state delegation to visit their offices in person since the beginning of the pandemic and our new and old friends were thrilled to hear that North Dakota was open for business.

During the meetings, we showcased many of the exciting things happening in our state in the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and other key industries. One area of focus was a briefing on carbon capture and storage initiatives happening in North Dakota.  Throughout all the meetings, one common tread was that our partners are excited to explore future synergies and connect with North Dakota producers and service providers with their constituents in a variety of industries.

North Dakota continues to take the lead in several industries, and potential customers and partners are lining up to take advantage of the numerous trade and investment opportunities our state has to offer. Small but mighty, our state will be one to watch as the world emerges through the challenges of the pandemic.

-Drew Combs, North Dakota Trade Office Executive Director

Member Profile: Bremer Bank

Member Profile: Bremer Bank

Posted on June 2, 2021

Some people have a knack for banking, foreign exchange, and international business. Combine that with a talent for teaching and passion for people, and you have the team at Bremer Bank. We sat down with Julie Whitney, Fargo/Moorhead Market President, and Christopher Davis, Foreign Exchange (FX) and International Service Manager at Bremer Bank to better understand how ND exporters can benefit from their services.

“Cultivating thriving communities is what we strive to do with all of our customers at Bremer,” says Whitney. With the onslaught of online banking, Whitney explains, larger banks have thrived with digital technologies, but this has disrupted essential values along the way. Bremer is rooted in community values from their founder Otto Bremer, serving across North Dakota, Minnesota, and Western Wisconsin.  In recent years, Bremer has further focused business efforts on commercial and agricultural industries. “We are sharpening our focus on the banking areas where we have the most expertise serving commercial and ag businesses. This is where we can really make a difference,” says Whitney.

Davis has more than 20 years of experience in international banking. He is strengthening the team at Bremer with his extensive foreign exchange and global trade background. With more than 20 years in the global banking industry, he has experience with global payments, currency risk management, and facilitating trade transactions.

When it comes to export businesses, the best advice Davis had is to “engage with the banks early.” Exporters typically engage with banks as the deals are ready for execution, but there is so much more Bremer can do to assist before finalization. Critical considerations regarding foreign currency, payment processing, and timing of payments can save a company time and money, as well as make them more competitive on a global stage. With early engagement, more options can be explored before an export deal takes place. Davis goes on to say that “by having a connection with us sooner, we can really offer more of a trade advisory role to enhance your business dealings.”

When your sales objectives include growth through expanded global trade, Davis also suggests considering a foreign currency pricing strategy. Pricing solely in US dollars could place you at a competitive disadvantage and directly impact your ability to grow your global business. When offering pricing in local currency, you make your product more attractive or competitive in other markets, but this will leave you to manage resulting currency conversion. That’s precisely when engaging Bremer Bank could add value. They can help identify trade and currency risk, assist with developing a foreign pricing program, and create simple solutions to manage currency cash flows while protecting profit margins in the process.

In working with Davis, there is an added touch of assistance with his proactive approach and extensive expertise. He can help identify areas to gain traction, alleviate anxiety around trade payments, and remove the hurdles around foreign exchange. “Working with a business is more of a discovery process for me, learning about their business, their goals, and their global objectives. These conversations are ongoing.  And together, we can find many untapped opportunities,” says Davis. He explains that there is a perception of complexity around foreign exchange, and Bremer works to mitigate that perception and any risks associated with international trade. They take the time and the opportunity to walk each company through the process and cater tools needed for their success. Davis highlights that “we can engage with trade credit insurance companies, international banks, government financing programs, and they can all work in concert to create connections and opportunities.”

Building relationships is a foundation of Bremer. They focus on taking a hands-on and personal approach to a company’s banking needs. “As a community bank, there is an emphasis on a local, but also a depth of services that can be provided,” says Whitney. For international offerings, Davis and the team at Bremer can assist with:

  • Expert Export Advice
  • Foreign Exchange Products and Services
    • Risk Management Services
    • Market Updates and Alerts
  • Hedging Solutions
    • Global Payment Options
  • Pre-Export Working Capital Finance
  • Trade Credit Insurance
  • Loans through SBA and Export-Import Bank of the US
  • Letter of Credit
  • Documentary Collections

More than just a bank, Davis, Whitney, and the whole team at Bremer will bring a personalized approach to your business and exporting goals. They work to reduce risks, barriers, and confusion to harness potential opportunities for their clients.  Davis and the team are happy to open conversations with businesses interested in international sales and needing assistance in demystifying the export process for businesses throughout the region.

For more information in Bremer’s international business services, click here.

Christopher Davis’ contact information can be found below.

Christopher Davis

FX & International Services Mgr.

