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Viva Global Expansion! Trade Mission to Latin America

International trade missions have become one of the International Franchise Association’s most popular offerings, as the organization focuses its international efforts to provide members development and strategic opportunities. Following a highly successful mission to Indonesia and Vietnam, including significant media coverage and exposure across IFA channels, the IFA will co-sponsor with Franchise Times and the U.S. Commercial Service a trade mission to three high-profile markets in Latin America–Panama, Colombia and Chile–Aug. 26-31.
The mission will include country briefings with U.S. Embassy officials and U.S. Commercial Service officers, meetings with government ministries, one-on-one matchmaking meetings with pre-screened local investors, media outreach, real estate briefings and site visits.

About the Markets
• Panama: Almost half of Panama’s 3.5 million people live in the capital of this vibrant economy, Panama City. Economic growth has been steady, and there is a relatively large middle class with a strong demand for sophisticated products. The U.S. dollar is the legal tender, and franchising is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent.
• Colombia: With its population of 46 million, Colombia is the fifth-largest economy in Latin America. Political stability, a growing middle class and more security have created an economic boon here. 2011’s GDP growth was 5.5 percent. Colombia has five commercial hubs, and multiple infrastructure improvements are in the works across the country.
• Chile: One of the most stable and prosperous developing nations, this coastal nation is often compared to California in its geography and wine regions ranks high on international indices in economic freedom, transparency and competitiveness. About 150 franchises already operate here, and there’s no specific franchise legislation. 2011’s GDP growth was 6.2 percent, with an inflation rate of 3.9 percent. Chile’s population is over 17 million.
These emerging economies represent significant opportunity for international franchise development. By providing unique resources and introductions to potential business partners, the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to Panama, Colombia and Chile will be a jump-start for brands seeking growth in these promising markets.

Why Conduct Trade Missions?
A 2011 survey of 155 IFA member companies showed strong and growing interest in international expansion and IFA programming. Over 72 percent said international growth is “very important” to their brand’s future success, while 84 percent responded that they plan to accelerate or start new franchise operations in international markets, up from 74 percent in 2008. Over 83 percent of those surveyed desired more information about trade missions and international trade shows, while 79 percent said they would like to receive regular communication from the IFA on international programs and services.

IBA/IFA 28th Annual Conference Largest in History
The IBA/IFA 28th Annual Conference brought attorneys from nearly 20 countries together in Washington May 22-23 to network and exchange information on international franchise law and regulation. Franchise lawyers from as far away as China, Nigeria and Russia joined attorneys from most European countries, as well as Latin America, Australia and elsewhere in Asia, adding up to the largest meeting in IBA/IFA Washington Conference history.
Many of the attorneys came for the IFA Legal Symposium May 20-22, extending their time in Washington to get the counsel of colleagues on developing U.S. laws and regulations.
There’s a reason for that, says Gray Plant Mooty Principal Carl Zwisler. “If you look nationwide and add up the federal and state franchise sales laws, we have more franchise laws to be concerned about than in any other country,” he said. “China is a bigger country and they’ve got one law. The China law regulates what’s in a contract between a franchisor and franchisee and imposes a franchise registration requirement, but only one registration is required for the whole country.” So the complex and varied U.S. legal landscape offers unique challenges and learning opportunities.
Are “fair franchising” laws and legislative campaigns like recent efforts in California and Massachusetts to impose sweeping new franchise rules spreading to other countries? “Thank God, no,” says Zwisler.
That may be part of the appeal of going international. “The interest in international is palpable,” said DLA Piper’s Senior Partner Philip Zeidman. “That’s where the growth is.”

VetFran International?
Matchpoint COO and IFA Supplier Forum Past Chairwoman Victoria Conte led a conference call of international franchise consultants on going global with VetFran, the IFA’s strategic initiative to offer career paths and franchise ownership to military veterans.
“It’s a natural progression,” she said, to think globally about VetFran. Conte is known as a big-picture thinker. She was a founding member of the Women’s Franchise Network and an admirer of the late Don Dwyer Sr. (one of the founders of VetFran).
MatchPoint Franchise Consulting Network operates in 13 countries. “We thought an initiative to work with veterans around the world, particularly with the North American VetFran franchisors, made a lot of sense,” Conte added. Matchpoint consultants are exploring the plan, which could include collaboration with such organizations as the British Franchise Association and the Canadian Franchise Association. 

Beth Solomon is vice president, strategic initiatives & industry relations for the International Franchise Association. She can be reached at 202-662-0789 or bsolomon@franchise.org.

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