U.S. Relaxes Rules on Cuba Travel

A tourist bus in Old Havana on Thursday. U.S. law forbids tourist travel to Cuba but several tour operators said business has been booming.
A tourist bus in Old Havana on Thursday. U.S. law forbids tourist travel to Cuba but several tour operators said business has been booming. ENRIQUE DE LA OSA/REUTERS

The U.S. will allow eligible citizens to travel to Cuba on the honor system, eliminating a requirement for many to seek prior approval and making visits easier for thousands of Americans, according to details released Thursday.

U.S. law forbids tourist travel to Cuba. Under the law, U.S. citizens may visit only if their travel fits into one of a dozen categories, including family visits, humanitarian work and journalism, and many eligible travelers have needed a license from the U.S. government to visit, in addition to obtaining a Cuban visa.

Under the new policy, an administration official said on Thursday, citizens still may only travel to Cuba for eligible purposes, but they will no longer need a U.S. government license to do so.  READ MORE

The fate of US Ex-Im Bank

By  CC Solutions 

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (“EXIM”) is in the midst of a reauthorization battle. Whether or not EXIM gets reauthorized depends entirely on Congressional votes. Unfortunately, there are a significant number of vocal, powerful Congressional members who are seeking to shut the Bank. We ask readers to help reauthorize EXIM by engaging with elected officials and industry groups. Our collective voices need to be heard so Congress can be best informed as they prepare to vote on this critical issue.

Below are online petitions for the reauthorization EXIM. They take just a few moments to complete.


Additionally, you can email your local Congressman/Congresswoman and Senators to let them know you support EXIM. We encourage you to write a short note asking for their vote to reauthorize EXIM. To find your Representative, click here and type your zip code. To find your Senator, click here, then navigate to their web page and write a quick note.

And here are some other organizations you can contact to voice your opinion in favor of EXIM:

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
Bankers Association for Foreign Trade (BAFT-IFSA)
Coalition for Employment through Exports (CEE)

Why is there such a challenge to EXIM’s existence? According to EXIM’s website, it has supported more than 1.2 million private sector jobs and has generated >USD 2 billion for US taxpayers since 2009. Nevertheless, many Congressional Conservatives and Tea Party activists consider EXIM to engage in corporate welfare due to loans supporting large exporters. While EXIM certainly finances the export of large capital goods, last year nearly 90% of transactions supported American small businesses.

And what if EXIM did not exist? American companies will be at a competitive exporting disadvantage to exporters in 59 other major exporting countries that have active export credit agencies. Republican Rep. Tom Reed states, “To unilaterally kill the Export-Import Bank would be a huge hit the the competitiveness of American companies.” Republican Rep. Chris Collins seconds the opinion, “This isn’t a government handout.” Jay Timmons, CEO of NAM articulates the competitive need for EXIM, “Our trading partners have larger export credit agencies and are growing them to boost their exports much more than the United States.” The closing of EXIM would negatively impact the US economy; lost sales, lost jobs, lost tax dollars. Please do your part and help save EXIM. Thank you.

Broad Street Capital Group announces major expansion campaign

Broad Street Capital Group announces major

expansion campaign to meet surging demand for

its ExportBoost™ program.

18 Merchant Banking Offices to open in multiple countries

in the next 18 Months





Appeals Court Decision Rejects Delta Request for Invalidation of Ex-Im Bank Air India Transactions

Appeals Court Decision Rejects Delta Request for Invalidation of Ex-Im Bank Air India Transactions

Washington, DC — The U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, DC today rejected a request by Delta Air Lines to vacate the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ (“Ex-Im Bank’s”) support of sales of U.S.-manufactured aircraft to Air India.  The Court has asked Ex-Im Bank to further explain its financing decision for the Air India transactions, but the Court chose to leave undisturbed the Bank’s financing of the Air India transaction and did not question the Bank’s flexibility in carrying out its statutory mandate.

The decision comes following the appeal by plaintiffs Delta Airlines, Inc. and the Airline Pilots Association of a lower court decision in July 2012 that determined that Ex-Im Bank properly approved financing for purchases of certain Boeing aircraft by Air India.

“I am gratified by the court’s recognition that these transactions should not be impeded by litigation. The Bank maintains significant flexibility in complying with its statutory mandates and its effort to support American jobs.” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of Ex-Im Bank.  “This represents a victory for tens of thousands of American aerospace workers.”

Delta Airlines alleged in its suit that Ex-Im failed to consider the economic impact of its loan guarantees for the purchase of wide-bodied Boeing aircraft by Air India.  Boeing, which by dollar volume is the number one exporting company in the U.S., employs about 85,000 American workers in the manufacturing of its commercial aircraft.


Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years (from FY 2008), Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers nearly $1.6 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Ex-Im Bank approved $35.8 billion in total authorizations in FY 2012 – an all-time Ex-Im record. This total includes more than $6.1 billion directly supporting small-business export sales – also an Ex-Im record. Ex-Im Bank’s total authorizations are supporting an estimated $50 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 255,000 American jobs in communities across the country. For more information, visit www.exim.gov.

Yoo: A Global Design Empire Expands

U.K.-based developer John Hitchcox has pushed his property-design and marketing company, yoo, into 26 countries, targeting label-obsessed emerging markets with a brand of subtle aesthetics

By KRISTIANO ANGThe Wall Street Journal

On a recent evening in Singapore, women in little black dresses and men in crisp suits mingled about a hotel’s rooftop bar with glasses of wine in hand. The occasion: the launch of a condominium located more than 1,000 miles away. 


Philipp Engelhorn for The Wall Street Journal

Reaching Out: John Hitchcox founded yoo with French designer Philippe Starck

John Hitchcox, whose firm designed the development in the Philippines that was launched that night, has made a name for himself housing an internationally minded, design-obsessed crowd in far-flung, sometimes unlikely, destinations. In his native Britain, he is known for residences that drew the creative class to postindustrial neighborhoods on the cusp of gentrification.

When he and his partners first thought of developing lofts in London’s Bankside district in the early 1990s, it was anything but the coveted area it is today. “There was no Tube station or Tate, and the Globe was just an idea,” said Mr. Hitchcox, 51 years old. READ MORE


Omidyar Network releases Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa report 


Nur Bremmen: Staff reporterBy VentureBurn.com

Orthographic map of Africa

Orthographic map of Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



We have the pleasure of presenting the Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa report compiled by theOmidyar Network, the philanthropic foundation established by Pierre Omidyar — the founder of eBay — in partnership with global strategy consulting film, Monitor Group. This epic 48-page report is the result of a three-phase research project launched in 2012 aimed to better understand the state of entrepreneurship in Africa.


The project started with a survey of 582 entrepreneurs across six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania which was then augmented into 72 in-depth interviews. It promises to be one of the most comprehensive studies done on African entrepreneurship to date.

Benchmarked against 19 global peers like China, India, the USA and the UK, the issues addressed were divided into four critical aspects of entrepreneurship:

  • Entrepreneurial assets: financing, skills and talent, and infrastructure
  • Business support: government programmes and incubation
  • Policy accelerators: legislation and administrative burdens
  • Motivations and mindset: legitimacy, attitudes, and culture






Fi3E Badge


NEW YORK, NY—April 4, 2013  — Fi3E™, an annual proprietary and forward-looking index that measures the relative attractiveness of 180 nations to companies looking to export goods and services abroad, is being introduced today by Fluent in Foreign™ LLC, a New York City advisory group that guides companies as they seek to establish or expand their business beyond U.S. borders.

The Fi3E Export Country Appeal Index™ is the third and final index to be introduced.  All three indexes are designed to help companies do business abroad. The Fi3F™ index, for franchisors, launched in February and Fluent in Foreign Business  Fi3I™, geared for companies and individuals looking to make direct investments abroad, will be released next month.

China again ranks as the country that’s most appealing for exporters, followed by Australia, Poland, South Korea, Turkey, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Mexico. To obtain the rankings of all 180 countries, visit www.academy.fluentinforeign.com .

“There are enormous opportunities for companies both large and small, to sell goods and services overseas,” said Alexander Gordin, Managing Director of Fluent In Foreign Business and Author of the eponymous book.  “Export opportunities presents new places to sell products, which translates to the creation of more jobs.  President Obama’s National Export Initiative has served as a catalyst to spur job growth and a resurgence of manufacturing activity through exports.  More needs to be done, and companies should focus on exports as a fundamental part of their business activities, rather than an afterthought when the economy slows down at home.”

The Fi3E Export Country Appeal Index™ uses proven factors to evaluate each country, with proprietary data combined with information from the World Bank, the United Nations, Transparency International and the International Monetary Fund. The index also looks at influencing factors including each country’s GDP growth, population, availability of export credit insurance and financing, corruption, ease of exporting, protection and the legal framework for contract enforcement.

“The Fi3E Index serves as a significant reference tool for businesses and investors looking abroad for export markets and opportunities,” Alexander Gordin said.  “It will save countless hours of preparation and research, and it offers important cautionary signs where appropriate.”

Fluent in Foreign Business  is a unique advisory and information platform designed to help direct investors, franchisors and exporters enter foreign markets or expand existing international operations and assist clients doing business with new countries and governments. Services include financing, political risk insurance, legal compliance and strategic business development.

For more information confact agordin@fluentinforeign.com or  +1 212-490-4323.