225 S 6th Street, Suite 200

Minneapolis, MN 55402



Exporting in the Time of COVID-19: The Uneven Road to Recovery

Exporting in the Time of COVID-19: The Uneven Road to Recovery

Posted on June 2, 2021

The quicker global trade can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the better the global economic recovery will be, say many trade experts. Although recovery and rejuvenation are top of mind for many governments, businesses, and communities, there are significant gaps in how and who is recovering and at what speed. Here, we take a look at some indicators of recovery across the globe with a trade lens.

Consumer Spending

Consumer spending is an important aspect of recovery as more spending drives more demand for goods and services across the world. According to the World Economic Forum, almost two-thirds of consumer spending accounts for all economic activity globally.  Within the US and across Western Europe, consumer spending declined between 11% and 26 %, and China had reported a 17% drop in Q1 of 2020 (World Economic Forum, 2021). Increased consumer spending will likely result in a faster recovery for each country.  The variations of how each age group, income level, and country respond with their pocketbooks are key recovery indicators. Mckinsey & Company surveyed consumer spending across China, France, Germany,  the UK, and the US using income levels and age to understand how spending habits adjusted during the pandemic and how spending will likely change as the threat of the pandemic eases. “We expect a strong recovery in the United States but an unequal one with variations among income and age segments. While many higher-income households emerge largely unscathed financially, low-income households have lost jobs or face income uncertainty, particularly from changes in the labor market caused by digitization and automation (Remes, et al., 2021).” Once they gained control of the pandemic, China’s spending returned to near pre-pandemic rates by the end of 2020. For consumers outside of these ranges, recovery is expected to take more time and be uneven. In Europe, a slower recovery than the US is anticipated, but a more even return to spending across age and income levels is expected.

Another aspect of consumer spending is saving. Consumer savings, whether by choice or necessity, are at their highest point in decades. The Wall Street Journal reports that family checking account balances were up by as much as 40% in October 2020 in the US. However, much of the increased wealth in savings is a problematic indicator of recovery. Studies show that the majority of the increases are within the accounts of higher-income consumers (Lahart, 2021). Some of these increases can be slated to the US’s stimulus payments and fewer dollars spent on travel, restaurants, and entertainment. Other studies show that households in wealthy countries have an increased focus on paying down existing debt rather than spending on consumer goods (Hannaon, 2021). The hope by many economists is that more spending will come as people across the globe find easing pandemic restrictions and reduction in cases.  Spending in many industries is expected to bouce back to pre-pandemic levels. McKinsey group found that consumer spending in eCommerce, online grocery services, and virtual healthcare are here to stay. While the extreme reduction in in-person education, travel, and entertainment spending are habits that will be remembered as a pandemic blip and remain in the past (Remes, et al., 2021).


Global Trade and Industry Recovery

The United Nations reported that world trade contracted by 9% in 2020. Asia has been at the forefront of recovery with strong export growth, and many pandemic-related industries saw increases by the end of 2020, including pharmaceuticals, technology, and manufacturing. The energy and transportation sectors have not been as quick to recover (Thomasson, 2021).

IHS Markits Global Trade Outlook for 2021 describes the pandemic’s impact on trade moving forward, “We already understand that the impact of a pandemic won’t be limited to the short-run. It is likely to have long-term consequences as well. We are likely to observe more pronounced adjustments to GVC (Global Value Chains)/trade patterns (trade diversion effects) the larger, the longer the pandemic lasts” (Brodzicki, 2021). These comments are not surprising, but what has been a cause for hope is the 2021 first-quarter trade data shows a rebound of many industries to pre-pandemic levels.

In May 2021, the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTD) released quarter one findings, sharing that many of the major economies have, by the numbers, recovered from the pandemic. The US and China are expected to be drivers of the economic rebound, and their key trading partners will likely benefit (Canada, Mexico, and East Asian countries). However, services, energy, and transportation sectors are still lagging. Uneven recovery is apparent among developing countries as the pandemic is not yet under control. The report also points to uncertainty in value chains, government policies, increasing government debt,  and trade tensions, all as factors in recovery (UNCTAD, 2021).

Merchandise trade saw sharp declines in the first quarter of 2020, but by June 2020, the numbers started to look up. By the end of 2020, merchandise trade saw a growth of exports of 7.8% year over year from December 2019 (Trade for Development News, 2021). In the first quarter of 2021, goods and merchandise trade is moving, as we can see from global container shipping statistics. “Global container shipping, a real-time measure of international trade, recovered strongly over the summer, and as of 15 February, global trade carrying capacity stands 5.3% higher than at the same time last year (Trade for Development News, 2021).” Some industries are going to be slower to recover, and consumer spending will determine the speed of the recovery.   

