US-UK Negotiations Begin on Free Trade Agreement and What That Means for North Dakota

US-UK Negotiations Begin on Free Trade Agreement and What That Means for North Dakota

Posted on May 11, 2020

Formal negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom were announced jointly on May 5, 2020 by US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer and UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss.  The negotiations began virtually and will continue for ten days followed by a four-week recess and then parties will reconvene. Both sides are hopeful that a comprehensive trade agreement will be reached quickly and benefit both economies   especially in light of the recent global pandemic.

So, what do the new trade negotiations with the UK mean for North Dakota?  The US exported more than $125.9 billion in goods and services, making in the second largest country of import for the UK’s market. Currently, US merchandise exports to the UK totaled $69 billion in 2019, with the top 5 exports being in precious stones and metals, aircraft, mineral fuels, machinery and electrical machinery sectors.

In 2019, North Dakota was exporting $26 million to the UK, of that electrical and agricultural machinery (19.6 million), grain (2.7 million) and organic chemicals ($1.1 million) make up the majority.   North Dakota exporters may see more opportunities to export agricultural machinery including tractors, plows and parts, soybeans, and organic chemicals.  There is potential for more ND exports in legume’s and pea products. As the negotiations continue, more clarity and specifics will come to light on additional opportunities for ND businesses in specific sectors.

Both parties play a major role in each other’s economies with the US being the largest and the UK being the 5th largest economy in the world, respectively.  More than one million workers are also exchanged from each country across the pond. Additionally, the US Chamber of Commerce reports that foreign direct investments from the UK total over $540 billion, while the US invests nearly $750 billion in the British market.

The UK following the separation from the European Union finds themselves in a new position to explore options with trading partners and policies apart from that of the EU.  Overall, they are looking forward to more freedom for open dialogues in hopes to create expansion. The UK has opened 14 formal discussions with countries regarding trade, with the US being one of them. Additionally, the UK emphasizes its continued commitment to working with the EU as it seeks to build new opportunities to participate in the global economy.

With the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, there is potential that previous trade barriers will be renegotiated, which were subject to the EU’s regulations. Some of the EU regulations are stricter on food safety guidelines and pharmaceuticals, and both parties are interested in diligently working towards success for workers, farmers and business industries.

As negotiations get underway, the US and UK will work through both parties’ objectives. The US is aiming to balance regulations and reciprocal trade and looking to see growth in industrial goods and agriculture. Both parties speak towards a vision for the future in linking two of the world’s largest economies in a comprehensive agreement that will not only benefit small and medium businesses, but also touch on a variety of sectors including agriculture, technology and telecommunication, intellectual property, financial services and improved business mobility. Opening remarks of the US & UK trade negotiations can be viewed here.

In the coming months, more information regarding these trade talks will become clear as more than 100 negotiators from each side of the pond work towards an amicable deal. For North Dakota, there are a variety of opportunities to work with the UK and export our quality products. The UK is eager to work with states on a more individualized level once negotiations are finalized.

The NDTO is building connections via the State International Development Organization with the  regional US trade advisors working with the UK.

For more information on the free trade agreement between the US and the UK, please contact the NDTO at info@ndto.com.

NDTO Partners with SkySkopes

NDTO Partners with SkySkopes

Posted on April 27, 2020

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with SkySkopes Inc., in their fight against the spread COVID-19.

SkySkopes, headquartered in Grand Forks, North Dakota, has demonstrated how drones can effectively be used to deliver supplies, take temperature readings remotely and sanitize high traffic areas, such as playgrounds and other community areas. The NDTO will be utilizing its professional networks to assist SkySkopes in procuring needed materials for their operations as well as promoting their capabilities domestically and internationally. SkySkopes and the NDTO are committed to sourcing materials from socially responsible and ethical sources.

SkySkopes is a globally established professional UAS flight operator that provides a variety of innovative solutions using drone technology within energy and other industries.  SkySkopes specializes in aerial data acquisition using advanced aircraft equipped with cutting edge sensor solutions. SkySkopes brings an extensive background of expertise in implementing critical safety procedures and processes into their workflow for professional and efficient operations for their customers.

