Exporting to the European market can be a formidable challenge, even without the threat of Brexit in March 2019. The key is thorough preparation and reconnaisance, understanding the Economic Partnership Agreement, and making use of the many available sources of guidance and advice
WORDS BY: Caribbean Export
Published in CONTACT Magazine
The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s largest trading blocs, with over 500 million consumers. It is an ideal market for Caribbean firms wanting to trade and grow their businesses, because the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiated between the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum) and the EU is designed to enable increased trade, investment and development between the two regions.
Preparation is key to breaking into any new market, and there are many factors to consider as you embark on this journey. Here are our top tips for succeeding in a competitive business environment.
Be completely knowledgeable about the product you are offering
A lack of detail and poor communication about your product’s ingredients, sources of inputs, safety, shelf life etc., can put you at a big disadvantage with a serious buyer. Make sure you have product information factsheets on hand when engaging potential buyers.
Identify a specific country in the EU with a strong and growing demand for what you can supply
Stay up to date on industry trends and consumption patterns, and identify any special market niches. Consider who you want to sell to, what consumers may want, and how best your product can meet their needs. The Caribbean Export Intelligence Portal (www.ceintelligence.com) can help in identifying the target markets with the highest demand for your goods, and allows you to generate market profiles.
Find out about the rules and requirements for exporting to the EU
There are several non-tariff measures, such as technical regulations and standards, which must be adhered to when exporting to the EU. They may vary according to your export sector. For instance, if you are a food exporter, you will need to ensure that your product meets the health and safety standards of the EU: products can be rejected at EU borders for non-compliance.
You will also need to identify any additional, non-legal buyer requirements that can enhance your chances of successfully exporting. These may include quality management systems, certification (HACCP, Global GAP), and sustainability standards (Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance). Additionally, make sure that you are familiar with the documentary requirements for export, such as the Commercial Invoice, Customs Value Declaration, and the Single Administrative Document (SAD).
Develop a strategic export/market entry strategy
Determine the best buyers for your products, and research the appropriate market segments to ensure that you can meet the quality and quantity demands of the EU market. Consider partnering with like-minded suppliers who can help you to meet quantity requirements and find the best channels to penetrate the European market. Caribbean Export’s Distribution Channel Mapping Tool on the CE Intelligence Portal provides guidance to SMEs on profiling, approaching, and selecting a suitable distributor.
Participate in trade shows and undertake missions to your target market
While this may be a costly undertaking, it is always useful to get a first-hand view of how business is done in the country you have selected. Check out your main competitors, review prices for similar products, and begin to introduce your product to potential consumers.
Protect your intellectual property
Both goods and services exporters should take steps to protect their intellectual property (IP) in each target market. This can be achieved through various tools such as trademarks, patents, copyrights, industrial design rights, and geographical indications.
Use available resources
Taking the first steps to exporting to Europe can be a daunting process. But there is a wealth of information and support to help you on your journey. Caribbean Export has developed a short, practical, commercially-led export guidance manual which begins by assessing your export readiness and provides information on how best to profile, approach and select a suitable distributor.
There is further advice and information on breaking into EU, US and other markets, as well as financing and investment, on the Caribbean Export website (www.ceintelligence.com).
The Caribbean Export Development Agency, established by inter-governmental agreement, promotes trade, exports and investment in the countries of Cariforum.
The Caribbean Forum, comprising the countries of Caricom plus the Dominican Republic, serves as a conduit between the Caribbean and the EU.
Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
The agreement signed in 2008 between Cariforum and the EU, designed to develop trade and investment between the two regions.
The 28 states of western and central Europe within which the free movement of goods, services, money and people is being developed. The combined population is over 510 million. The United Kingdom plans to withdraw from the Union on 29 March, 2019.
The International Fairtrade Certification Mark guarantees that specified products meet the sustainability standards set by Fairtrade International (FLO).
An international agricultural certification scheme setting standards for “good agricultural practice” (GAP) and unifying requirements for suppliers and retailers.
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, a scheme to monitor and prevent biological, chemical and physical hazards throughout the food production chain.
The New York-based Rainforest Alliance certifies sustainable agriculture and forestry among other things, and awards a seal for products meeting its criteria.
Single Administrative Document (SAD)
This is the main customs document used for trade into or out of the EU customs area. It is known in the UK as Form C88.
EU-Caribbean: trade in goods 2015-2017 (billion euros)
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2015 4.6 7.4 2.9
2016 3.6 7.0 3.4
2017 4.0 7.2 3.2
EU-Trinidad and Tobago: trade 2015-2017 (million euros)
2015 1243 660 -583
2016 684 595 -89
2017 1139 513 -626
Source: ec.europa.eu, retrieved on 3 October 2018