The pandemic overall impacted agricultural trade less than other industries but for different reasons. Barchiello surveyed agricultural trade exports and honed in on Canada’s market, which grew 11% more than anticipated through 2020. The prosperity was not linked to the pandemic but other global weather patterns causing crop failure, China’s increased need for feed as they rebuild hog herds, and India’s reduction on lentil tariffs.  This lack of connection to the virus reminds all of us that the global pandemic is not the only player in supply chain and agriculture commodity prices.(Barichello, 2021).

If countries continue to take advantage of the momentum through liberalization on tariffs and improved logistics, recovery will be long-lasting and benefit many growing economies. More than half of multinational businesses (surveyed by the World Bank) have increased their use of digital technologies out of necessity for doing business during the pandemic. Adopting such technologies comes with increased ease in logistics, supply chain management, and optimizing capacity for many developing businesses. Companies not engaging in these types of shifts will see a slower-paced recovery. Investment in global trade is needed to spur growth, but many investors are cautious as lockdowns and pandemic spikes continue into 2021. For low-income and developing countries, policy changes and embracing digital technologies to streamline their efforts will be key for recovery. Still, with limited resources, it will take more time for development and adoption. Several governments provided stimulus programs, which have proven in the past to be a viable effort in spurring growth, but the long-term impact for this pandemic and stimulus payments are yet to be seen.

Many unknowns are still ahead as the pandemic continues globally, and it is apparent that recovery will be a long and arduous process. Even though recovery is well underway, the  recovery process will likely be uneven across people, sectors, and governments in many cases. Overall, international trade has made people, companies, and governments more resilient to the downsides of the global pandemic, and 2021 is already bringing a quicker recovery than anticipated.

Works Cited

Barichello, R. (2021, May 6). Revisiting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada's agricultural trade: The surprising case of an agricultural export boom. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cjag.12285

Brodzicki, T. (2021, February 03). IHS Markit. Retrieved from Global Trade Outlook 2021: https://ihsmarkit.com/research-analysis/global-trade-outlook-for-2021.html

Hannaon, P. (2021, May 2). Covid-19 Savings Stockpile Could Accelerate Economy—if Consumers Spend It. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-savings-stockpile-could-accelerate-economyif-consumers-spend-it-11619967601

Lahart, J. (2021, February 26). Americans of All Stripes Are Flush With Cash. Retrieved from The Wall Stree Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-of-all-stripes-are-flush-with-cash-11614359700?mod=article_inline

Remes, J., Manyika, J., Smit, S., Kohli, S., Fabius, V., Dixon-Fyle, S., & Nakaliuzhnyi, A. (2021, March 17). The Consumer Demand Recovery and Lasting Effects of COVID-19. Retrieved from McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/the-consumer-demand-recovery-and-lasting-effects-of-covid-19

Thomasson, E. (2021, February 10). Recovery in Global Trade to Stall Again in First Quarter: U.N. Report. Retrieved from Reuters: reuters.com/article/us-trade-un/recovery-in-global-trade-to-stall-again-in-first-quarter-u-n-report-idUSKBN2AA0HC

Trade for Development News. (2021, March 18). Recovery Taking a Different Shape than Expected. Retrieved from https://trade4devnews.enhancedif.org/en/op-ed/global-trade-rebound-suggests-some-lessons-covid-19-are-being-learned

UNCTAD. (2021, May 19). Global Trade Update May 2021. Retrieved from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/ditcinf2021d2_en.pdf

United Nations Conference on Trade Development. (2021, May 19). Global Trade’s Recovery from COVID-19 Crisis Hits Record High. Retrieved from UNCTAD: https://unctad.org/news/global-trades-recovery-covid-19-crisis-hits-record-high

World Economic Forum. (2021, May 7). 3 reasons why consumer demand matters for the post-COVID-19 recovery. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/05/consumer-demand-covid-19-recovery/


Using Freight Forwarders for Exports

Using Freight Forwarders for Exports

Posted on June 2, 2021

Transportation of goods is essential for many companies, but even more so when those goods travel internationally. There is a whole slew of logistics, paperwork, methods of transport, and procedures to be carried out when getting goods ready for import or export. This is where a freight forwarding or a freight management company can play a pivotal role. There are variations between the two types of forwarders, and depending on your business needs, both can be a reliable asset to have when shipping via ocean, air, or railway.

Freight forwarders specialize in arranging the movement and storage of goods from one business to another. They are middle-man experts who take on the challenges of arranging goods for transport (especially internationally). Using their vast networks of contacts, they can often negotiate lower rates for shipping and have ample experience for when things go awry. To be clear, freight forwarders do not actually move goods. They are the logistical support to facilitate the movement of goods. Companies that offer freight forwarding will typically set up shipment, book cargo space, track cargo, warehousing, and prepare shipping documents and required paperwork. They may also assist with customs clearance, insurance, and storage.  Freight forwarders can often ship under their own bills of lading, and they may even have agents in the destination to handle additional logistics on the ground, such as parcel or document delivery. There is a wide variety of services offered across these companies, so be sure to ask what exactly they can provide.

