The boycott fear? Israel expanding trade offices in Asia, Africa at the expense of Europe
The Ministry of the Economy is opening trade attaché offices in Asia, Africa, and South America, as Foreign Trade Administration director Ohad Cohen turns to emerging markets. On Monday, a new class of 12 new cadets will begin a course with a focus on the markets of Africa, China, and India.
Cohen says, that, over the past five years, Israel has been expanding trade attaché offices in Asia and Africa at the expense of its presence in Europe, and that this trend will continue in the coming years, in line with the change in Israel's balance of trade. For the first time, in 2014, Israeli exports with Asia will exceed trade with the US, pushing it from second to third place (behind the EU). Foreign Trade Administration data show that, in 2013, Asia accounted for 21% of Israel's exports, just behind the US, with 21.6%, after the steady relative decline in US trade since the 2008 economic crisis. It predicts that the growth in trade with Asia and the decline in trade with the US will continue, and in 2018, Asia will account for 24.5% of Israeli exports and the US will account for 20.3%. Europe, Israel's largest and closest trading partner, will continue to account for 40% of exports.
"Six years ago, we were in a completely different place in terms of our activity in Asia. Then, we had just two economic attaches in in China and India, in Beijing and New Delhi. Today we have five offices in China, three in India, and we have added attache in Vietnam and an office in Manila, which is examining business and trade opportunities with the Philippines. It is a large country that is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years, and we really want to be there," said Cohen.
Even though Europe will probably continue to be Israel's number one trading partner, the Ministry of the Economy has closed a number of trade attaché offices there, in order to refocus on emerging markets. Offices in Austria, Hungary, Finland and Sweden have either been closed or consolidated with offices in neighboring countries. At the same time, new offices have been opened in Colombia, South Africa and Kenya, and are set to open in Chile and Nigeria.
The 12 cadets who will begin their course tomorrow were selected from over 2,000 candidates, after a meticulous screening process. Cohen says that the cadets will learn about Israel's new economic interests, which are completely different from the interests taught to the cadets a decade ago. "We're looking at projections, one by the OECD, which indicate that by 2060, exports to India and China will account for at least 46% of global GDP. That is nearly half of global GDP concentrated in two markets, and the objective is to adapt Israel to this expansion," he says.
Negotiations with India on a free-trade agreement are moving slowly forward, with sources saying that a deal will be signed in 2016 at the earliest. A feasibility study ahead of the opening of negotiations on a possible free-trade agreement with China is due to be completed this summer. A similar study for a possible free-trade agreement with Vietnam was completed in March.