North American Trade: Free Yet?

A welcome sign in the historic town of Tlaquepaque, a neighborhood in Guadalajara, welcomes the World Trade Center North America 2007 Regional Meeting.

The North American World Trade Centers met in Guadalajara, Mexico, provides a first-hand glimpse into the manufacturing and trade opportunities in central Mexico. It was moved to Guadalajara due to a bit of uncertainty in Mexico City. I arrived the way I often do, on a local air carrier, having traversed customs in Monterrey and caught a domestic flight, and then from the airport to the hotel in a domestic cab, after having watched the patterns for a bit to understand how it all works. Am I a glutton for domestic transportation? Yes, since I think it’s the best way to understand the pulse of a city or country I’m visiting (& I like to see how intra-country air operates).

The meeting threw light on key issues facing US-Mexican relations, specifically in terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement. One speaker noted politicians like to defer thornier issues till the very end, and a very big NAFTA issue is the free movement of goods across the US-Mexican border. Currently goods are transferred between trucks at the border; resolving the issue should reduce transportation costs considerably, but it will certainly be fought with formidable weapons, namely Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.



Where West Meets East

On the night of the closing gala of the WTC General Assembly,in Istanbul, Turkey, in early November 2006.

Pictured is Dr. Piero Piccardi, a friend and mentor who has introduced me to the world of trade fairs, trade marts, Italian and speaking opportunities in front of Senators, small groups and high-tech business park executives.

Istanbul! What a city! Besides Bangalore and Mumbai, India, the city of Istanbul, Turkey ranks as one of the most intriguing places I’ve been able to establish business contacts. As has been said in more recent times, Turkey has inexorably thrown its lot in with the West, yet it faces alienation from both the Middle East and Europe as the country that provides the bridge between West and East faces difficulty in obtaining its EU membership.

The Cypriot question remains between Greeks, Turks and the whole of the European Union, but Istanbul put on its finest face for a meeting that allowed the Tri Cities of TN / VA the opportunity to present its case as a key port of entry for goods and services into the lucrative US market.

I hope to be able to visit Istanbul and other Turkish cities again in the very near future, to further gauge the business climate, reacquaint with new friends and roam the streets as I did on this trip.



India Rising

The honorable governor of the state of Maharashtra, a state in India in which Mumbai (Bombay) is the capital, speaks at the 2005 WTC Global Meet (World Trade Center General Assembly).

Several interesting speakers at this year’s WTC Global Assembly, taking place this week in Mumbai (Bombay). Also, along the same note, several issues getting patched up between India and the US, as well as India and China. As the world’s second largest population and (some would argue) the world’s largest and oldest democracy, India provides a glimpse into an accelerated rise of a huge middle class.

The MBAs I’ve met here are sharp, very sharp, and eager to show that they can serve as well as lead. One in particular, Rajesh Radhakrishnan, is interested in expanding relations with companies from the US that use AS/400 computers for central-office and back-office work, but want to add a kinder, gentler front-end interface in the form of a web browser, rather than completely redesigning a system that’s already working.

Is this work menial compared to most of today’s new client-server work? Yes. Is it a market segment that will soon die away? Yes. Is Rajesh and his team willing to give it the best effort they can over the next few years? Yes.



A Fool's Errand?

A group from Tri-Cities TN / VA (northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia) venture out to Geneva, near  the Swiss Alps, to make the case for a seat at the table of global trade.

Representing our region at the World Trade Center 2004 General Assembly are (L-R) Jerry Petzoldt, Tim Siglin, Roger Lowe, Sharon Hayes (reporter), Anne-Marie Stone and Liesa Jenkins.

Sometimes you go with your gut instinct and find out, much later, that you were absolutely wrong. Other times you go with the same instinct and trust it implicitly. Such was the case for a group that went to Geneva this week on what many have called a fool’s errand: making the case for a seat at the table of global trade, requesting an equal standing alongside major cities with World Trade Centers (WTC) such as Taipei, Shanghai, Mumbai, New York, Rome, London and Atlanta.

Once the WTC’s board hears the presentation, and meets the team, the option for a license is granted, and the real work can now begin: convincing the folks back home that the region is being taken seriously when it comes to the potential of global trade. That challenge is left for another day as the group celebrates a spectral shift, from cynicism and doubt to elation and confidence.