Freight management companies have a more robust approach.  They are often referred to as third-party logistics (3PL) service providers and are basically a way for a company to outsource the shipping and logistics arm of their business when they prefer to focus on other priorities in-house. Along with all of the benefits of a freight forwarding firm, the  3PL can take on all of the company's supply chain management, packaging, storage, national and international regulatory details, distribution services, parcel deliveries, and shipping insurance. The freight management company handles all aspects of a company's shipping and logistics from start to finish.

When selecting a forwarding or managing company, be sure to identify your needs and clarify exactly who is taking care of what. There are many regulatory hurdles when it comes to transporting unique goods. It can be beneficial to hire a forwarding company that works specifically with that type of cargo or strictly regulated goods like alcohol, batteries, or perishables. Also, confirm who will be in charge if things do not go as planned. Many forwarding companies do not take responsibility for shipping delays as these are often due to uncontrollable factors such as weather or port delays. But, keep in mind the expertise of the forwarding companies is invaluable, as they deal with the hurdles of shipping internationally on a regular basis. The forwarder may be able to identify a resolution quickly to keep the goods moving. It is good practice to maintain a positive relationship with the forwarders.

Both freight forwarders and 3PL's have a vast network of contacts and are experts at negotiation rates, booking cargo space, and logistical strategies to simplify the process. Freight forwarders can be hired for special projects or unique shipping needs such as cold supply chains or hazardous materials. They are often used in tandem with a company that is familiar with shipping and logistics but has some special needs. They are also a great resource for a company not yet comfortable with international shipping. Freight management companies are often engaged for a holistic approach to shipping overseas.

Whichever route you choose to take with a freight forwarder or 3PL, make sure you are providing as much detail as possible, and be sure to ask what other services are available. For assistance with finding a freight forwarder to fit your needs, reach out to the North Dakota Trade Office team for more information at info@ndto.com

Member Profile: Dakota AgSynergy LLC

Member Profile: Dakota AgSynergy LLC

Posted on May 5, 2021

Synergy is not a word used often in day-to-day
vernacular, but with Dakota AgSynergy, it is a lifestyle. The company, founded
in 2016, seeks to simplify the process of selling grain. Leading the company is
two sets of brothers, Justin and Jon Purintun, and Brandon and Cody Sehn. All
of whom grew up on farms southeast of Bismarck, in Hazelton and Linton, ND.
With experience working on their family farms, the team envisioned a way to
harness everyone’s strengths and support their ND community.

Dakota AgSynergy (DAS) primarily works with pulse
crops (peas, lentils, chickpeas, and edible beans), along with other ND
powerhouses like sunflowers, flax, and barley. DAS essentially serves as the
market between farmers and ending supply chains; they take the place of grain
elevators, brokers, packers (at times), and freight forwarders.  This
makes the team a one-stop-shop for farmers to take the guesswork out of the
logistical hurdles often faced to get their products into deeper markets.

Jon and Cody explained that “We saw a gap between
ending markets and their constant need for origination.”  Working with DAS
simplifies the buying needs within the industry. They eliminate the stress involved
in origination, such as purchasing, quality control, packaging requirements,
and transportation. That’s where DAS comes in. The company brings together both
sides of the equation, finding the right consumers and connecting the farmers,
and vice versa. They make meaningful contacts locally and across the globe to
add value and savings to both sides of the process.

The economy in ND has a foundation in agriculture,
“it revolves around ag, we know this, and we [DAS] provide value to our local
economy through the work we do. We could not do this work without trust and
word of mouth from our clients” says Jon. Building trust is their goal, not
only with the farmers that they work for, but also with their supply chain
customers. Trust is a process, but “growing up on farms, we know this business
well. We see everything that is going on up here, weather issues, planting
intentions, along with quality control,” says Jon. Cody adds, “origination is
vital! We are the boots on the ground, and that knowledge is huge for us. Some
buyers only take a crop tour once a year or so, but now they can rely on us to
help with supply needs and information on what’s happening up here in North

Outreach is also a large part of what DAS does,
which has been difficult with the pandemic. “The biggest struggle with the
pandemic is that the international buyers are not able to meet face to face
with us and come over here. It has been holding us back a little” says Jon. The
team is looking forward to traveling in the future and being able to build upon
their past successes. The business is expanding rapidly through word of mouth,
and the team at DAS couldn’t be happier to support ND farmers, along with
surrounding states.

Exporting advice from the DAS team was to “Be
open-minded,” says Jon, “the world is big and full of opportunities. You should
step outside of your comfort zone to find new people and easier
solutions.”  Stepping outside their comfort zone has proven successful for
this team as they continue to meet new people and expand their reach beyond state
and international borders. 

Click here for more information
on Dakota AgSynergy.