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Trade official tells defense firms to export more

As the defense industry copes with Pentagon cutbacks, a U.S. trade official last week urged local military contractors to look abroad for more customers.

“There’s a need for more diversification in sales strategies, not only diversifying between the U.S. and foreign markets, but between the foreign markets themselves, such as Europe, Latin America and Asia,” said Julia Rauner Guerrero, international trade specialist with the San Diego office of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

As they diversify, “they find that all of a sudden their opportunities are much broader than they currently appear,” Guerrero told the San Diego chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association last week.

Guerrero singled out five countries as having particularly good sales potential:

* Canada -- As the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard overhaul their fleets, there is rising demand for maritime supplies and services. Guerrero said the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyards and other local businesses are already getting involved.

* Colombia -- The Colombian government’s war on drug cartels means it is in the market for surveillance equipment as well as outfitters and suppliers of its Blackhawk helicopters.

* South Korea -- With some of the world’s largest shipyards, South Korea is a good target for maritime suppliers and relatively few barriers to entry, thanks to its trade agreements with the United States, Guerrero said.

* India -- Guerrero says there has been a significant rise in sales into India’s military market, as it strives to modernize both its army and navy.

* Turkey -- Sitting at the edge of a volatile region of the world, Turkey is seeking suppliers and servicers for its F-16 jet fighter fleet, which is the second-biggest in the world.

In addition, there are a number of opportunities in its commercial aerospace market as well as the broad field of transportation: road, rail and shipping, said Kurt Worden, business development and manager for Nova Power Solutions in National City, who accompanied a trade mission to Istanbul and Ankara in December.

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