Exports must become the top priority of the government’s economic policy, the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (SEBE) said in a comprehensive policy study handed to the government on Wednesday. The study, titled «Integrated Plan for a National Export Strategy,» was based on an initial document published in September 2001, on the reports to the Third National Export Promotion Conference held in Athens in December and on a long exchange of views and proposals with all major agencies concerned. «The most significant conclusion was that the State has not fully understood the poor situation of Greek exports, nor the growth momentum they could generate if they are developed in a planned and systematic fashion. Strategies for export and for attracting foreign investment are more necessary than ever,» says the study, which was handed to Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. It presents its proposals under nine headings for the promotion of export growth: Resolution for Action, Commitment for Consensus and Collaboration, A National System for the Development of International Economic Relations, Strategy for International Competitiveness, Strategy for Coordinating and Upgrading Export Enterprises, Strategy for Exportable Products and Services, Strategy for Target Markets, Strategy for International Promotion, and Control and Evaluation Systems. The proposed strategy was also largely based on successful models implemented in other countries – mainly EU partners – and their adaptation for Greece. «It is a realistic plan which includes proposals and solutions for almost all problems facing export growth,» says the report. It calls for the full official integration of a long-term export strategy into a national economic development plan and the direct involvement of the private sector in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the strategy. It argues for binding commitments by political parties to continue the effort and the promotion of an «export culture» and the ideas of entrepreneurship, research and development, and added value. «Our target should be a 5-percent export growth rate above the EU average,» says the study, urging state support for exporters to markets with demand, such as North America, Australia and Japan. SEBE stresses the need for projecting a new image for Greek products. «’Naturally Greek’ is seen as a good slogan to tap the current consumer trend for natural products. The core attributes of export products should be quality, human concerns, healthy lifestyle and added value. For most products, low prices have no long-term future in Greece,» says SEBE. The full text of the study is available on their website, www.seve.gr/ese/. Greece was the EU’s exporting laggard in 2001. Portugal’s greater success within the EU was the result of the policies followed in the years prior to its joining.