Whether you’re new to exporting or experienced with selling goods and services around the world, taking time to choose the correct market is one of the most important things you can do when developing a successful export strategy.
We have many tools to help you identify potential markets, such as our WV RAISE Initiative, Country-Commercial Guides, and the U.S. Commercial Service’s global network of experienced trade professionals, but we want to highlight the Middle East and some of the opportunities this region has for West Virginia exporters.
Why you should export to the Middle East
The Middle East, including countries such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, is home to more than 400 million people. While market demands in each country are unique, the region as a whole presents many opportunities for West Virginia exporters.
Here a few factors that make this region full of potential:
The Middle East is home to millions of people who want to buy U.S. products
On a recent trip to Kuwait, Oman, and Saudia Arabia, Chad Remp, International and eCommerce Sales Director of Legacy Truck Centers in Wheeling said he noticed how influential the United States is in the region.
“It’s clear that many people in the Middle East have an affinity for U.S. brands,” he said. “You see a lot of Chevy vehicles on the streets of Kuwait and American Fast-Food chains are everywhere.”
Middle East countries depend on imports
Most countries in the Middle East have historically depended on oil revenues and while some countries in the region have diversified to include high-tech, security and defense sectors, most countries do not manufacture or produce many of the industrial and consumer goods their people need. This means there are tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters, said Sherwin Pomerantz, President and Founder of Atid EDI, an economic development consulting firm that specializes in the Middle East region.
Additionally, many countries in the Middle East are dealing with food security challenges, which provides opportunities for companies dealing with food products.
English is widely used in the Middle East
Businessmen and women in the Middle East often speak English, which means U.S.-based companies won’t always have to translate materials or hire an interpreter to conduct business in the region.
“I have rarely had to use my PowerPoint presentation in Arabic when meeting with prospects in the Middle East region” said Remp. “A vast majority of my customers in the region are expats from other countries who cannot really read Arabic”.
The Middle East has Free Trade Agreements with the United States
The U.S. has bilateral free trade agreements with Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Oman, and Morocco, which reduces or eliminates duties and other barriers for U.S. products into these countries.
Who should consider exporting to the Middle East
With a successful product or service and a sound export strategy, any U.S. business should be able to find opportunity in the Middle East. Due to market demand in the region, businesses with the most potential for success are those dealing in specialty food, advanced manufacturing, infrastructure, specialty chemicals, safety and security, aerospace and defense, medical equipment, and environmental technologies.
Even if your company falls under one of these categories, previous export experience is a major advantage and will reduce logistical challenges, cultural barriers, and the risk of product diversion to denied neighboring countries.
How to best approach the Middle East
While countries in the Middle East enjoy some cultural and economic similarities, a one-size-fits-all export strategy for the region is not recommended. Here are a few general tips to consider:
Each market is different, so be flexible on pricing
Expect strong competition in some markets in the region and price sensitivity in others. Some countries will try to bargain, but for the most part having a clear value proposition and a competitive price could bring you desired results.
Be transparent and build relationships
Building trust and strong personal relationships with your partners in the region is another very important key to success. You can do this by learning about the local culture and business practices
Work with a qualified representative for each country
Experienced consultants can help you find agents and distributors and navigate doing business in the region. It’s not uncommon for representatives to ask for a retainer fee or exclusivity agreement as it is seen as a sign of commitment and skin in the game. However, dissolving formal business agreements can be hard, so it is best to set clear performance thresholds and timelines in your negotiation.
Upcoming Trade Events to the Middle East
Registration is now open for Trade Winds Middle East and Africa. Organized by the U.S. Commercial Service, this event will feature meetings with U.S. commercial diplomats from more than 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, exciting conference programming and opportunities for networking. To learn more about registering for this event, click here.
We can help you find export success
If you want to explore opportunities in a new market, our international trade representatives are export experts and here to help you identify new foreign buyers. Contact us today!
Manager, International Trade
Enybe works with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development. She contributes to West Virginia’s economy by helping businesses sell their products and services around the world. #YesWV #YesExports.