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Europe: Why now? Trends not to be missed

May 21, 2012

Consensus of European Business Forum in Chicago:  "Europe is strong and absolutely worth investing in.”

The meeting room at Mesirow Financial was literally bursting at the seams with more than 100 interested guests attending the second annual European Business Forum that the Chamber’s International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Chicago International Trade Commissioners' Association (CITCA) co-hosted on Thursday, May 10. Ten experts from the international business and economics sectors discussed business opportunities, trends and trade opportunities in a changing Europe.

Hank Hughes (Business Development Executive, IBM Corporation), Richard Price (Chairman & CEO, Mesirow Financial), Martine Leclercq (Chairwoman, CITCA) and John Roberson (Executive Director, ITC) gave the audience a broad overview of the U.S.-Europe relationship in their opening speeches. The key note speaker Roland van Marlen, founder and president of MCSM Services, disputed the statement “Europe is dead” by claiming that the U.S. media cannot kill a global economy that is bigger than the U.S. Then van Marlen illustrated this with information such as the fact that the countries of the European Union alone have a GDP of $17.58 billion exceeding the US-GDP of $15.09 billion in 2011 by almost $2.5 billion. If non-EU members such as Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Russia were included, Europe’s GDP would be more than $21 billion. The European market provides great opportunities, especially for U.S. companies. Van Marlen mentioned that experts suggest that amongst renowned countries like Germany and France, Turkey and Poland also have enormous GDP growth.

A panel discussion followed which included Philip Pittsford (International Sales Manager of NOW Health Group) and two Austrians, namely Christian Hammerl (of Counsel, Wolf Theiss) and Markus Reinhart (Vice Human Resources, Baxter’s Global Bio Science Division). Michael Padden (Attorny at Law, Levenfeld Pearlstein, Co-Chair of EU Sub-Committee) acted as the panel moderator. The experts on the panel agreed that growing GDPs of the European Countries is not enough for continental-wide success. U.S. companies should focus on specific countries and adjust to certain cultural differences over aiming to take over the entire European market all at once. Having the right agent or distributor can definitely be of great help in achieving goals. Despite idiosyncrasies, European countries all require patience, persistence and good local experts. Once these points are considered, there is no barrier or obstacle prohibiting a European breakthrough.

Advantages such as a strong single market, income, predictability and level of education are good arguments for investing in Europe. Hence, Anne Mette Vestergaard (Minister and Deputy Chief at the Embassy of Denmark) underlines in her concluding speech that “Europe is strong and absolutely worth investing in.”