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Country/Market Research

Countries must be evaluated for their receptiveness to trade and investment.


Evaluate the demographic/physical environment

Look at population size, growth, and density, urban and rural distribution, climate and weather variations, transportation and communication networks, and the use of electricity. A country with a growing population may be a suitable indicator, but you must also look at the ability of the population to purchase imports. If the population’s ability is widely dispersed, reaching consumers will be difficult. On the other hand, if the population is crowded into cities, reaching it will be easy; however, the costs of warehouse space in congested areas may be high.

Assess the social/cultural environment

Research the literacy rate and education, health of a population, existence of a middle class, language issues, and cultural issues. For example, if people cannot read labels, then imported goods may have to rely on logos and symbols to create brand recognition and communication with customers.

Analyze the political environment

Governments may be hostile to foreigners, foreign goods, and foreign services. Understand the stability of government, attitudes to imports, attitudes towards your country, government involvement in business and trade, and attitudes towards economic growth.

Understand the economic environment

Know these economic indicators: GDP per capita growth, balance of payments, currency convertibility and controls, the inflation rate, and saving rate. Real GDP per growth is a good indicator of a country’s receptiveness to imports. You must also understand if the country has a balance of payments problem. If there is a problem, importing will not grow. Be wary if you cannot get your earnings converted into U.S. dollars, and if inflation reduces foreigner’s purchasing power between ordering and the time you are eventually paid. Some economic indicators that suggest a high demand for a short time period include a low savings rate, a trade deficit, and reduced importing. In these cases, you cannot count on long-term success in the country.

Collect information about market access

Barriers to imports, ease of import process, legal protection for patents and trademarks, laws on profits and repatriation of profits, and regulations on labor employed by foreigners. Focus on the process of importing in a country. In countries such as Italy, France, Brazil, India, and China, which are hostile to imports, hassles and red tape sometimes create costly slowdowns for firms.

Know your product's potential

Understand consumer characteristics/needs, availability of complementary products, and availability of suitable sales and support employees. Pinpoint needs for re-engineering. re-sizing, re-packaging, and changing material components.


5globe.jpgThe Commercial Service - Domestic, U.S. Dept. of Commerce

Purpose: Great place to start a Country Analysis!
Content: Comprehensive information on all aspects of a particular country, compiled yearly by American embassies.
Why is it good?: Easy to use and provides a good overview on topics that need to be considered for a particular country.
Ease of use: GREAT! The site provides quick access and easy links.
Operated by: International Trade Administration
Cost: Most major countries are listed free. Information on smaller or third world countries must be purchased and accessed on a CD-ROM.

4globe.jpgJETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)

Purpose: To provide a starting point for foreigners to learn about Japan and its trade opportunities.
Content: Japanese firm database, guides to doing business and entering markets in Japan, new trader assistance programs, and exporting policies & regulations.
Site Strengths: Content rich site with detailed analysis of Japanese markets and import data. Free Japanese language tutorials and tests are also a nice feature.
Ease of use: Well organized. But, terminology on some areas is a bit confusing.
Operated by: JETRO (Japanese government sponsored organization)
Cost: FREE (services and most publications are free, small cost to order some publications)


Purpose: Korean forum to buy or sell products, find business partners, and make import/export offers.
Content: HUGE database on Korean companies with product and contact info. Bulletin board to post trade offers.
Detailed information on everything needed to know about Korea - from its culture to economy to foreign investment regulations.
Site Strengths: Provides detailed overview of all aspects of Korea, as well as a significant database on companies, effectively categorized by industries and products.
Ease of use: very good - very straightforward and organized. Easy to find everything.
Operated by:  ?????????
Cost: FREE (to post import/export offers and to be automatically notified of interested parties, FREE registration is required)

5globe.jpg Eldis Home page

Purpose: Provides development information on many countries, particularly those in the South.
Content: Coverage includes social, environmental, political and economic issues.
Site Strengths: Extremely detailed and powerful search capability, search by country, region, topic or simply by browsing index style organization.
Ease of Use: Moderately Difficult
Operated By: Institute of Development Studies, Sussex
Cost: Free (Some articles require payment)

5globe.jpg Trade Information Center

Purpose: 1st stop information about federal export programs & country/regional market information.
Content: Frequently asked Q & A, current events, export programs guide, "how-to" information and software, general export info, export assistance by email, financial information, trade promotion events, foreign tariff, taxes & customs information, country/regional market info.
Site Strengths: The frequently asked Q & A section provides a detailed outline that includes important information for beginning exporters. The site is clear and lists many relevant links for small businesses.
Ease of use: good - site provides quick access.
Operated by: Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration
Cost: FREE

4globe.jpg International Monetary Fund

Purpose: Site is an informational tool for the IMF to promote currency exchange stability and economic growth.
Content: Current international highlights, country economic information, members' status with the IMF, IMF fund rates, news releases, standards/codes, search option available for publications.
Site Strengths: The information provided by the IMF enables you to get an idea of whether a country is having financial trouble, based on loans and balance of payments. The information is good, but very specific. Only useful for technically oriented information
Ease of use: good - requires adobe acrobat.
Operated by: IMF - International organization with 182 member countries.

4globe.jpg Foreign Trade Statistics

Purpose: To assist exporters
Content: Trade shows, Schedule B search, export classification assistance, foreign country trade data, Automated Export System and regulations, and newest data highlights.
Site Strengths: Provides more technical, export-specific info, but some of the data is older (96-97).
Ease of use: Fast, layout isn't quite as clear.
Operated by: US Census Bureau.

4globe.jpg export

Purpose: Provides export information especially valuable to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Content: Country reviews, industry surveys, communications services info, trade shows search engine, UPS shipping info, global business directory listings for small business networking via ExporTel.
Site strengths? The Country Review section is an excellent source for market research. Reports provide valuable information on over 80 countries in trade, investment, and risk assessment. Reports are compiled from more than 150 credible sources, like the U.S Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission, and are updated on a regular basis.
Ease of Use: Good - Organized and easy to read. Provides quick and easy access to export topics, with the exception of the Trade Statistics section, which is currently unavailable. (as of 12/23/1999)
Operated By: International Strategies, Inc., Boston, MA Sponsors include AT&T, United Parcel Service, and American Express Co.
Cost: Mostly free. Registration is required to access reports and data. Reports are free to read. To print, however, a $35 fee is assessed to setup a print account for up to 10 reports. Purchase additional reports in groups of 10 at a cost $25 thereafter.


Article Small Business Development Center

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