The value of building global relationships

Why the trade mission to Turkey will help keep N.H. ahead of the curve


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We live in a time of unprecedented global connectedness. The international flow of trade, capital, information and people has created a truly global marketplace for goods and services.

When one can telecommute to a meeting in Shanghai and communicate with business partners and prospects over phone, text, email or video, the importance of in-person networking and relationship-building may seem diminished, a relic of a dying business culture. But as an attorney assisting clients in export compliance and foreign trade, it’s evident to me that strong personal connections remain fundamental to profitable and sustainable business overseas, whether exporting manufactured goods or negotiating a multi-national acquisition.

Foreign trade is a tricky business, requiring an understanding of the written rules — export laws, licensure requirements, and customs duties — and of course, the unwritten ones. On-the-ground alliances are invaluable in navigating regulatory channels and fostering partnerships across the supply chain.

Through this lens, it seems apparent that Gov., Maggie Hassan’s recent trade mission to Turkey, aimed at advancing high-value business relationships in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, represents a smart long-term investment in New Hampshire’s global competitiveness.

As a small state, New Hampshire may seem an unlikely business ally for Turkey, a country of about 81 million people and tremendous geostrategic importance. But New Hampshire and Turkey already enjoy strong commercial ties. New Hampshire exported about $79 million in goods and services to Turkey last year, making Turkey our 12th-largest trade partner.

And there is still great opportunity for expanded cooperation and collaboration.

As a fluent Turkish speaker, I was excited to join the group traveling to Turkey and to be available to help the governor and my fellow delegates navigate the cultural and linguistic divide on our weeklong visit, packed with meetings, briefings and site tours hosted by Turkish business owners and influencers.

As the sixth-largest economy in the Europe Union, Turkey is a experiencing tremendous economic growth. This is thanks to a number of factors, not least of which is its abundant human capital. With half of the country’s population under 30, Turkey has a vast pool of young, well-educated and tech-savvy talent, making it a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

Turkey’s physical geography, bordering eight different countries, is another strategic asset. While Turkey has long served as a gateway between Europe and Asia, it is the connection to Africa that is stirring new opportunity.

Driven by strong domestic demand, improved macroeconomic management, a growing middle-class, and increased political stability, African economies have sustained unprecedented rates of growth – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the world’s superpowers.

Just a few weeks ago, President Obama hosted the leaders of more than 40 African countries and pledged to renew efforts to boost investment in the continent.

New Hampshire is a valuable trading partner for Turkey as well, a fact manifested in the level of interest and enthusiasm the delegates were greeted with in our visit to Turkey. As home to more than 2,000 manufacturing companies and over 2,200 exporting companies, New Hampshire has the goods and services to help advance Turkey’s economy and to answer growing consumer demand. New Hampshire’s access to waterways, international airports and interstate highways make it geographically well-suited for shipping, while the absence of sales and income tax make it an attractive state in which to do business.

Given the current economic climate, many have questioned whether the mission to Turkey was a prudent use of state dollars or how a state-led trade mission could have an impact on trade relations, a function seemingly driven by market forces. While importing and exporting is not the business of government, high-level visits, representing the unified voice of industry and government, demonstrate a depth of commitment that fosters trust, credibility, and commercial opportunity.

As the U.S. continues to work toward restoring economic and job growth, shoring up our prospects for international trade will become increasingly vital to New Hampshire’s economic health. In my view, forward-looking initiatives like Governor Hassan’s trade mission to Turkey will help keep the Granite State ahead of the curve.

Suzan Lehmann is an attorney at Hinckley Allen in Concord.

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