E-Commerce, Meet China

On the Web, exporting and importing are like the weather. Everyone talks about them, but few do anything about them.

While any Web site is accessible from anywhere, that doesn’t mean you can automatically do business anywhere. You have to contend with customs duties, import controls, and the marketing quirks of every nation you do business with. You can see this easily if you access the Web from Europe or Asia. It’s like being at a vast bazaar but unable to touch anything. Your money’s no good.

China wants to change this, at least regarding its own market. So, during the recent state visit of Premier Zhu Rongji China announced Meet China, a foreign trade portal.

Meet China is an exclusive deal a company called the U.S. Business Network, backed by International Data Group of Boston. It represents a link to China’s new Ministry of Information Industry, which combines bureaucracies that formerly ran the nation’s electronics and telecommunications infrastructure. For China, the deal represents a chance to spur exports, but like every such trade window it can work both ways.

While China was unable to win entry into the World Trade Organization during Zhu’s trip, it did announce new concessions to western companies, allowing them to own more equity in its communications companies.

USBN has venture capital support from International Data Group and its CEO, Ken Leonard, was previously CEO for TABnet, an ISP, and a number of other companies. The site gets its Chinese launch April 28, and the idea is to eventually host commerce links with thousands of Chinese manufacturers.

Whether or not you want to meet China (and like it or not, they’re going to become our biggest trade partner sometime in the next century), the point is that if your Web site isn’t exploring exports, you’re missing a world of opportunities.

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