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Biz forum had global appeal

Business leaders hoping to learn the ways and means to expand their business beyond American borders gathered Tuesday, Nov. 29, to learn how to avoid the hidden perils of selling their products in foreign markets.

The International Business Development Forum at Marywood University, hosted by the office of Pennsylvania Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, brought together representatives from local businesses and various government and nonprofit entities to help share the best methods of starting and managing customer bases in foreign countries.

Speakers from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Commerce and the NEPA Alliance took their turn in offering their advice on conducting business overseas.

“The importance of foreign trade to the economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania cannot be overstated,” Blake said. “We have 70 foreign-owned firms with business operations in Lackawanna County, and especially in a down economy, we want to do everything we can to encourage both exports and foreign direct investment in our region.”

With the U.S. and Canadian flags providing a backdrop, trade relations with Canada received special attention from many presenters. Paul Gillis, consul from the Consulate of Canada in Philadelphia, was quick to point out why trade between the two nations was such a vital part of both the economy of the region and America as a whole.

“Trade between Canada and the United States, valued at $627 billion annually, is the world’s largest international trade relationship,” Gillis said. “For 35 of 50 states, Canada is the number one export market….More than 8 million jobs in America are supported by Canada-U.S. trade every year, and many of those are right here in your region.”

Representing the U.S. Department of Commerce, Antonio Ceballos described the services offered by his agency via the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Philadelphia as “a Match.com for local businesses seeking to expand trade on the international stage.”

“We are aiming to not just introduce businesses to trade relationships in new foreign markets, but to create the basis for long-term trade partnerships,” Ceballos said. “So many of the businesses we see are trading with Canada, which is wonderful. But we need to help them build on that success and push into new markets.”

Blake praised the turnout for the event, which he said included registrations from more than 20 local companies. The forum could become an annual event.

“Next year, we may move away from hunting season a bit, but our commitment to local business and commerce is more than strong enough to keep us coming back again and again for these types of events.”

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