Super Markets

The hottest international markets for 1997
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the December 1996 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

What countries are the hungriest for U.S. exports? The Department of Commerce has selected 10 particularly ripe areas, which should be hot markets for at least the next several years. Known as Big Emerging Markets (BEMs), these areas are expected to double their share of world imports by 2010, making them attractive outlets for products made in the United States.

What are these red-hot markets? The Chinese Economic Area (comprised of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Turkey and South Africa. According to Department of Commerce figures, the collective gross domestic product (GDP) of the BEMs is 25 percent of that of the industrialized world, but by 2010, it is expected to comprise half that of the industrialized world.

Not sold yet? By 2000, the BEMs will be a bigger market than the European Union (EU). By 2010, they will represent a bigger market than the EU and Japan combined. Already, U.S. exports to the BEMs comprise almost one-fourth of total U.S. exports.

What makes a BEM a BEM? According to Jim Desler, public affairs director for the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, population has a lot to do with it. "The Chinese Economic Area comes to mind instantly," says Desler. "In 20 or 30 years, it will be the biggest economy in the world." That's one reason India made the list, too. Huge populations equal huge markets for entrepreneurial exporters.

But that's not the only factor. This month, we take a closer look at four of the BEMs and the products each area is hot to get its hands on. (For a detailed look at the other six BEMs, check out next month's "Global Vision.")

Hot Stuff

These days, many U.S. small-business owners are finding the best and fastest way to grow their businesses is to export their products and services to foreign countries. It may not be for everyone, but exporting can boost the bottom line of many thriving domestic companies.

According to the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, the ripest products for exporting include paper products, electric and electronic equipment, chemical products, apparel, industrial machinery, computers, and agricultural and livestock products.

Some items, such as computers and peripherals, are hot almost everywhere. In Canada, for instance, the demand for personal computers skyrocketed between 1994 and 1995. Casual clothing with a U.S. flavor, such as surfwear or items bearing American logos, are also popular worldwide.

No matter what your business, however, experts agree there's sure to be a country out there that will welcome your product or service.

Chinese Economic Area (CEA)

The chinese Economic Area--China, Hong Kong and Taiwan--is the largest of the BEMs and the seventh largest economy in the world. The CEA plans to spend nearly $500 billion on infrastructure projects in energy, transportation, telecommunications and environmental technology over the next six years, so business opportunities for American companies in these sectors abound.

Small-business owners with appropriate products would do well to peddle their wares to this hungry market. China welcomes aircraft parts, agricultural machinery and chemicals, and automotive parts and service equipment. Hong Kong needs electronic components, construction equipment, and books and periodicals. Taiwan is looking for electronic components, computer software and electronics.


Pining for technology, India is a prime market for U.S. companies specializing in telecommunications equipment. Less than 10 million telephone lines serve a population of 900 million people, and by 2000, that population is projected to reach 1 billion. Waiting lists for phone connections are up to 10 years long. Not surprisingly, U.S. exports of telecommunications equipment to India are expected to grow phenomenally over the next several years.

India is also breaking down barriers to global trade through privatization and by reducing customs tariffs and import restrictions, making its currency easier to convert and easing restrictions on foreign ownership.

The industries the Department of Commerce feels show the most promise for U.S. exporters are aviation, telecommunications, railway modernization, oil and gas field equipment, electronic components, and computers and peripherals.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Comprised of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the ASEAN countries are hungry for U.S. products and services.

Indonesia's GDP alone, at $143 bil-lion, is the largest in Southeast Asia, and the country has one of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. U.S. companies looking to penetrate Indonesia have an advantage if their specialties are telecommunications or energy. Energy-related imports from the United States, valued at $119 million in 1991, are estimated to grow to $162 million by 2000. Other burgeoning industries in Indonesia are transportation, environmental, manufacturing, telecommunications, health technology and infrastructure.

U.S. exports to the ASEAN countries are pretty impressive: $15.3 billion to Singapore, $8.8 billion to Malaysia; $6.7 billion to Thailand, $5.3 billion to the Philippines, $253 million to Vietnam and $190 million to Brunei.

South Korea

Energy is a particularly hot market here. The South Korean government, in an effort to meet the nation's growing energy needs, plans to more than double South Korea's power-generating capacity by 2006 by building more than 70 new power plants. If you're in the energy, telecommunications, services or infrastructure business, your products or services may sell well in South Korea.

Additionally, South Korea, with the 13th largest economy in the world, plans to spend almost $12 bil- lion on environmental projects in the next few years. Travel and tourism services, energy, computers and peripherals, telecommunications products and services, pollution control equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment are among South Korea's booming industries.

Contact Sources

International Trade Administration, (202) 482-3808, fax: (202) 482-5819.

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