Local business people at an exporting event Thursday said they were eager to learn about selling their products and services to foreign countries, despite the trade war with China and frequent criticism of free trade agreements by President Donald Trump.
“Politics comes and goes, business has to go on,” said Corey Meyer, who together with his wife, Sara, started Little Bird Kitchen, a small manufacturer of candy and snacks in Plainview. “We want to explore the opportunity” of exporting.
“I’m not worried about who is mad at the United States today…I want to see what we can do in new markets,” said Sara Meyer, adding that Mexican consumers will probably like Little Bird’s chocolates, nuts and syrups that are made with spicy jalapeno powder.
The Meyers were among about 50 people who attended a workshop on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College organized by Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency.
The audience heard 15-minute presentations from six foreign-based experts hired by ESD's Global NY program to help businesses sell to sub-Saharan Africa, Canada, China, Europe, Israel and Mexico. The experts also met one-on-one with business owners in 10-minute sessions.
The Meyers signed up to talk with Efren Flores, the state’s trade representative in Mexico, and Terry Potter, the Europe representative.
Earlier, in his group presentation, Flores said he and the other trade experts help New York State companies assess their potential for export sales and identify reputable distributors.
Flores acknowledged that Mexico’s high crime rate is a deterrent to U.S. business people traveling south of the border.
“Yeah, unfortunately we have an issue,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you cannot travel to Mexico ... And if you don’t travel to Mexico…if you do it by remote control, nothing is going to happen.”
Potter, the expert based in London, said the United Kingdom’s rocky negotiations to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, shouldn’t stop Long Island businesses from exporting. She said there could be more opportunities after the breakup.
“The most important thing to remember is that the U.S. and the U.K. traded really successfully long before the EU came into being,” she said. The U.K. joined the EU in 1973.
In terms of the trade war with China, expert Wendy Chen said the commercial relationship between the United States and China went “very smoothly” for 20 years. But this year “we have some problems,” she said, referring to the Trump administration’s imposition of higher import taxes, or tariffs, on Chinese goods and then retaliation by China.
“Either you experience a smooth transaction…or you encounter some barrier in the short term, [but] entrepreneurs always see the opportunity anytime, anywhere,” said Chen, who is based in Shanghai. “And there’s a lot of opportunity in China” because it’s the world’s most populous country, she said.