After taking a beating during the global financial crisis, the European regional economy is returning to stability and modest rates of growth. Some of the more stable and prosperous economies in the region have long been among Wisconsin’s top export markets; growth in these markets spells good news for Wisconsin exporters. In general, European markets, with highly developed economies and high standard of living, are a good match for U.S. exporters.

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North America and Europe are one another’s largest export/import and investment partners, and within that, the UK plays a pivotal role. In 2014, the UK economy enjoyed the strongest growth recorded in the EU and the G7 countries. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, the UK is an attractive market for Wisconsin exporters—not only a large and growing market, but one that is recognized for ease of doing business, particularly for U.S. companies.

The UK is Wisconsin’s fifth-largest export market, taking in nearly $700 million worth of Wisconsin products every year. Traditionally, Britain’s strong manufacturing base has attracted Wisconsin machinery and advanced manufacturing companies. But today, British demand is also seeking out Wisconsin companies in life sciences, water technology and the service industries.


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While each of the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) has its own strong national and cultural identity, a distinct language and its own economic strengths, there are also very close ties among the countries, and many U.S. companies employ a regional approach when doing business in the three countries. Careful consideration should be given regarding the market differences when employing a regional strategy, but there are definite advantages in considering the region as a whole. The location and logistics infrastructure in the Netherlands and Belgium make them ideal locations for broader European distribution facilities. Luxembourg has long been a world center for banking, finance and insurance. The Benelux countries all have favorable tax climates, well-educated and English-speaking workforces, and a favorable Ease of Doing Business Ranking from the World Bank.


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As one of the world’s strongest economies and the largest national economy in Europe, Germany is the U.S.’ main European export partner. Germany had a GDP of $3.7 trillion, with economic growth of 1.5 percent, in 2014, and expected to hit 1.9 percent growth in 2015. The German economy performed well throughout the global financial crisis. The manufacturing industry in Germany represents 8.5 percent of Europe’s manufacturing companies and generates 26 percent of the EU’s manufacturing revenue. 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 labor rates. Wisconsin’s and Germany’s sector strengths mirror one another, with cultural ties due to the long history of German immigration to Wisconsin further strengthening the ties that lead to productive business relationships.


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France is a large market—the sixth-largest economy in the world—with the second-largest population in the European Union. It is also the largest country in the EU geographically, with nearly twice the landmass of the UK. With an enviable logistics network, a sophisticated consumer base and the second-strongest industrial base in Europe, France has long attracted U.S. exporters with innovative technologies and service offerings.

France imports nearly $500 million in Wisconsin goods every year. As the powerhouse for EU agriculture, France is a natural primary export target market for Wisconsin companies. But France also hosts world-leading companies that act on a global stage, from EDF, the world’s second-largest in electricity and nuclear power generation, to LVMH, a global leader in luxury goods. French businesses boast particular strength in aeronautics, defense, retail, consumer and luxury goods, building materials and construction. Once trading with these French leaders in their domestic market, Wisconsin companies can often benefit from these companies’ global reach to enter new markets.


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The views or opinions expressed here are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of WEDC. WEDC is not responsible for the contents nor does WEDC guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or reliability of this information.