St. Louis: New Gateway to Asian Markets

Tags: Economic Development, Site Selection, Asia

Tim Nowak is Executive Director, World Trade Center St. Louis, 314-615-8151

Nicknamed the Gateway to the West nearly 200 years ago for its presence as an economic powerhouse, St. Louis, Mo., is making significant progress as a key partner for international trade relations and economic growth. For new businesses or those seeking to grow trade relationships, St. Louis now represents a gateway to Asian markets.

St. Louis—and Missouri as a whole—is a dominant international trade presence in China and advanced economies. China is now the largest market for exports from the St. Louis region. In 2011, exports climbed nine percent, to $12.3 billion.

The World Trade Center St. Louis, a division of the St. Louis County Economic Council, supports the region by guiding businesses to expand into foreign markets, hosting visiting trade delegations, and promoting the region as a place for international trade relations and economic growth.

A company's success overseas depends on its staff's expertise and understanding of the unique requirements of selling and sourcing in international markets. Local workforces and professionals need the tools to excel in international business markets. To provide training and resources to Missouri-based companies wanting to do business in Asian markets, the World Trade Center St. Louis launched an Asia Trade Desk.

The intention of this resource is to develop deeper economic, cultural, and educational connections between St. Louis and Asia. In addition, the Asia Trade Desk partnered with the University of Missouri-St. Louis to launch a new online Chancellor's Certificate in International Trade in March 2013. The Chancellor's Certificate is a six-month training program, providing participants with the opportunity to learn the practical aspects of international business from experienced industry professionals.

In 2012, the World Trade Center St. Louis partnered with former U.S. Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond to help develop relationships in Asia. In January 2012, Senator Bond led a trip to Indonesia with 23 participants from eight companies and four universities in the St. Louis region, including representatives from Emerson, Boeing, Monsanto, Peabody, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, and Webster University. These visits are an essential strategy in demonstrating the region's commitment to becoming a global city.

A Bright Future for Emerging Markets

Growth in overall world trade volume was expected to slump to 3.2 percent in 2012 from 5.8 percent in 2011 and 12.6 percent in 2010, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. The past decade was the first time emerging markets and developing economies spent more time in expansion—and experienced smaller downturns—than advanced economies. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam have the highest projections for growth in 2013.

Despite the slowdown in Asia, St. Louis leaders see demand for U.S. products from the middle class in emerging markets, and are aggressively pursuing opportunities in these economies.