International Trade Missions
In addition to the constitutional and statutory duties, the Secretary of State is frequently called upon to represent the state of Washington in international trade and cultural missions. Since his first year in office, 2001, Sam Reed has headed six official missions (click on the mission to read summary trip reports):
"Please note the following disclaimer: The mission reports are written during or right after the missions by mission participants. The views, comments and statements in the reports are solely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or any official positions of this office. The reports are reproduced here because they give an interesting and detailed account of the day-to-day experiences and impressions that participants typically encounter on these missions."
These missions have been planned and arranged in cooperation with non-profit and public agencies such as the World Trade Center Tacoma and the U.S. Commercial Service, and with support from private sponsors here and chambers of commerce in the host countries. The six missions from 2001 to 2007 only cost the Secretary of State’s office a few thousand dollars, as the bulk of the costs were baked into the attendance fees paid by the participants who went on the missions, and as some of the airlines and hotels provided free airfare and accommodations to the group leaders.
The missions typically last from eight to eleven days, and consist of a packed program with briefings, seminars, one-on-one business meetings, factory, school and site visits, official receptions and dinners, cultural events and some sightseeing. The briefings and one-on-one meetings are often tailored and prearranged for the individual delegates to match their business interests. The missions offered by this office have been particularly well suited for small and medium sized businesses, as well as educational institutions. We have also traveled with city officials looking for suitable sister city relationships.
In the early 2000’s, it was quite cheap to travel in Asia, but this has changed quite drastically. The trip costs (airfare, hotels, meals, etc.) have easily doubled from 2001 to 2008, due to the low U.S. dollar, the rapidly growing Asian economy (and resulting high inflation), and the heavy demand for travel services there. For example, in 2003 we were able to book rooms at five star hotels in India for $80 per night. The same rooms today are priced at about $300 per night. In 2001, we were able to book roundtrip fares to China for less than $800. Today the fares are about double that.
However, our assessment is that it is still worth investing in trade missions. Official missions provide the participants with unique access to high quality information, people and officials that it would be virtually impossible to garner on your own. Our missions are received at the highest levels of governments, corporations and associations, and the fact that they are headed by a high ranking state official gives us unique priority and access. For some of the extraordinary experiences encountered on our missions, we encourage you to read the trip reports in this section of the website. Some of them are written by participants as they traveled along.
We have focused our missions on the Asian markets, because most of the trade through Washington State is to or from there. The Asian markets have also undergone a tremendous growth over the past ten years, and we expect this to continue as more of their economies gain sufficient purchasing power and infrastructure to rise to major players in world trade. We have visited emerging markets such as India and Vietnam, and we expect to maintain a focus on South and Southeast Asia over the next four years. Look for a possible India mission in the fall of 2009, with a potential stopover in Dubai.
WHY GO ON TRADE MISSIONS? Trade and Cultural missions play an important role in the toolbox of any company or organization involved with international commerce or programs. With good preparation and follow-up, missions can be great door openers, and participants benefit in many ways, including:
- Obtain sales and contracts as a direct outcome of the mission
- Find personal contacts for future follow-up
- Sign partnerships and cooperative agreements for further business development
- Get hands on and up-to-date market information and research
- Assess overseas opportunities, culture, infrastructure and potential demand
- Initiate new vendor relationships
- Learn about the culture, customs, business and operating environments of the target countries
- There is a link below to a recent survey of former participants, where they list additional benefits of attending missions
In short, positive effects of missions include higher sales revenues, lower procurement costs and better sourcing, education, cultural/international business savvy, preparedness, professional development, visibility/goodwill and perspective. An additional benefit is that the mission participants develop close friendships among themselves and a useful, professional network.
Testimonials from Previous Mission Participants:
Participants in our previous missions praise the professional organization and implementation of the missions. Many of them point to concrete business deals as a result, while others have used the trips as door openers for further dialogue with potential customers, suppliers or business partners. Recent examples include:
- A Seattle based manufacturer of supercomputers attributed part of its sales success in India to its participation in the 2003 India mission.
- Other companies reported sales contracts from these missions in the $125,000 - $2.5 million range. These companies operated in a variety of sectors, including computing services, seafood, agricultural products, groceries, legal services, gift items and educational services.
- One participant stated that his company got additional revenues 200 times more than what they spent to attend the mission.
- Several local cities are in ongoing discussions with potential Chinese and Vietnamese sister cities that they met with when visiting.
"No one in a position of business leadership should miss an opportunity to witness and see first hand the dynamics of China. It's hard to get a full perspective of the competition and the opportunity without being on the ground in Asia."
- Participant (chamber of commerce executive) in the 2001 and 2002 missions to China
"The trade mission was a fabulous experience overall. It was a great way to get the inside scoop on the feel and flavor of the countries we visited by meeting the local entrepreneurs and elected officials who make the country work. Highly recommended!"
- Participant (importer) in the 2003 mission to India
"There is no doubt as to the goodwill and expanded relationships that result from properly planned and executed mission trips. I feel Washington State, our business and industry were well represented and benefited from the experience."
- Participant (exporter and importer) in the 2001 mission to China
"For my wife and myself, going on a trade and cultural mission with Sam and Margie Reed and party was a once in a lifetime experience. To see so many parts and aspects of China, and to engage with local and provincial officials and business leaders on substantive issues, was a privilege impossible for the visiting tourist--or individual American businessperson--to duplicate. I would highly recommend taking the next such opportunity when and if it's offered!"
- Participant (city mayor) in the 2006 mission to China
“The two trade mission trips I took to China were beneficial for many reasons: We met government officials, got to see them in action, and made many new business and personal relationships. Most importantly, I met the love of my life, got married, and now we have a beautiful baby boy (and another precious baby boy on the way).”
- Participant (exporter and importer) in the 2001 and 2002 missions to China
"This was a great way to initiate the process of breaking into a new market. The meetings were well focused and the logistics and groundwork were flawlessly organized. I highly recommend joining one of these missions as a positive way of exploring new market territory."
- Participant (university administrator) in the 2007 mission to Vietnam
"Exceeded expectations. Arrangement and management outstanding. Sam, Margie, Patrick and Andreas highly professional. Contact opportunities at all levels were superb. Can't beat traveling on a trade mission for a wide and in depth exposure to the culture, business and political climate. Never get this kind of "education" on a vacation."
- Participant (developer/investor) in the 2007 mission to Vietnam
See results from 2008 participants survey.