Author Archives: Cheryl Rau

Maine co-launches international hackathon to help rural regions recover from pandemic

A 48-hour brainstorming competition hosted by Maine and six North Atlantic countries is offering cash and business development opportunities for big ideas related to rural recovery.

“Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!” will be held virtually from March 19-21, and is sponsored by the Maine North Atlantic Development Office at the Maine International Trade Center and the University of New England’s UNE North Program, in collaboration with other sponsors and the Nordic Council of Ministers and its Nordic Atlantic Cooperation agency.

Besides Maine, regions participating in the “hackathon” include Ontario, Canada; the Faroe Islands, in Denmark; and the countries of Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Scotland.

Read full article on Mainebiz

U.S. lobster exports to China rebounded in 2020

Maine’s lobster industry sees the boost as a positive sign in a year of declining international trade caused primarily by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the coronavirus pandemic tanked U.S. lobster exports overall in 2020, international trade data suggests the industry’s once-thriving U.S.-to-China trade pipeline may be making a comeback.

International sales of U.S. lobster fell by 22 percent last year, from $548.4 million in 2019 to $426.9 million in 2020. The market saw declines in sales to each of the country’s top 10 international buyers, with the notable exception of China, which bought more than $127 million of U.S. lobster, or a roughly 49 percent increase over 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sales to China skyrocketed to $31 million in December, making it the biggest month for U.S. lobster exports to the country since former President Donald Trump’s trade war hit the industry in 2018. By comparison, U.S. lobster sales to China totaled $7.8 million in December 2019 and $10.2 million in December 2018.

That increase is a positive sign for Maine, which generally accounts for 80 percent to 85 percent of all U.S. lobster sales, but it may be too early to pop champagne in celebration.

Read full article on Portland Press Herald

MITC panel: Pandemic-driven e-commerce pivots are likely here to stay

For many businesses, the pivot to e-commerce during the pandemic has been a big lift. The question for the future is whether they’ll continue to maintain their new e-commerce presence.

“It’s a little hard to say without the crystal ball,” said Keith O’Brien, a principal of business consulting firm HarborHouse Partners in Blue Hill and CEO of Page.One, a Dania Beach, Fla., marketing firm specializing in Amazon listings.

But, he continued, much of the shift to e-commerce is here to stay.

“I think we’ve seen some culture shifts,” he said.

O’Brien was speaking at an Oct. 22 webinar hosted by the Maine International Trade Center in Portland, or MITC, and the Maine Ecommerce Collective on e-commerce strategies.

According to MITC, global e-commerce sales are expected to top $4.2 trillion in 2020 and reach more than $6.5 trillion by 2023. More than 2.1 billion shoppers are expected to buy goods and services online by 2021. Increasingly, online shoppers live outside the U.S. The webinar was designed to share long-term e-commerce strategies to reach the growing online international audience.

Read article on Mainebiz

Maine fabrics manufacturer accuses Belarus of ‘dumping’ in U.S. market

The head of a Maine company that manufactures flame-resistant fabrics says her firm’s products are being undercut by the “dumping” of similar products made by a Belarusian company believed to be at least partially owned by the controversial ruler of that country.

Kathie Leonard, president and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing Inc., said the dumping – selling products in the U.S. at a very low price, sometimes below the cost of production, to capture market share from domestic companies – is hurting her company as she tries to deal with the business impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It also comes just after Auburn Manufacturing successfully fought off dumping of the same products by China.

Read article on Portland Press Herald

Maine exports drop 14%, but trade expert predicts 2021 rebound

Maine companies exported $1.5 billion of products to 153 countries from January through August, which represents a 14.4% year-to-date decline versus 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau data provided by the Maine International Trade Center in Portland.

But the opportunities for small businesses to grow by exporting are substantial, especially during this unprecedented time, the center believes.

Wade Merritt, MITC president and the state’s director of international trade, told Mainebiz the international market should rebound in 2021.

