Despite all the hype about growth in India and China, trade between Europe and the United States dwarfs that with India by a factor of 20 and China by a factor of 10. Camille Sailer, director of international programming for BioNJ and president of the European American Chamber of Commerce in New Jersey, says, “China is up and coming and their numbers are vast, but where we are today, there is no comparison with what we already have with Europe.”
Sailer says the majority of foreign investors who come to New Jersey are from Europe. European countries also represent 500 million consumers, out of whom 100 million are affluent — even larger than the affluent market in the United States. The New Jersey chapter of the European American chamber was formed to help American businesses take advantage of this mature and highly lucrative market.
Sailer will chair a panel on “Transatlantic Ties in the Alternative Energy Industry” at the European Union-New Jersey Business Forum on Alternative Energy on Thursday, October 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development in New Brunswick.
Participating in Sailer’s panel will be Govi Rao, CEO of Noveda Technologies; Stefan Parhofer, president and CEO of Gerhlicher Solar America; and Hugh Roarty, of Rutgers University’s Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory. A second panel, “Regulatory Developments in New Jersey and the EU,” is chaired by Frank Felder, director of the Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy. The keynote speaker is Andrew Moravscik, professor of political science and international affairs at Princeton University. The event is free, but registration is required. E-mail GTKE@europe.rutgers.edu.
New Jersey companies, says Sailer, are world leaders in developing services, technology, and products to support energy efficiency and develop alternative energy sources. “From the European standpoint, New Jersey is a welcome trading partner because we have a number of advantages,” she says. “In particular, our supremely talented workforce and our innovative environmental companies.”
Sailer suggests several issues that companies in the energy efficiency and alternative energy space need to consider if they are interested in expanding into trade with Europe:
#b#Environment#/b#. Europeans are more determined than Americans to reduce toxic effects on the environment. “U.S. companies can tap into an almost philosophical ardor in Europe to reduce the carbon footprint,” says Sailer. This translates into a great market opportunity for solar, wind, and other alternative types of energy still in development, as well as products and processes to improve energy efficiency.
#b#Directives and legislation are state-specific#/b#. Although an overarching European Union commission drafts directives and legislation, each member state has wide latitude to develop its own legislation and even to decide how it will implement legislation intended to be Europe-wide. “Probably the biggest caveat I would say to American or New Jersey companies is that when they are looking at Europe, they can’t think of it as one market,” says Sailer. “There are a lot of preferences, local requirements, and some very important, different ways of approaching the same topic.”
The European market includes the 27 countries in the European Union as well as Russia, Switzerland, and Norway. Because of the diversity among the European nations, there is no unified approach for engaging in investment or trade, and businesses must always keep in mind the unique characteristics of each country. Although Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Russia are important energy-related markets, says Sailer, “you can’t say with a broad brush, ‘I’m going to plop myself in Spain and then I’ll be good to go in Russia and Norway.’”
Countries also vary culturally. Belgium, with a population of only 10 million, has three official languages — Flemish, French, and English — spoken in separate regions of the country. Hence a company would need three separate representatives in Belgium.
#b#Patience#/b#. It takes time to show commitment and build credibility. “With any type of international trade, you’re not going to get off the plane and be successful,” says Sailer. “You have to engage, commit, do your homework, and use your expertise, and that leads to credibility.”
Also, make sure to do your due diligence to find the right place to set up shop. Many companies, particular in the consumer products arena, like to start out in the United Kingdom because it is English-speaking and has a common law tradition rather than the Napoleonic code. Or they may start off in Belgium or the Netherlands, which are home to many multinationals and have hospitable environments.
Finding the right venue, however, takes more than newspaper research. Companies need to consult experts, says Sailer. But whereas large multinationals are always research-driven when entering the global market, smaller businesses often do not have the resources to do the necessary research. Instead, they may select a country simply because potential customers from there have called or visited their websites.
The result? “They might react to an inquiry from a country not suitable for them as a market,” says Sailer. To help New Jersey companies get the expertise they need, the chamber she heads has a talent and resource bank through which experts can mentor companies.
While Sailer was growing up, her grandfather was for many years the New York president of the German Verein, a large German-American club. Her father’s family had a textile business in Germantown in Philadelphia, and her mother was an editor at Bell Laboratories. “I grew up in an international household where there was a lot of emphasis on knowing what was outside in the world,” she recalls.
Sailer graduated with a degree in international relations from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Her great-grandmother, Ruth Easton, was among the town’s founders. She also studied at the University of Madrid, where she received a degree in Spanish studies. In addition to Spanish, she speaks French, Dutch, Korean, and German.
After graduating from the Villanova School of Law and passing the bar in Pennsylvania, Sailer practiced for a while with a small law firm. She was then accepted in the American diplomatic service and spent more than 20 years overseas. Her first assignment as a foreign-service officer was in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From 1991 to 1995 she served in Stuttgart, Germany, as principal commercial officer and consul at the American Consulate General, representing U.S. business interests in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. While in Germany she helped expand the presence of American companies in the country’s complicated regulatory environment. She also spent significant time working with Mercedes in the process of making its first overseas investment — in Alabama.
Sailer then spent seven years in Seoul, Korea, advising U.S. firms regarding investment problems and market access, negotiating trade agreements, and generally promoting trade and investment.
From 2002 to 2007 she was the regional commercial counselor at the American Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, where she headed up a regional program of the U.S. government on trade and investment.
By that time she was ready to return stateside for her children’s schooling. In 2008 she was the vice president for business development at the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia. From 2009 to 2011 she was the director of international trade for New Jersey.
Sailer suggests that Europe is ripe for investment by small alternative energy and energy efficiency companies. The U.S. market is a mature one, and not growing by double digits. But fast-growing markets do exist in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and some areas of Russia.
As to the prospects for investing in Europe, Sailer summarizes, “The mature countries are lucrative now, and others in Europe can provide, if you select wisely, tremendous growth potential.”