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    Linking Business Communities to Export Markets


    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © Ministry of Economy and Commerce of Romania Romanian tourism has great export potential.

    Romania's national strategy connects regions, towns and villages. The aim is to build a broader base of exporters and a new range of exports that meet demands in new markets, especially in the European Union.

    Romania's approach to export development can be summed up in one sentence. First, come together at the national level and work out how to act locally; then, make efforts to ensure local impact through a national strategy and an institution that can take care of this process.

    In Romania in the past, we suffered from fragmented and incoherent export promotion and export development. The export business is over-concentrated in the capital city, Bucharest, and other main cities. The exporting base is very, very thin at the level of villages.

    We realized that this pattern of doing business was no longer sustainable. But as in many countries, there was a tendency towards a dual economy. Current exporters are not necessarily interested in seeing the exporting base enlarged. They appreciate their advantage in drawing on the resources available for export promotion. This "coalition" can only be challenged through a strategic approach and democratic processes.

    So, instead of creating an informal public-private partnership, we decided to set up the National Export Council to go local and reach out to the poor, to try to bring them into a democratic process of taking decisions on export strategies.

    Build trust

    To prepare this process we carried out a thorough analysis of our economic situation involving 21 teams and more than 400 people throughout Romania. We decided where we wanted to go and what kind of exports would be sustainable as an engine for development and for welfare. Our target for 2009 is to change dramatically the conditions of doing business, of doing exports. This means really going local, being present with services for the local business communities. We need to support emerging business clusters, create linkages between different value chains and different industries, and "go local" in awareness campaigns.

    We first had to build trust among different stakeholders, then among the politicians, so that the process would survive different political regimes by demonstrating a strong partnership with businesses. As a result of these efforts, all political parties in Romania recognized the institution as an important step to strengthen public-private partnerships in export development.

    We began in 2003, when together with businesses we discussed the idea of a national export organization. In April 2004 we created the National Export Council with 14 members from the private sector and 14 from the public sector. We started designing a national export strategy at the end of 2004, applying ITC methodology. By the end of 2005, Romania approved the strategy.

    As part of our Export 2006 programme, we visited many local authorities to raise awareness of the need to change mentalities so that we could create sustainable exports at a local level. We are trying to stimulate linkages at local level between industries that are important for reducing poverty and for sustainable export development, such as tourism, furniture production, organic farming and handicrafts. In a globalized world, foreign firms are looking for ways to localize activities and we can use these new opportunities. We created local alliances between designers and producers of furniture for example, and between organic farmers and rural tourism companies. In all there are 400 initiatives in our strategy.

    We created eight pilot projects to bring Internet access to rural areas. We also established county-level export councils. Finally, we gathered success stories from other countries. We transmitted them to our manufacturers, for example to wine producers, who, as a result, came together in an association and created a brand for their wine, which they are now exporting. Romania, which developed the first computer in the East European bloc in 1957, continues to focus on IT, with the highest density of graduates in this field. One foreign company operates a call centre in 15 European languages using Romanian nationals.

    © Ministry of Economy and Commerce of Romania Romania's strategy focuses on bringing local business to new international markets.

    High success rate

    After one year, using a Balanced Score Card methodology adapted to national export strategies by ITC, we have seen that 70% of the five-year strategy is working. That means it's going according to expectations.

    What are the main achievements? We stimulated networking among institutions and private businesses. We extended the base of exporters and diversified exports to new sectors such as organic farming, rural tourism and audio-visual exports.
    We didn't perform well in trade information, management and export finance, but not all the deadlines come in the first year.

    The next step will be regional export strategies - to stimulate regions within the country to define their own priorities and act accordingly - and to create more service providers for companies. We need local training programmes, to develop skills for poor communities, to extend the network of women's associations, to encourage cooperation between emerging clusters and to create public goods in terms of services for the whole business community. We need to focus on territorial marketing and on how to sell a region. We need to complete the tremendous shift of our promotional activities towards potential exporters, rather than existing exporters, through information services and consultancy packages designed for them.

    © ISTOCKPhoto
    Branding for Romanian wines is part of the new export strategy.

      Mr Lianu can be reached at costin.lianu@dce.gov.ro
    See also http://www.dce.gov.ro