The first virtual Global Trade Venture will connect companies in Wisconsin with potential partners in Germany.

MADISON, WI. July 9, 2020—As companies seek to grow their exports, in-person meetings are typically an essential feature of establishing relationships with customers and distributors in new markets. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) regularly leads half a dozen Global Trade Ventures to international markets each year, but with restrictions and uncertainty affecting international travel amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, WEDC made the decision to take its Global Trade Ventures online.

“With these virtual Global Trade Ventures, Wisconsin companies will be able to continue expanding their exports even during the pandemic—getting their innovative products to overseas consumers that need them and making a positive impact on Wisconsin’s economy in the process,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes.

WEDC’s first virtual Global Trade Venture will connect Wisconsin companies with potential partners in Germany. Meetings will take place Sept. 21-Oct 2, 2020. The registration deadline for this program is July 24.

As with all WEDC Global Trade Ventures, Wisconsin’s in-market trade representative will conduct a market assessment for each participating company. This research, conducted on a custom basis for each company, highlights market conditions and information on competitors, as well as identifying potential distributors, end users and customers for the company’s specific offerings. This customized matchmaking is one of the main benefits of joining a Global Trade Venture with WEDC. Participating companies benefit from the expertise of Wisconsin’s authorized trade representatives, who understand the market and already have connections within it.

In lieu of the office visits and plant tours that would normally be part of a Global Trade Venture, WEDC will arrange online meetings with senior decision-makers, and will also handle the technology and scheduling so participants can focus on their customers’ needs and interests. WEDC will arrange for interpreters with industry knowledge if they are needed, and will help Wisconsin business participants prepare for their meetings with tips on how best to appeal to German customers and convey their value proposition.

WEDC’s Global Trade Ventures are usually limited to one or two cities to minimize the time spent on travel. The virtual format allows for expanding the scope of the trade venture countrywide, so Wisconsin companies can meet with partners located anywhere in Germany. A country briefing offered at the beginning of the program will go over common elements of German business culture as well as regional economic and cultural differences within the country.

Another benefit of the virtual format is significantly reduced price. The cost of an in-person Global Trade Venture is often well into the thousands of dollars, including airfare, lodging and meals. The participant fee for the virtual Global Trade Venture to Germany is just $500.

The virtual format offers one more benefit: Participants won’t have to be away from the office for a full work week. Because of the time zone difference, most meetings with German counterparts will be scheduled in the morning Wisconsin time, leaving 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.

WEDC’s Global Trade Venture to Germany was originally scheduled for June, then was moved to September before being converted to a virtual format. Germany is consistently one of Wisconsin’s top export destinations (ranking fifth in 2019), and as such, is one of the destinations WEDC typically visits with a delegation of Wisconsin companies each year.

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%).

Although the pandemic has cut into the economic growth predicted for Germany in 2020, it 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. Germany 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.

“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,” said Katy Sinnott, WEDC vice president of international business development. “We would encourage companies not to press pause on their export growth strategies, but to be flexible in seeking out new opportunities. Developing new business relationships will not only serve them well now, but will position them for more rapid growth in the post-pandemic world—and WEDC’s virtual Global Trade Ventures can help them do that.”