Even with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, international trade continues, and WEDC remains ready to assist Wisconsin companies with their export goals. Companies can emerge stronger from the economic downturn if they take steps now to pursue new opportunities. In light of the current environment, WEDC has converted its global trade ventures into a virtual format with online meetings between Wisconsin companies and potential customers, distributors and other partners in international markets. The first virtual trade venture will connect Wisconsin companies with potential partners in Germany.
Under normal circumstances, face-to-face meetings are key to establishing trust in international business, and one day will be again once the pandemic passes. But given recent events and constraints on international travel, the focus has shifted to companies that are nimble and adaptable. Wisconsin firms that take advantage of technology instead of letting export expansion grind to a halt can set themselves apart in international markets, leaving them well positioned to grow these relationships further once travel restrictions ease and in-person meetings become possible. Wisconsin companies interested in expanding their exports to Germany are invited to join WEDC’s virtual trade venture, which will take place Sept. 21-Oct. 2, 2020.
Germany is consistently among Wisconsin’s top export destinations and was #5 in 2019. This healthy volume of trade reflects a history of German immigration in Wisconsin; mutual strength in manufacturing; and shared emphasis on quality, productivity and a strong work ethic. In all, Wisconsin exported $761 million worth of goods and services to Germany in 2019. The potential exists to increase Wisconsin companies’ sales to German customers even further.
Although the pandemic has cut into the economic growth that had been predicted for Germany in 2020, the country remains a major trading nation with significant imports and exports. It is the fourth-largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $4 trillion, and accounts for more than one-fifth of the European Union’s GDP. This economic powerhouse imports more than $1 trillion worth of products each year, $58 billion of this from the U.S. Germany’s path to prosperity over the past decade has focused on developing new technologies, driving innovation and leveraging a highly skilled workforce that demands higher wage rates.
Two-way trade in industrial and electrical machinery and parts between Germany and the U.S. has long been strong. With a population of 82 million, Germany is the largest consumer market in the EU, making it a good market for processed foods; food processing and packaging machinery; and health care products. The U.S. is also a major supplier or aerospace and defense- or security-related products to Germany, and that market remains strong. Advanced manufacturing and the Internet of Things—or Industry 4.0—is one of the most dynamic sectors of the German economy. Major subcategories include robotics and automation, additive manufacturing and advanced materials, precision machine tools, and sensors and instruments.
Leading categories for Wisconsin exports to Germany in 2019 included industrial machinery (21%), medical and scientific instruments (16%), miscellaneous chemical products (10%), aircraft and aviation equipment (6%) and electrical machinery (6%).
Because the economies of Wisconsin and Germany overlap to such a high degree, Wisconsin companies will often find their strongest competitors in Germany, but they will also find business partners that easily integrate with Wisconsin companies’ offerings. There is also strong demand in the German market for parts and components going into larger systems.
Connecting with customers virtually
As with all WEDC global trade ventures, our in-market trade representative will conduct a market assessment for your specific sector and search for the distributors, end users and customers who best fit your profile of the ideal business partner. In lieu of the office visits and plant tours that would normally be part of a global trade venture, we will arrange online meetings with senior decision-makers, with WEDC handling technology and scheduling so you can focus on your customers’ needs and interests. We will arrange for interpreters with knowledge of your industry if they are needed, and will help you prepare for your meetings with tips on how best to appeal to German customers and support your value proposition. Germany can be a very demanding market, but if a Wisconsin company can succeed there, they know they can compete on a global level. German customers are very quality-conscious and want proof that a product lives up to the manufacturer’s claims.
While Germany is not a large country by area (it is about the size of Wisconsin and Minnesota combined), travel time between meeting locations can eat up plenty of time on a traditional trade venture. By conducting the meetings virtually, you may be able to meet with a potential buyer in Bremen minutes after concluding a meeting with someone almost 500 miles away in Munich. In addition, the cost for the virtual global trade venture is significantly less, since it does not require airfare or lodging.
The virtual format offers one more benefit: you won’t be required to be away from the office for a full work week. Because of the time zone difference, most meetings with your German counterparts will be scheduled in the morning, leaving your afternoons free. The meeting schedule will be spread across two weeks to enable easier scheduling given the limited time window for meetings each day, making the meeting schedule lighter on any given day.
Learn about exporting to Germany from WEDC’s trade representative
Paul Smerda, a staff member of the office that represents Wisconsin’s trade interests in Europe, discusses opportunities for Wisconsin businesses looking to expand their businesses to the German market. This video was filmed before the pandemic, so addresses visiting the market in person, but still contains insights on the value of making connections in the market with a WEDC global trade venture (virtual or otherwise).