President’s Letter – March 31, 2011: Pursuing New Market Opportunities

Last week TIA hosted a meeting with the Gulf Standards Organization (GSO), which is the standard setting arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – a developing “common market” of six Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar.  (Yemen also is in the process of joining the GCC.)  The nations of the GCC have a combined population of 38 million, of which 60% are under 18 years of age … and they have money to spend. 

 About the GCC and GSO

For more information, see the presentations from the TIA-hosted workshop.

The GCC is modeling its common market after the European Union – eliminating trade and travel barriers between the nations, coordinating their institutions and working toward the establishment of a common currency.  Currently, products from outside the GCC can be imported into the region through one point of entry and distributed throughout the region. 

The GSO was formed to work toward integrating product standards and conformity assessment systems among the states so that products can qualify to be sold in the region by meeting one set of standards. By July of this year, the GSO’s objective is to have all toys sold in the region tested to GCC standards and, subsequently, bearing a GCC mark. 

The GSO is wisely surveying other existing product standards and conformity assessment systems to craft a scheme that will serve the needs of their region by drawing upon best practices. 

During their meetings in the U.S., representatives from several industry sectors made a strong case for the flexibility and efficiency of a system that relies upon private-sector organizations to develop and maintain sound standards.  TIA and its members stressed the enviable record of safety for toys designed, produced and tested to meet the federally mandated ASTM F963 toy safety standard.  In fact, an invitation was extended for a representative of ASTM to visit Riyadh to work with the GSO on their standard development.


In China alone, there are 10 million babies born annually, which is the equivalent of creating a new nation of Hungary every year.

Many U.S. industries – including toys – have long satisfied their growth needs domestically; as our population ages and growth slows, however, we will need to look across U.S. borders for new expansion opportunities.  The high proportion of youth makes the GCC common market an attractive emerging opportunity for the toy industry.  There are other such opportunities in developing nations such as Brazil, India and China. 

From our sponsorship of U.S. toy company pavilions in foreign trade shows to our current focus on bringing additional foreign buyers to TIA’s go-to-market trade events, TIA is helping to develop those opportunities for our members.  Our participation in the Commerce Department’s International Buyers Program, for example, brought buyer delegations from 15 nations to Toy Fair 2011 and, overall, we saw a 20% increase in attendance by the top global toy retailers.  This program has been a huge success and we look forward to seeing it – and our other trade-expansion initiatives – continue to thrive.

If your company is interested in how TIA can help you grow your exports, please send a note to and the appropriate member of our TIA team will respond with more information.

Warm regards to all,

Carter Keithley