How should I go about entering the Middle East?

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August 2016

There are a range of steps that Australian SMEs looking to export to the Middle East can take to help make their transition as easy as possible. Some of these include:

Do your research

  • Any cultural barriers can be overcome by conducting careful and comprehensive research prior to entering the market.
  • Read widely, talk to peers who have already entered the market and engage professional advisers that have experience operating in the market.
  • The Export Council of Australia can help SMEs develop their international business skills through understanding the culture and business practices of different countries in the Middle East.

Build relationships

  • A strong personal relationship is key to doing business successfully in the Middle East.
  • This requires committing significant time and resources to investing in building relationships – at a minimum this will involve conducting a number of visits to get to know potential customers, partners and suppliers before entering into a formal relationship.
  • For Australian SMEs that choose to service their Middle East market remotely, it is important to have a good relationship with distributors so you understand where your money is going.

Enlist professional help

  • Austrade, the Australian Government’s trade and investment agency, can assist SMEs with introductions and navigating the business environment in the Middle East.
  • Austrade has strong relationships with Government and business, linking Australian companies with key decision makers across the region.
  • Experienced staff are also available to provide strong in-market support to firms operating in the region.

Get your paperwork in order

  • The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AACCI) is the peak national association for trade and investment between Australia and the Arab League countries.
  • AACCI certifies all export documentation for Australian exporters, which is a prerequisite for exporting to the Middle East.
  • AACCI also holds networking events and organises trade missions for Australian SMEs.

Establishing relationships is very important. Persistence is key – repeat visits and getting to know people beyond the business sphere. In terms of communications when you’re not in the region, email is a very unreliable form of communication. Instead, pick up the phone, text, use other apps. Email is a last resort. Pablo Kang, Former Australian Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar.