News from the USTR: Expiration of the Generalized System of Preferences Program

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman issued the following statement regarding the July 31, 2013 expiration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.  GSP is a 37-year-old trade preference program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential, duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of 127 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

 “Beginning August 1, U.S. businesses and consumers will pay more for thousands of goods imported under the GSP program, including many inputs for U.S. manufacturing,” said Ambassador Froman.  “The Obama Administration urges Congress to extend this important trade program, which increases U.S. competitiveness, keeps costs low for U.S. consumers, and benefits some of the world’s poorest countries.”

Read more here. What is your opinion about the expiration of the GSP? Post your view in the comment section below!

Yes Virginia, the Ham Is Chinese (Part 2)

The result is economic growth at double digit levels for several decades and a rapidly expanding middle class.  This success has also led to new economic challenges as the expectations of China’s citizens for higher wages and quality of life have risen. China may well be approaching a tipping point for an economic  transition from being export focused to becoming  consumption-driven.  After  improving the world by manufacturing good basic products, Chinese businesses must now learn how to succeed through marketing and excellence.

Just as American brands like KFC, Coca Cola, Apple, Buick, and Pampers have learned how to successfully win over consumers worldwide, Chinese companies need to compete for brand preference employing more than a low price approach. Already, Chinese products are emerging as leading brands.  WPP’s 2013 BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands research has 12 Chinese brands among the top 100 global brands. However, a closer look at this study reveals that the top Chinese brands are mostly successful in China alone, and in sectors where access by foreign firms such as telecommunications, banking and insurance, Web-based technology, and energy is restricted. Though there are many Chinese consumer brands, such as Haier, Tsingtao, Li-Ning, Lenovo, Baidu, Tencent, and Huiyuan Juice, marketing to consumers outside of China has not been highly successful for Chinese brands thus far.

Marketing guru Philip Kotler defines marketing as both an art and a science. Chinese firms have mainly concentrated on science, via price. Now they must become better at creating higher quality products, placing them in distribution outlets that Western consumers prefer, and promoting them with a direct appeal to Western emotions.  The best way to accomplish all this quickly is through the acquisition of Western firms with already established base of consumer preference.  Therefore, in addition to the establishment of new brands, we are likely to see a significant expansion of Chinese acquisitions of U.S. and European consumer goods brands in the coming years.

Is this a good thing? Acquisitions by foreigners tend to be accompanied by concerns. When U.S. giant Kraft acquired British Cadbury, there was worry about diminished  chocolate quality in the U.K. Now Americans (accompanied with much hamming it up by master comic Jay Leno) state that the Smithfield acquisition could lead to diminished quality and loss of American jobs.

Far from it ! The Chinese are not just obtaining products – imports and exports would have done that. Rather, the acquisition helps integrate China into the global economy, and contributes to its future branding success by delivering new connections, experience, capabilities and trust. The key benefits will be learning of both quality and marketing.

This article is a part of a series written by Michael Czinkota and Charles Skuba. Read part 1 here.  Guest writer Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush Administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Yes Virginia, the Ham Is Chinese (Part 1)

For many Americans, Virginia ham is a long established part of a festive family dinner. But good old American traditions like that can carry new meaning in a global economy.  The recent news that Smithfield Foods, owner of leading pork brands like Smithfield Ham, Eckrich sausages, Armour meatballs and Farmland bacon, is to be acquired by Chinese company Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. caused indigestion for some in the United States.

The $4.7 billion deal, announced on May 30, 2013, would be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm. It is another of a series of recent significant global acquisitions by Chinese firms. Other examples include the 2012 purchase of the AMC movie chain by Dalian Wanda Group Corp. of Bejing and the 2013 acquisition, of Canada’s Nexen by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Cnooc). At year’s mid-point, 2013 promises to be a record year for Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States. It is also indicative of a new focus for Chinese investment : branded consumer businesses.

Chinese businesses, some state-owned, have proven remarkably successful in the global economy.  Many American companies in a broad range of industries source their manufacturing activities or components from China.  Within a few decades, China has developed into a manufacturing powerhouse, accounting for over ten percent of global exports.

This article is a part of a series written by Michael Czinkota and Charles Skuba. Guest writer Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush Administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Thailand’s Economic Success

While countries around the world like the United States and those in the European Union are suffering, Thailand has reported a gross domestic product growth of 18.9% compared to last year. This growth can be attributed to the devastating floods in 2011 which diminished both production and consumption. By comparison, the current investment in rebuilding supports growth.

On Monday, February 18th Thailand’s government reported that the GDP growth for 2012 was 6.4%, with expectations for 4.5 %– 5.5 %growth in 2013. Whether the growth will mainly be in manufacturing or in services (such as medical tourism) is a key question.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN EFFECTS

Buyer behavior is affected by the national origin of products and services. Many consumers are relatively indifferent to where a product is made. Other consumers favor goods produced in their home country. Country of origin (COO) refers to the nation where a product is produced or branded.  Origin is usually indicated by means of a product label, such as “Made in China”. When consumers are aware of a product’s COO, they may react positively or negatively. For example, many people favors cars produced in Japan, but would be less upbeat about cars made in Russia. Most people feel confident about buying clothing made in Italy, but would be less receptive to clothing from Mexico. Such attitudes arise because consumers hold particular images or conceptions about specific countries. Consumers assume that Japan produces high-quality cars and that Russia makes low-quality cars. While such beliefs are often rooted in reality, many are simplified opinions, false stereotypes or effect the slowness of accepting change.

Buyer reactions to COO are influenced by various factors.  First, COO stereotypes vary depending on the origin of the judge and on the category of the product being judged.  For instance, while Japanese cars are disdained by Indians, they are prized by Russians. While people in Brazil love Japanese consumer electronics, they spurn Japanese apparel.

Second, opinion varies depending the national origin of the firm and the location where its product is actually made. Many consumers love German Volkswagens, even if the car is produced in China, Poland, or some other location outside Germany.

Third, as the capacity of countries to perform well in specific industries improves, the COO phenomenon varies over time. Until recently, for example, few Westerners would have visited India to undergo surgery.  However, many now perceive India as an excellent value for obtaining medical care for various conditions, and spend the time and money to travel there to receive heart operations, cosmetic surgery, and other procedures.

Finally, the tendency of consumers to discriminate against foreign products varies by demographic factors.  For example, senior citizens and people with limited education tend to shun products that originate from abroad.