U.S. Draws Greater Foreign Investments

Seal of the United States Department of Commerce

For U.S., Big Foreign Investment Is a Mixed Blessing

By NEIL SHAHThe Wall Street Journal

Foreign investment in the U.S. dwarfed American investment abroad by the biggest margin on record for much of last year, leaving the U.S. economy more vulnerable to external shocks but also suggesting the nation remains a magnet for foreign funds after the financial crisis.

America’s “international investment position” in 2012—how much the value of foreign investments in the U.S. exceeded U.S. investments abroad—jumped to $4.7 trillion in the second and third quarters of last year before falling to $4.4 trillion by year’s end, up from $4.0 trillion at the end of 2011, the Commerce Department said in a report Tuesday that provided quarterly data for the first time. READ MORE

Double vision: Netflix changes its stripes for foreign markets

By: Sarah Treleaven
From: Business without Borders

A Q&A with the author of “Netflixed”

When Netflix introduced a DVD-by-mail program in 1998, it changed the way people consume entertainment. But now, in an increasingly digital world, Netflix faces a different landscape and increased competition. Gina Keating recently published Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs. In this interview with Business without Borders, Keating comments on the impact of leadership styles and why Netflix is finding it harder than expected to go abroad.


comments on the impact of leadership styles and why Netflix is finding it harder than expected to go abroad.

Reed Hastings
Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings
Photo: Getty Images

I understand that several people at Netflix refused to speak to you for this book. How does what you’ve written differ from the company’s preferred mythology?

It’s pretty different. The main thing is, when I started interviewing people about the history of the company, this name kept turning up: Mark Randolph. I had covered Netflix for eight years and this was very curious to me. It turns out that he was one of the main innovators of the consumer interface, of the idea of renting DVDs online. The idea that the concept behind Netflix was born when Reed Hastings got a late fee [from Blockbuster] is just wrong. Once I found out about that, it was not a happy thing for the company.

Why has Netflix, which once appeared so promising, been so volatile lately?

My thesis is that when Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings were both leading, the company had the perfect parents. Randolph was the big idea guy, the consumer-facing guy who loves people and wanted to put out a product people couldn’t resist. And in Hastings it had a guy who could take those ideas and optimize them for the Internet; he turned those ideas into code. That’s what made Netflix so powerful. When the company lost Randolph and his sensibility, the engineer took over and a lot of mistakes came from the lack of someone looking out for the customer.

Reed Hastings has been called America’s worst CEO, but you also call him a genius. What makes him such a polarizing leader?

First of all, Netflix is one of the most shorted stocks. Time after time, people have underestimated that model.  Hastings is a visionary, and he’s often three or four steps ahead of his peers, but there’s resistance to his ideas – not only in the media industry but also in the analyst community. The other part is that this guy just doesn’t care what anybody thinks about his leadership style or ideas for where the company should go. That’s threatening to people. He’s made mistakes, and one of those was pushing out a lot of the management team that held his hubris in check. That’s been a big problem since 2010.

What are Netflix’s key challenges now?

They have many. Carl Icahn buying so many shares is not, in my opinion, a positive thing. [Icahn is a billionaire and former corporate raider who in November purchased nearly 10% of Netflix’s shares] In my book, I talk about the effect Icahn had when he made a similar investment in Blockbuster and it completely took the company off track. I think he thinks that Netflix will be bought; if that doesn’t happen I’m a little concerned about how he plans to get out of that investment and still make money. It could be very harmful to Netflix. The second challenge is that the competitive landscape is much different than when they first started streaming. They have to compete for content against much bigger players. They’re going to have to be so nimble to stay afloat. I think that Icahn’s involvement in Blockbuster prevented them from responding in a quickly changing landscape.

Can you tell me a little about their international expansion? Have they had much luck moving into other markets?

They went into Canada first and that service grew incredibly quickly; they arrived just at the moment that Blockbuster was retreating there. Latin America has been a little more difficult because the consumption patterns, technology and markets are different. It’s a little more trouble than they were expecting. They just launched in Scandinavia and it’s been more costly than they anticipated. But they’re reaching a saturation point in the U.S. and they have no choice but to go overseas for growth.

How are the international markets different?

International markets have all been streaming-based and that’s part of what makes them so appealing to Reed Hastings. The international markets have become the paradigm for what Netflix will be — they’ll be able to go in and negotiate content based on streaming only. Hastings really envisioned that the television of the future would be a lot like an Internet application — and that’s really what Netflix is in every country but the U.S.

You’ve mentioned that one of Hastings’ biggest weaknesses is his difficulty understanding consumer response. Has that been an obstacle in trying to cater to other cultures?