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, engagement, advocacy, and expertise so that North Dakota companies develop their export business. NDTO is dedicated to expanding trade partnerships between North Dakota and the world and does so by facilitating business between North Dakota’s global companies and their clients through programs and services including Trade Missions, Reverse Trade Missions and the annual Big Iron Farm Show’s International Visitors Program. NDTO also provides educational tools for North Dakota companies and other international business professionals.

Update on COVID-19

Update on COVID-19

Posted on March 16, 2020

As of June 3, 2020, North Dakota has 2679 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Like many businesses across the state, NDTO staff will be working from home until further notice, but we are still available to assist you with any export related issues that may impact your business. If you need assistance, please email info@ndto.com and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Even though this pandemic may have slowed your international business, NDTO does have resources available to you to continue to grow your business worldwide. For companies that qualify, the STEP program has funding available for certain market research and marketing activities. Please contact the NDTO for more information on how you can utilize our various services.

Below, are some useful resources for your business and travel questions.

Business Resources

Travel Resources

Top Reasons to Attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program

Top Reasons to Attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program

Posted on February 11, 2020

Below is a list of the top 5 reasons to attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program.  For more information on the event, including participating hotels, agenda and registration, please click here.

1) Specialized ‘International Visitors’ Day
The Big Iron Farm Show runs annually from Tuesday through Thursday.  Each year, on the Monday prior to the opening of the Big Iron Farm Show, the North Dakota Trade Office and US Commercial Service hold special programming for our international guests participating in the Big Iron International Visitor’s Program (or Big Iron IVP).  This year, international guests will have the opportunity to tour a farm and learn about the farming practices used in our region.

2) Specialized tours allow participants to see North Dakota agriculture at workIMG_2464
While trade shows are a great way to see a variety of products at once, at the Big Iron IVP we understand that sometimes seeing the dealership or manufacturing facility and the agricultural technology in the field is important.  That’s why we hold specialized tours each year, with different focuses, to allow international guests to see North Dakota machinery at work, whether it’s a tour of one of our member’s dealerships or an educations session on a specific crop, we can assure our international visitors that they will learn about our agricultural technology on a deeper level.

IMG_21123) Networking with top government officials
Agriculture has always been a driving force in North Dakota’s economy, and our state leaders are proud of this heritage.  Because of this, our leading government officials are involved in the Big Iron IVP.  This is an opportunity for our international guests to be officially welcomed to North Dakota by our leaders, because our state truly appreciates your visit.

_MG_59934) Ground transportation provided
One of the most difficult aspects of being in rural United States is getting from your hotel to the places where business deals happen.  At the Big Iron IVP, we provide large tour buses for transportation to ensure that you can get to the Big Iron Farm Show and to facilities without any worries.  And, don’t worry about paying for this transportation – it’s on us.

_MG_64205) International Visitors Pavilion
Last, but certainly not least, the Big Iron IVP has a designated International Visitors’ Pavilion for our global guests to call home at the Big Iron Farm Show.  In this Pavilion you will find coffee, water, snacks, free Internet access (with computers), private meeting space and – most importantly – warmth.  Additionally, if you need access to an interpreter, this is where you will find them waiting for you.

Our goal is to make the Big Iron International Visitor’s Program as successful as possible for our international guests as well as our North Dakota companies.  And, in typical North Dakota fashion, we want you to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable during your visit here.

For more information on the event, including participating hotels, agenda and registration, please click here.

We hope to see you at Big Iron 2020!

Press Release: North Dakota Trade Office Hires New Executive Director

Press Release: North Dakota Trade Office Hires New Executive Director

Posted on December 26, 2019

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is pleased to announce that after an extensive search process, current team member Drew Combs has accepted the role of Executive Director. He will lead and manage the administration, programs and strategic vision plan for the NDTO. Drew has nearly two decades of international and domestic experience in agriculture and energy, and has lived and worked in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

"Drew has the knowledge, experience and passion to lead the North Dakota Trade Office," said Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, NDTO's chairman of the board of directors. "We're especially excited about his background in agriculture and energy - pillars of North Dakota's economy - as well as his experience in logistics, a vital issue for our exporters."

Drew joined the NDTO in August 2019 as a Business Development Executive. Prior to his involvement with NDTO, he was Director of Minerals Management at the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands for over eight years. He has also consulted and worked with agricultural as well as oil and gas companies both domestically and internationally and gained a reputation for helping companies succeed in extremely complex and challenging markets.

