Washington, DC – The exhibition industry made an important pitch to give trade shows a prominent place in the Obama administration’s strategy to increase U.S. exports. A delegation from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) was in Washington this month to meet with officials at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The group included IAEE Chairman Chris Meyer, Chairman-Elect Vinnie Polito and IAEE President Steven Hacker, who met with Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Myesha Ward and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative, Office of Textiles Gail Strickler. The topic of the discussion was the invaluable role trade shows play in fostering international business and what the Federal government can do to help draw overseas buyers to the United States.
“The national objective expressed by President Obama to double U.S. exports by 2015 is one that is shared by our industry,” said Meyer who is also VP of Convention Sales for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. “The events we produce are the most logical places to look for buyers of U.S. goods and services.”
The IAEE and the Trade Representative’s office agreed on five steps the two organizations could take together:
(1) IAEE members will be given assistance in locating potential sources of international attendees.
(2) The IAEE will provide input to the U.S. Trade Representative on the individual trade shows most likely to attract overseas buyers.
(3) Trade show organizers will be encouraged to provide access to their events to freight forwarders and import-export banks to facilitate purchases made on the show floor.
(4) A website will be established to assist international buyers with buying products at a trade show and shipping them home.
(5) Staff from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will hold workshops at IAEE events.
The exhibition industry has enjoyed a positive relationship with the U.S. Department of Commerce through its International Buyers and Trade Show Certification Programs, and its assistance in organizing U.S. pavilions overseas. However, Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) could open the doors wider to other Federal agencies that have an impact on international travel to the U.S. The IAEE urged that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be given a seat on the National Export Cabinet, since delays clearing customs can be devastating to an overseas exhibitor shipping products to the U.S. Increased funding was urged for the State Department’s consulates that have long been swamped with travel visa applications, particularly in China. The IAEE also reiterated its call for extending business travel visas to two years and creating a “trusted traveler” program so that frequent business travelers could be moved through the visa application process quicker and with less pain. “If a business traveler has demonstrated a level of trustworthiness by his/her prior compliance with U.S. immigration policy, we should allow that buyer the opportunity to re-enter the U.S. under more favorable and efficient circumstances. Notwithstanding U.S. security issues, it makes no sense not to do so,” said Hacker.
A sizable increase in overseas participation at U.S. trade shows represents a significant opportunity for show organizers. Polito said, “Our discussion was among the most fruitful for which we could have hoped. IAEE member organizations and the U.S. economy will be the beneficiaries of the work that we have begun today.”
Trade Show Executive will continue to report updates on the efforts by the industry and the government to increase the flow of attendees and exhibitors to the U.S.