Up And Coming

Hottest foreign markets for 1997
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Got a widget but aren't sure where to export it? Aside from finding out which foreign countries tend to buy your type of widgets, you might also want to factor today's hottest global markets into your decision. The Department of Commerce has labeled these markets BEMs--or Big Emerging Markets.

Last month, we told you why the Chinese Economic Area (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and South Korea are hot spots for U.S. companies to target their exports to. Here are the other six--and why you should consider doing business in these ripe markets.


Forget the fact that Argentina is the richest country in South America. Forget that imports increased 400 percent from 1990 to 1993. And forget that Argentina is a world leader in privatization. What's really important is that U.S. exports to this South American country grew from $1.2 billion in 1990 to $4.1 billion in 1995--a trend that bodes well for entrepreneurs who want to break into this primed-and-ready market.

A variety of U.S. businesses are eyeing Argentina as a lucrative export destination. These include companies specializing in telecommunications equipment, oil and gas field machinery, construction and building materials, and electric power generation and transmission equipment.


After Canada and Mexico, Brazil is the third largest market in the Western Hemisphere for U.S. exports. In 1995, U.S. exports to Brazil totaled $11.4 billion. The country recently took steps to make exporting there easier--most notably, by lowering import duties on more than 5,500 items in 1994 and implementing an economic stabilization plan, which included the introduction of a new currency. Inflation dropped as a result.

All this has opened the Brazilian market to U.S. firms. Particularly hot are companies that deal in computers and peripherals, computer software, plastic materials and resins, telecommunications, and electrical power systems.


It's not just Mexico's proximity that makes it such an ideal export destination for U.S. companies--although this helps. Mexico is the 11th largest market in the world and the third largest export market for the United States, thanks to NAFTA.

"Despite the economic problems in Mexico, our exports to Mexico have increased from pre-NAFTA days," says Jim Desler, director of public affairs for the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration. Since the implementation of NAFTA in January 1994, U.S. exports to Mexico have increased--from 1993 to 1996, they grew by 26 percent, from $42 billion to $53 billion.

Among other things, NAFTA eliminated nontariff barriers, including almost all import license requirements, making it easier for U.S. companies to win Mexican government contracts. This also allows the United States to provide more services to Mexico, most notably transportation, financial, telecommunications and engineering services. NAFTA also protects the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies in Mexico--good news for U.S. entrepreneurs.

Mexico's need for infrastructure services can't be overemphasized: The Mexican government plans to invest $35 billion in infrastructure over the next decade. And almost all of Mexico's materials are imported from the United States. Other hot industries are transportation and financial, information and environmental services.


There are a lot of good reasons to export to Poland: It's the fastest-growing economy in Europe, total imports increased from $8 billion in 1990 to $19 billion in 1993, and the government is committed to continuing market reform, providing the legal, political and economic infrastructure for a thriving market economy.

What do they want in Poland? The most profitable areas for U.S. entrepreneurs include household consumer goods, computers and peripherals, and telecommunications and medical equipment.


The three magic words in exporting to Turkey are "private health insurance." As this trend rises to fever pitch in Turkey, health-care technology is becoming one of the most sought-after export products. In 1993 alone, Turkey imported $50 million worth of medical equipment from the United States.

Turkey is also looking for companies to help with infrastructure projects, industrial chemicals, telecommunications services and electrical power systems, to name a few.

South Africa

"Largely due to political reasons and historic events, South Africa is now taking a prominent role in terms of emerging markets," says Desler, "because of its vast natural resources." The gateway to the Southern African region, this country boasts a gross domestic product (GDP) nearly three times that of Egypt, its nearest competitor on the continent. Especially important is manufacturing, which comprises
26 percent of South Africa's GDP.

South Africa has well-developed transportation and communications systems, which help distribute imported goods to the country's major urban centers. Among South Africa's most-wanted products are industrial chemicals, aircraft parts, and drugs and pharmaceuticals. Franchising is booming here as well.

Contact Sources

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

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