"I am honored that our board, comprised of business and government leaders, selected me for this position," said Combs. "I look forward to leading a team dedicated to making a positive difference in North Dakota and its businesses while empowering people to expand trade across all borders." A proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Drew has a Bachelor's of Science Degree in political science and history from West Texas A&M University, and a Master's Degree in Energy Business with a logistics focus from the University of Tulsa.

The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership founded in 2004 that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and North Dakota companies can increase exports and grow their international business.

Guyana’s Economy to Rapidly Expand

Guyana’s Economy to Rapidly Expand

Posted on December 5, 2019

Guyana is creating a buzz as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the country’s GDP will increase by a whopping 86% in 2020, an unprecedentedly high number and up from its 4.4% estimate in 2019. The only English-speaking country in South America is preparing for an economic boom after it’s set to become the 4th largest oil producer in Latin America when drilling begins in early 2020.

According to the IMF, the country’s oil revenues will climb from nil to $631 million by 2024. That number could reach into the billions as production ramps up. With a population roughly the same as North Dakota, the country will likely become the world’s largest oil producer (and wealthiest) per capita.

Guyana’s history includes colonization by both the Dutch and British. English is the official language and is used for business and education, however the majority of people also speak Creolese – a mixture of English and anglicized French – informally. The country’s culture has more in common with the Caribbean than South America.

The Guyanese predominately live on the coast and about half are in or near the capital, Georgetown. The vast majority of land is forest, including some of the continent’s largest areas of unspoiled rainforest.

By most accounts, the country does not have a plan in motion for its impending windfall other than a framework on paper to lift its population out of poverty. Its infrastructure needs massive improvement, as does its educational and health systems.

As it grapples with sudden wealth, Guyana’s administration hopes to achieve what other resource-rich nations, including its neighbor Venezuela, have not – wealth without ruin.

Export Education at Your Fingertips

Export Education at Your Fingertips

Posted on December 5, 2019

A well-organized, rich library of export education courses is at your fingertips right now with NDTO’s eLearning Portal. The eLearning Portal is accessed through NDTO’s website and is powered by Amber Road’s Global Trade Academy. Courses are updated regularly, and achievements are tracked on an individual basis.

NDTO’s eLearning Portal has three levels – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced. Subjects include the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, EU vs US export controls, customs processes, export control and compliance, import compliance, free trade agreements and much more.

Each course has a detailed description, estimated time to complete, and is led by an instructor with in-depth knowledge and experience in that topic.

Amber Road’s Global Trade Academy designed these courses to ensure attendees are provided with current information and resources to efficiently and compliantly manage international supply chain operations.

NDTO offers the eLearning Portal to those that wish to educate themselves, their team, or improve career prospects.

The courses are even approved for continuing education credits through the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America.

NDTO’s eLearning Portal is free to NDTO members.

To get started, NDTO members may go to the Member Login page. Non-members may email info@ndto.com to sign up.

When in Rome: Countries that Don’t Like to Say ‘No’

When in Rome: Countries that Don’t Like to Say ‘No’

Posted on December 5, 2019

Americans are known for being direct negotiators and saying no when they mean it, but this style of communication isn’t popular in the world. There are many countries in which saying no is frowned upon. Here we’ll look at a number of cultures that may say yes when they mean no, and how to find out if your negotiating counterparts fall under this category.

NDTO’s When in Rome series examines cultural issues that may affect exporters including business card etiquette, gift giving, small talk around the world and alcohol and business.

The first country on our list that doesn’t like to say no is Chile. Chilean culture values “saving face” and thus will not give negative feedback. Instead of no, you may hear maybe or possibly, or your Chilean customer may fall silent. If it’s your turn to offer a negative response, you’re encouraged to echo this practice in order to remain polite. If there is a negative issue to be discussed, a private conversation with the appropriate person is the way to go.

Thais literally cannot say no as the word doesn’t directly translate into their language. Rather, there is a phrase that means “not yes.” It’s important to pay attention to non-verbal communication in Thailand and any pauses in conversation, as they may be used to bypass saying no. Your negotiation counterpart may ignore a question or “not understand” a question instead of saying no. Pay close attention to your customers’ smile – it’s used to convey many things, including approval, displeasure and embarrassment.

