What is an Export?

On the face of it, the answer to this question should be fairly simple. An export is a sale and delivery of goods or services from one place (a state or legal jurisdiction) to another.

Unfortunately, this definition only focuses on the outcome of an export transaction. It doesn't say too much about the process. So what is the nature of that process?

There's a popular notion of exporting, which appears in the media and is often cited by politicians. It imagines proactive and motivated salespeople identifying opportunities, getting on planes to distant markets, winning orders in the face of fierce competition and returning home to the applause (and in many cases, relief) of their colleagues whose jobs may be dependent on their success.

In fact, the reality of exporting is perhaps rather more mundane. While this post make no attempt to quantify it for any country, a very meaningful proportion of export sales are initiated by buyers (i.e. importers) who are looking to source goods and services that they see as necessary for their business. The response of course requires publicity to attract enquiries, not to mention marketing and selling, and the skills to support this (technical, linguistic, cultural, as well as simple tenacity), on the part of the would-be exporter.

Bear in mind also that, as in most transactions, whoever is paying usually gets to set the agenda, and it becomes clear that exporting is a much more complex (and reactive) process than is frequently assumed.


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