The foreign consulates in our communities can indeed be bridges to the global economy if only we understand what they stand for. Here’s Part 1 of 3 very basic tools from my book (sub-titled “Local Bridges to Globalism”), showing members of the business community how they can benefit from understanding what a local foreign consulate is.
Know the consulate. Make a point of learning how your target country operates through its local consulate. Find out if the office is headed by a career officer (titled consul general, consul or vice consul) or is someone serving another sovereign nation in an honorary role (incidentally, honoraries also hold the three just-mentioned titles).
This dual division of consuls doesn’t mean one is inferior to the other but it may determine the outcome of each situation.
For instance, when principals of a local, medical supply company want to explore the market in a foreign target country the key to success may be with an honorary consul whose highly-specialized, “civilian” business is the same as theirs. On the other hand, career officers, who by nature are not permitted to engage in private business where they are posted, often have to be “educated” about the industry before they can be as useful as an honorary consul already established in the field.
In the old days it was commonly assumed that all honorary consuls represented only small nations – and hence, smaller economies – but today this is no longer true. For instance, Canada, our number-one trading partner, has greatly expanded its network of honorary consuls and – moreover – specifically tasks them with trade matters.
A look into the career-honorary split may also reveal other useful information, such as staff members with special skills or connections. And don’t make the mistake of referring to career consuls as “real” or “professional” (as opposed to imaginary or unprofessional?), lest you run the risk of some official considering you so ignorant that he’s not inclined to extend his services to you.
By sharing the link to this entry you can help those executives in your organization who are exploring foreign markets.