I can’t really speak to that, but I can tell you how they make the decisions they make. They’re extremely data-driven and their data is excellent. The Netflix website collects behavioral data as people navigate it. So, for example, if you watch a whole bunch of TV episodes on a weekend, during a certain time of day, and you fast-forward through certain episodes or certain parts of the episode or stop and watch a certain actor a few times, the algorithms attached to that make assumptions about you that are so accurate that I don’t think the human brain can even process it. And that’s how they go about offering people certain movies. Hastings isn’t making these intuitive leaps about his international audience; he’s watching them. But he has 15 years worth of data on his U.S. customers and almost nothing on his international customers, so there will be a learning curve there.

How can Netflix be used as a model for anyone who seeks to drive a service online?

The main lesson from Netflix is that the technology has to serve the consumer. There is a remove from the consumer when you sell something on the Internet because they can’t see it, smell it or touch it. You have to come up with a very compelling offering driven by an emotional attachment to the company and the experience they create. Randolph understood that, and that’s part of the reason Netflix grew so fast. They took us on a journey to places we didn’t think we would go. How many people had previously watched a lot of Bollywood or anime or Chinese martial arts before Netflix came along?

The Big Mac Mirage

Why Most American Companies Are Terrible At Globalization  

Tim FernholzQuartz | http://www.businessinsider.com

Coke is so prevalent around the world that non-profits look to its supply chain for help on distributing aid. McDonalds, in 122 different countries, is so widespread that there’s a foreign relations theory that no two countries hosting the burger franchise will go to war, although the strong version of that theory is well dead.

And Wal-Mart is the world’s third largest global employer, after the American and Chinese militaries, respectively.

The US must be great at globalization, right?

Unfortunately, no, according to Bhaskar Chakravorti, the director of Tufts’ University’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. He says all these examples represent “the myth of American global market power”—they are outliers that disguise the real failing of American multinationals to succeed around the world, and especially in fast-growing emerging markets. Despite what you might hear, he says “we are extremely under globalized.” Here’s an excerpt from a forthcoming paper he’s written with fellow economist Gita Rao (emphasis mine):

In 2010, emerging markets represented 36% of global GDP; these markets already account for the majority of the world’s oil and steel consumption, 46% of world retail sales, 52% of all purchases of motor vehicles and 82% of mobile phone subscriptions. With two-thirds of global growth coming from these markets, in a decade they will account for the majority of the world’s economic value. Yet U.S. companies derived less than 10% of their overall revenues from emerging markets: about as little as 7%, according to HSBC estimates for 2010. The 100 largest companies from the developed world overall made 17% of their revenues from emerging markets, according to a McKinsey report; in other words, the U.S. lags not only emerging market firms in capturing share in emerging markets, but it lags the developed world overall. By considering the difference between the “absolute potential” represented by the 36% number or, to take a much more conservative benchmark, the global peer average of 17% and the U.S. share of 7%, we derive two measures of the gap – and the degree to which U.S. industry has not participated in global growth.

There are several reasons the US is being held back. Some are the intrinsic challenges of doing business abroad: Besides language and cultural barriers, there are underdeveloped supply chains, incomplete capital markets, corruption, etc. But European companies earn 25% of their revenues from emerging markets, so these must be surmountable. What’s America’s problem?

America doesn’t have a legacy of colonization. Despite a hefty history of foreign interference, the US didn’t set up the same deep linkages that Spanish and Portuguese companies did in South America or European countries have in Africa or South Asia. Chakravorti, who was a McKinsey executive for many years, recalls European competitors in Africa asking, ”What are you doing in Africa? Africa belongs to us.” Meanwhile, he says, ”the executives I was working with had no understanding of the socio-cultural context of the continent.”

America is actually pretty insular. Because it’s a big country, and has had many decades of consumer-driven growth, US businesses haven’t necessarily had to look over the horizon for new opportunities. After the 9/11 attacks, Chakravorti says, things got even worse, and most businesses stayed home. It doesn’t help that less than 20% of Americans speak a language other than English, while 56% of Europeans speak a second language.

American business is all about standardization. Companies get economies of scale from selling the same product, but many emerging markets are stratified and require different products and price-points in the same country; while American executives want a  ”Brazil strategy,” what they really need is a strategy for Sao Paulo state and another for more rural areas.

Chakravorti argues that American companies do have what it takes to surmount these challenges, and they’ll need to if they want to bring more growth back to the US.

His strategy starts with a focus on sectors where America can compete abroad but isn’t taking full advantage of the opportunities, particularly in consumer products and large-scale services such as education, elder- and child-care. American companies need to start thinking about tailoring their strategies to demand abroad—particularly at the bottom of the pyramid— but the market can’t do it alone: The government needs to work more closely to tailor its foreign policy to America’s commercial needs while opening education to a more international view.

“That gap has been closed completely in China, because the most powerful companies are state-owned,” Chakravorti says. “We are still talking about the Asia pivot as though it is something dramatic and new, while China has been pivoting for a while.”

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