How do I find partners abroad?

A. Annabel Fogden writes:

First, select one market to focus on. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the government department that helps UK companies develop their business overseas, can provide key information and advice on China and India to help you choose, through its construction sector team at www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk.

Having selected a market, there are directories that can provide contacts, but I’d suggest commissioning the UKTI office to provide you with a list of agents and distributors through their overseas market information service. UKTI offices overseas are part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are based in British Embassies and offer an extensive network of support. Although a fee is payable, the service is substantially subsidised and you can tap into valuable local knowledge, experience and contacts.

Also, join a trade mission. London Chamber of Commerce organises several such visits to emerging markets each year, which offer excellent opportunities to meet prospective business partners and learn about the market. The visit will include a networking reception, at which you may entertain prospective business partners. Useful local information and contacts can also be gained through chambers of commerce and trade associations in the market, and meetings with such organisations are typically part of the trade mission programme. Networking between fellow mission members is also valuable as there is usually much sharing of experience informally during the evenings. Finally, if you can also visit a local trade fair, this can provide useful contacts and the opportunity to speak to companies active in your field – some of the best contacts can come purely through networking.

Annabel Fogden is head of world trade at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which helps UK businesses to conduct trade abroad. www.londonchamber.co.uk/international    

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