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    Managing Competitive Advantage(3)


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2003

    Can countries create and sustain export strategies that will foster growth and development as well as exploit commercial opportunity? Not all countries have explicit national export strategies, and fewer still have documented and measured strategies that improve export earnings and increase employment.

    Making export strategies work for development is the challenge that ITC and seco's 'Executive Forum network' has set for itself. The 25 country teams that participated in the annual Executive Forum global debate in Montreux, Switzerland; the scores of experts who contributed to research and brainstorming sessions; the hundreds of practitioners who participated in electronic debates; and the numerous participants in regional Executive Forum debates - all have contributed to researching, adapting, testing and disseminating 'best practice' examples for national export strategy.

    Grouped around the theme 'Managing Competitive Advantage', the proposals in this magazine highlight how countries can find, sharpen and use their competitive edge. The articles examine how to build competitiveness through a cross-sectoral approach to export strategy. One article takes a fresh look at value chain analysis, by applying it in the context of national export strategy, as opposed to the more typical context of corporate supply chains. Another article explores in-country business alliances as a counterbalance to heavy reliance on foreign direct investment. We've included views on how national branding can boost export competitiveness and how to 'manage' a brand image based on a country's national character. We've also featured tourism, an area with great export potential for developing economies and an obvious candidate for inclusion in a national branding exercise.

    This is Trade Forum magazine's fifth issue covering Executive Forum topics and we see two fundamental messages that emerge each time: the first is that, for national export strategies to have an impact, public and private sector leaders must work together, in clearly defined roles, to shape and implement strategies. The second message is that the use of technology is essential. It supports innovation, facilitates research, speeds document processing and opens new export avenues.

    In this magazine, we raise awareness of new trends, contacts and best practice examples. Evaluations from participants, and letters to ITC and seco attest to the value of the Executive Forum, and to the fact that participants are applying the results of the debates in their daily work. The Executive Forum web site contains contact information, research papers, records of electronic discussions and full texts of Executive Forum publications. We encourage you to explore the ideas that interest you in particular through this rich, network-oriented site.