At the suggestion of our new Export Council of Oregon Executive Committee and the ‘go head’ permission of Bryan Ostlund of the Oregon Blueberry Commission and Pete Kent of the Oregon Dairy Council, we’re going to try a new way to get out the message of the role and importance of exports in particular and international trade more generally, to the Oregon economy. I will be sending a series of emails, or call them reports or blogs if you like, to tell the tale of a three-week trip to SE Asia to assist with the marketing of fresh Oregon blueberries to the Philippines and Vietnam and Oregon Dairy products, especially cheese and ice cream, to Singapore and SE Asia.
There will more details about the itinerary and my traveling companions later in this series, but for now I thought I should begin at the beginning. How does a trip like this started? Do blueberry growers and cheese producers just get up one morning and say: let’s go to Asia and sell our stuff? Is this some kind of perverse vacation, or travel boondoggle, involving long airplane rides; seven-day work weeks – including meetings over here with local and US Government officials, potential customers, retail tours (amazing to discover how many US food products are already over here!), to say nothing of what you do when you get back to your room after a day fighting horrendous traffic in tropical heat and humidity in business clothes and then checking email and phone calls and family, and, and, and when you get to your room and again after dinner, if you can stay awake; days of jet-lag; different beds every few days; frequent discussions about food (what is THIS?); spending lots of time with people you don’t know (we won’t go there); and the list just grows from there.
So how does such a trip begin? In this case, the Dairy Council, having initially decided not to participate in a trade trip in 2018, changed their decision and I was advised on December 8, 2017, that planning for a trip would begin. The Blueberry Commission advised me of their proposed trip on January 30, 2018. Not much notice for all the planning required to put together all the pieces required for a successful trade mission. More on this later.
So my departure day was April 6, 2018. My travel plans were based on the itineraries put together by the two Commodity Commissions. On April 5th, my airline advised that it was time to check in. However, the carrier’s website would not allow this to happen. Two long telephone conversations were unable to either fully identify or resolve the problem, which meant an extra early arrival at PDX, just in case. Packing was mostly completed the day before and included another list of decisions: sport jacket or suit, plus dress shirts and ties (necessary for Government meetings); tropical weight clothes for all three countries where daytime temperatures average more than 90°F; check for all medications, telephone and laptop plugs, sunglass lenses, international ATM card, etc, etc; change voice mail message; etc, etc. Boarding pass issue resolved, my flight left at 12:05pm (Apr 6th), arrived in Tokyo at 2:45pm local Tokyo time on April 7th (or 11:45pm April 6th); after passing through security in Tokyo, boarded my flight for Manila and arrived here at about 8:00pm Apr 7th Manila time, or 10:00am Apr 7th in Portland. Through customs (I used a carry-on, no checked bags) and immigration, found hotel shuttle and got to my room at about 9:30pm. So total expired time from wake-up at home to room arrival (not to sleep, just yet) was just about 30 hours. Not a bad working day, especially for the start of a weekend. There is no search for sympathy here, no one has forced any of us to do this, but it is not that easy or comfortable and you don’t get to pick your seatmate on the plane or the food (?), or the various other hassles of long distance travel.
So friends welcome to Manila. The ‘adventure’ begins, for some of us more so, especially one of our team whose luggage did not make it to Manila with him. No problem, there is a Marks & Spencer at a nearby mall and we took a brief shopping trip for some essentials. No one, especially not the airline, seems to have any idea where that silly bag could be, but this, too, shall pass...
Attached is a photo of a section of the Port of Manila from my hotel window. You can take me away from home, but once a logistics geek, always a logistics geek...!
By the way, that white building in the foreground of the photo is the U.S. Embassy, we have meetings scheduled there, but more about that in a few days.
Barry Horowitz, Chair of the Export Council of Oregon, has taught and written on International Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Transportation and Trade topics for more than 30 years. He is currently working with the Port of Portland and other Oregon traded sector agencies to develop international trade strategies and programs.