Region/Countries: Africa and the Middle East, Israel Industry: Multiple Sectors Date: August 2017

With a trade mission to Israel approaching at the end of October 2017, we sat down with Stanley Pfrang, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) market development director for the Middle East, to learn more about why Wisconsin companies should consider exporting to Israel and what concerns they should keep in mind for this market.

What advice can you provide to companies looking to begin exporting to Israel?

Israel is unique in that it can be a small market for some products, but demand can be high for others. Israelis pride themselves on the amount of innovation and R&D advances coming out of their country. U.S. companies exploring the Israeli market should be open to different forms of business, be it direct sales, co-development of technology, or acquiring Israeli technology in order to improve sales potential in other parts of the world.

Are there particular sectors of companies that should consider Israel as an export destination?

On the 2017 trade mission, we are focusing on processed foods, water technology, cybersecurity, safety and security equipment and services, medical technologies and biotechnology products, and power generation equipment. Companies that can supply production machinery and parts and components for high-tech products used in Israel, and also exported to other countries from Israel, have greater potential. The Israeli government’s reforms are opening the market to increased import of fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, milk, and frozen and processed vegetables.

What are some commonly held myths about doing business in/with Israel, and what’s the reality?

Too many Americans assume that the entire Middle East is a dangerous war zone. While the political and security situation can change very rapidly, a business traveler to Israel is statistically safer than he or she would be in most major U.S. or European cities. Israel’s strict security screening procedures, particularly at international land and air borders, may cause some travelers slight inconvenience upon arrival, but they are designed to make the remainder of the traveler’s time in the country less worrisome. A close working relationship with a local company can keep you abreast of changing conditions.

What should businesses consider when planning an export strategy for Israel?

Many (but not all) Israeli businesspeople frequently travel back and forth to the U.S. and spend a significant amount of time in this country. Due to this familiarity, negotiating with them can give a false sense that one is dealing with just another American customer. Never forget that you are selling into a foreign market with a different currency and different government regulations.

How is Israel’s economic outlook for the coming years?

In 2016, Israel’s GDP real growth rate increased by 4.0 percent over the 2015 rate, and the country’s unemployment rate declined from 5.3 to 4.3 percent. The OECD predicts that growth will continue around 3.25 percent in 2017-2018.

How does WEDC help businesses sell in Israel?

Participating in this trade mission will get you introduced to some key players and innovators in the Israeli market.  Our contacts in the market will also arrange individualized one-on-one meetings for you with local businesses that meet your business’ target profile.  They will also arrange additional meetings with industry experts who can provide a fuller picture of your sector and some new strategies you may want to consider.

What is your biggest piece of advice for companies looking to begin exporting to Israel?

Be open to different forms of business cooperation. While it’s best to have a goal and a plan in mind before embarking on a visit to the market, you may be surprised by some of the business opportunities that present themselves unexpectedly in Israel. A presentation at a briefing or a conversation at a reception may introduce a radically different option for you to consider.

Any other information you’d like to share about doing business in this market?

On its own, Israel may be a small market, but most Israeli firms already have global connections. Thus, Israeli companies may be able to introduce Wisconsin companies to additional partners and customers in other markets around the world.