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Embassies and Consulates

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Sometimes you have to ask the question "What can my country do for me?" Particularly when you're involved in import or export.

Governments the world over are keen to promote trade for the prosperity it can bring and to develop international stability, so their embassies and consulates are actively involved in helping companies do business abroad.

If you are new to international trade, it is vitally important to check out what sort of assistance your government gives to setting up in import/export as soon as you possibly can. In many countries in the world there are grants, subsidies or even tax breaks to help you get started. There are also a number of advisors who can provide you with information about how to deal with the (sometimes) complex bureaucratic regulations concerning trade, for example, there may be a black list of countries or companies your government forbids you to trade with or special requirements concerning notification on what you are trading.

Once you are in the field, you should find that your local embassy or consulate is ready and willing to help you. In recent years, the diplomatic mission in many countries has evolved. Now, one of the most important functions of a government's representatives abroad covers the promotion of trade. They may organize trade fairs or shows where local businesses can meet foreign businessman for the purposes of developing trade contacts. Often, the help that governments give is particularly aimed at small to medium-sized businesses that may not have the resources to develop an international presence without assistance.

Getting local information and advice from the people on the spot is essential if you are expanding your presence into a country or region for the first time. Not only will their local knowledge of business and business practices be invaluable but many embassies and consulates keep a register of potential trading partners and should be able to set up meetings with the local representatives of organizations to promote trade and local businessmen. If you want to know who are the real local decision makers and then meet them, the embassy or consulate is the place to go for this kind of access and information. They will also have a detailed knowledge of the local rules and regulations for importing and exporting which will include the terms of any trade agreements or treaties currently in force. They may also be able to help you with some of the background work such as market research and information on companies in the region.

This market intelligence is one of the strengths of embassies and consulates and in general, governments are keen that companies should profit from this kind of specialist advice. They also provide a much needed service to businessmen travelling in their area. There is the obvious travel advice, where the consulate or embassy can warn travellers of potentially hazardous situations. If a businessman is involved in an accident or is arrested, loses their passport or money, the local representatives of his or her government are there to help in more ways than just priming the pump for trade.

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