Egyptians are more likely to give ambiguous answers than say no. You may hear, “We’ll think about it,” or “We’ll look into this” or even silence when the real answer is no. A yes may also be a softer way of saying maybe. It’s wise to adapt the same manner or risk appearing rude.

People in the United Arab Emirates also don’t like to give direct refusals. They may say yes to delay the negotiation or convey it’s possible. Further discussions are needed to clarify. This may vary when dealing with large multi-national companies that favor more direct communication.

Kenyan businesspeople are interested in preserving their own dignity as well as yours and will avoid giving negative answers, especially in a group setting. If there is an issue with the deal, they may tell you no by way of a metaphor or a story.

The common thread here is that businesspeople from these countries don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or lose face, so they’d rather set the deal aside than reject it. This could be an opportunity for you to reevaluate your offer, or further develop the relationship to achieve more understanding.

These cultural cues as well as a ton of country-specific cultural information can be found on NDTO’s website within the A to Z World Trade Reference. Simply go to NDTO’s website and click on Member Login. If you’re new to NDTO, contact info@ndto.com for access.

Boost your Business with an Export Assistant

Boost your Business with an Export Assistant

Posted on November 7, 2019

The North Dakota Trade Office currently has openings available for companies that would like to be matched with an export assistant. An export assistant is a talented NDSU graduate student that is seeking real-world experience at a company doing international business. Companies that employ export assistants gain a skilled team member in areas such as sales, logistics, accounting and computer science. The company may specify the skills, language and experience desired, and NDTO and NDSU will recruit accordingly.

Since 2006, the NDTO has identified, screened and placed graduate students, who are often international students, within North Dakota businesses looking to expand their global business opportunities.

North Dakota companies employ export assistants as a strategy to bring additional experience, country expertise and foreign language skills into their business. The program benefits the students as well as they receive a tuition waiver and intern wages from the company.

Export Assistants may work up to 20 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session. Students may work remotely if the company is not in the Fargo area.

The Export Assistant program has been highly successful with students hailing from countries near and far lauded for their contributions to the North Dakota workforce. The Export Assistant Program is open to all NDTO members.

For more information or if your company is interested in utilizing an export assistant, please visit https://ndto.com/export-assistant-program/ or contact info@ndto.com.

WMI ID’s potential markets with RAISE research

WMI ID’s potential markets with RAISE research

Posted on November 7, 2019

When you quite literally have a world of choices, it’s helpful to narrow things down. That’s exactly why NDTO member Weather Modification International recently sought out the US Commercial Service - North Dakota (CS North Dakota) office’s RAISE research program. The RAISE program is able to complete a worldwide scan of potential markets and determine the top countries on which a company should focus their exporting efforts. So far, Weather Modification International’s RAISE research project results are impressive and the cost quite low, especially considering that they used an NDTO grant program to support it.

Weather Modification International (WMI) is a Fargo-based atmospheric research and cloud seeding company. They’re long-time exporters but are always seeking new frontiers in terms of business opportunities.

Alexandre Cyusa, who is part of the business development team at WMI, began the project by working with CS North Dakota office’s Heather Ranck and her team of export assistants. WMI supplied the research team with keywords and other criteria, and the team produced a worldwide country matrix that identified the best potential markets.

“RAISE was really helpful because there’s an ocean of possibilities,” said Cyusa. “But the research helped us narrow it down to targeted, specific countries.”

One of the target countries was Brazil, a country that WMI has long been interested in, but has proven difficult to penetrate.

With Brazil in focus, the RAISE research team came up with lists of local companies that may be potential buyers or potential partners in-country.

WMI selected five companies and the CS Brazil office then reached out to those companies to gauge their interest level. So far, WMI has begun relationships with several of those local companies and is positive they’ll soon have a partner in Brazil.

WMI was also able to support their research efforts by using NDTO’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) to reimburse up to 75% of the costs. STEP is open to all North Dakota small businesses and is currently accepting applications for reimbursement of RAISE project fees.

“We used RAISE to really guide our approach and keep a local lens on business development. Heather’s team is stellar, they made our experience stress-free and we felt included in the process,” said Cyusa. “Now in Brazil, we’ve got a nice momentum.”

To get started with RAISE, please click here. For more information on STEP and to apply for reimbursement for RAISE program research, please visit www.ndto.com. To learn more about Weather Modification International, please visit  http://www.weathermodification.com/.