When you think about China's rising economic influence, its booming export market is probably the first thing that crosses your mind.
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But China also has a booming import market – and that's good news for American small business owners.
A lot of business owners have a pessimistic view about today's global marketplace, especially when it comes to China. In a relatively short period of time, China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse, capable of competing with the best companies the industrialized world has to offer. But the global marketplace is a two-way street. Depending on your industry, there is a good chance China's thriving economy can work to your benefit – if you know how to introduce your products into the Chinese marketplace.
Best Export Prospects
The first step is to determine the viability of your products in the Chinese export market. As China's economy grows, its demand for all kinds of products – from consumer goods to IT solutions – is increasing. To make your job a little easier, the U.S. government provides information about the best export prospects to China and other countries. Visit their website at www.export.gov for a full list of exportable products and services.
Establishing a Presence in China
The process of establishing a business presence in China is very similar to the process of establishing a presence in any other foreign country. First-time exporters can reap a significant advantage from attending a trade show in China, many of which are supported by the U.S, Department of Commerce. The big benefit of these trade shows is that they give you the ability to directly interface with Chinese buyers and create business partnerships.
Sooner or later, exporters to any country will need to make contact with an in-country business services provider. This is especially important in China because the regulatory requirements are complex and designed to be obstructive to foreign business interests. There are several links to business service providers available on the China page at www.export.gov, and small business exporters are strongly advised to link up with a business service early in the process.
Cautions and Dangers
You should be aware that exporting to China isn't risk free. In fact, there are several potential threats you need to know about before you make your first move. Intellectual property rights are an extremely gray area in China and exporters cannot expect the same protections they enjoy in the U.S. It's possible that by exporting your products or services to China, you could sacrifice a level of intellectual ownership.
Recently, the Chinese market has also experienced a wave of fraudulent activity targeting U.S. exporters. These fraudsters express unsolicited interest in U.S. products, use it to exploit the legitimate U.S. business interests, and then disappear. The best way to inoculate your company from fraud is due diligence. Find out everything you can about potential business partners and if it looks to good to be true – it is.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Advocacy Center is eager to help U.S. businesses export to China. They encourage business owners to contact them during the early stages of project development and are a great resource for getting started on the right foot.