Region guide: Europe

There are some resounding figures that help to put Europe's role in global trade in context.

International Festival for Business 2016

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0800 78 31 300

Lines are open from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays

Textphone: 18001 08457 125 563

Andrew Betts

Head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance Europe, HSBC

With a population of over 740 million, a collective GDP bigger than the US and China, and the 28 EU members accounting for 16% of global trade in goods and services, Europe is truly a trading powerhouse.

Indeed, it is the world's largest exporter of manufactured goods and services and is itself the biggest export market for around 80 countries - by comparison the US is the top trading partner for just over 20 countries. All of which puts the region and those businesses operating within it, in a prime position to benefit from new and established trade corridors.

Top tips

  1. Europe can be easier to access than other overseas markets as many of the trading practices, regulations and standards apply throughout the EU. Key tasks - such as accounting for VAT - have also been simplified to facilitate trade within the EU. If you conform to UK requirements, you will generally meet requirements throughout the EU.
  2. There's no substitute for thorough market research. Demographic, cultural and economic factors vary from region to region, so local knowledge is vital. Find out who your products appeal to, what marketing messages will reach them, how you'll handle customer service in a different culture.
  3. Hiring locals, or even buying into local businesses, speeds up the transition from outsider to insider. Prior to its German launch, UK-based global retailer Marks & Spencer hired 17 German managers. From them they learned that high quality customer service would offer M&S competitive advantage in a market where they were unknown.
  4. Weigh the benefits of pricing your goods and services in other currencies. Consider what your customers and potential customers expect and prefer. In the same way that sterling is the most convenient currency for most UK businesses to work with, most Eurozone customers will prefer to see prices in euros.
  5. Buyers appreciate face-to-face meetings when doing business. The UK is well connected to Europe through its extensive travel network. Rail operators such as Eurostar have links to over 100 destinations across Europe via Paris, Brussels and Lille. Take advantage and meet face to face as the relationship develops.

There’s no substitute for thorough market research. Demographic, cultural and economic factors vary from region to region, so local knowledge is vital.

For further information about trading internationally, visit the HSBC Connections Lounge at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool where an HSBC Trade Specialist will be on hand to answer your questions or call +44 (0)800 78 31 300.

Lines are open from 9am -5pm, Monday to Friday and calls are recorded for security and training purposes.

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