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Updated: July 8, 2019 Newsmakers

Robinson+Cole partner Jeffrey White talks manufacturing and exporting

Connecticut’s manufacturing sector is operating at full steam ahead these days. But how good would it be without a healthy export market?

Jeffrey White

As head of Hartford law firm Robinson+Cole’s manufacturing practice, Simsbury resident Jeffrey White has focused on expanding the firm’s hand in helping shape export policy.

And his work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In May, Robinson+Cole received the President’s “E” Award for Export Service, the highest recognition a U.S. company can get for helping to expand U.S. exports.

The firm helps manufacturers operate around an international-trade system fraught with red tape. For example, White worked to help a manufacturer of aircraft engine components obtain a license to export to the United Kingdom.

Robinson+Cole’s manufacturing clients range from Fortune 50 companies to privately held or family owned companies, White said.

What are the most important export countries at the moment?

We represent a number of industrial supply chain companies, so typically Canada, Mexico and Germany remain key markets for them. For our consumer product companies, countries like Brazil and in the Far-East remain critical.

There’s a lot of news lately about tariffs. How do they affect exports for manufacturers?

It depends on who you talk to. Most of our clients are dealing with it on the import side (i.e., increased costs to procure raw materials from outside of the U.S.). Manufacturers try to pass those costs on to their customers, but it is not that easy. On the export side, as the U.S. has imposed tariffs, other countries have retaliated — hence, a trade war.

Which emerging countries should exporting manufacturers keep their eyes on?

I would look closely at Indonesia. In 2017, Robinson+Cole hosted an event for the Commercial Attaché from the U.S. Embassy Jakarta. There is significant opportunity for U.S. companies depending on the stability of the government going forward. I would also continue to look at India given the size of the economy.

What is the most misunderstood aspect of exporting?

That it is difficult to comply with the regulations. By nature, lawyers tend to make everything sound complicated, but like everything there are ways to set up a compliance program that can ensure compliance while allowing manufacturers to actually sell products.

Are there any products manufactured in the U.S. that are not currently in heavy demand in global markets that you believe will be in coming years?

I would continue to keep a close eye on aerospace. The demand for commercial aircraft, particularly in the Asia Pacific, will be significant over the next 10 years and I expect there to be products manufactured in the U.S. that will be in heavy demand in the future.

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