“Global trade is down. There’s no question about that,” Merritt said. “But one of the things we’re excited about, and that we’ve been encouraging companies to think about, is that, as sharp as the downturn has been, the international market is expected to rebound quite substantially in 2021.”

He added, “I think a good part of the recovery strategy for companies is to be thinking about global markets, and to think about investing in contacts and connections overseas, so that when the rebound comes, they’ll be confident in taking advantage of it.”

Read article on Mainebiz

U.S. drops tax on Canada’s aluminum, heading off retaliation

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is dropping taxes on Canadian aluminum, easing tensions with a close ally just hours before Canada was prepared to impose retaliatory sanctions.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the U.S. is ending the 10% tariffs a month after imposing them. The U.S. had charged last month that an influx of Canadian aluminum justified the levy.

But the office said Tuesday that shipments of Canadian aluminum are returning to normal levels. It said it could re-impose the tariffs if the imports surged again.

Canada was preparing to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products Tuesday.

Gov. Janet Mills had joined New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott to ask Trump to eliminate the tariff, citing the negative impact on manufacturers and supply chain businesses in northern New England.

Read article on Portland Press Herald

European Union drops tariffs on U.S. lobster

The United States lobster industry landed a much-needed trade victory on Friday, but not the one anyone was expecting.

The U.S. and the European Union announced a trade deal that eliminates all tariffs on U.S. lobster, which were 8 percent on live lobster and up to 20 percent on frozen. The deal puts U.S. lobster dealers on equal footing with their Canadian rivals for the first time since 2017, when Canada signed a trade deal that zeroed out tariffs on their EU-bound lobsters.

The U.S. sold $104 million worth of lobster to Europe in 2017, accounting for about 20 percent of total U.S. lobster sales abroad, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s foreign trade division. Last year, unable to compete with tariff-free Canadian lobsters, U.S. lobster sales to Europe fell to less than half that, or about $51 million, data shows.

Read full article on Portland Press Herald

Future of Maine’s forest industry possibly lies in Finland

Endless trees. Paper and pulp. If you compare a photo of Maine and Finland, only a few could tell the difference at first look. Both have a history of harvesting the forest. Both, over the last several years, have seen mill closures and a change in the paper industry. Over the last decade, Finland has invested financially, and with research and development, to make their forest industry into a thriving, sustainable bioeconomy. Maine leaders want to make a carbon-copy if you will.

t’s not seen as a competition, Finnish and Maine leaders see it as an opportunity to grow together.

The Finland-Maine trade and study mission was scheduled to take place in June. COVID-19 changed the travel plans but it didn’t stop the goal, focusing on 100% resource utilization from the forest industry.

“There was so much excitement around this trip that we didn’t want to cancel,” Dana Eidsness, Director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office at the Maine International Trade Center. “We had to be a little clever and come up with a way to move forward and the solution we came up with was to condense a week-long trade and study mission into two webinars and online business matchmaking.”

Currently, 37 Maine companies are signed up for the August 20 webinar. Eidsness says 35 have already expressed interest in the matchmaking component. This could mean an increase in exports for both the state and companies, new buyers or distributors, and partners.

Watch on News Center Maine

Forest economies in focus at MITC virtual mission to Finland

Less than a year after Gov. Janet Mills and Finland’s prime minister at the time agreed to strengthen their respective forest economies, a virtual trade and study mission that kicks off this week aims to open doors for companies from both countries.

The mission, organized by the Maine International Trade Center’s Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO), kicks off with a webinar today, to be followed by two further webinars in August and an online business-to-business company matchmaking in September.

Read article on Mainebiz

Initial numbers on COVID-19 and its impact on Maine exports

The Maine International Trade Center released initial data through April about the impact the pandemic has had on Maine industries.

As COVID-19 spread across the world, industries came to a crippling halt. In Maine, it was a similar trend. Workers left without jobs, others limited to working at home, governmental restrictions on travel and business operations, we knew it was bad for the economy, but now we are getting a glimpse at the preliminary pandemic numbers.

Watch on News Center Maine