A single electronic database, focused training and objective assessment methodology. These are part of the changes in the work of the Trade and Economic Affairs Offices (TEAO), which have already been approved by Order of the Minister of Economy and Industry Nikola Stojanov. This is part of the general change in the work of our commercial attachés abroad, to which the Ministry’s team committed itself when taking office. The rules have also been developed with the involvement of employers’ organisations.
The new and more effective rules for the work of our sales representatives include a clear methodology by which their performance is assessed. Until now, no such practice has existed and the assessments made, including the decision to extend overseas mandates, have been made on a subjective basis.
According to the new rules, all TEAOs will complete a reporting form with specific items on it that will be sent to the ministry on a quarterly basis. Thus, their work will be reported through investment projects, export agreements, meetings with administrations and businesses, assistance to companies, visits and forums organized, etc.
An electronic database of all TEAOs is now operational, which will store long-term important information and projects that each sales representative is working on. The aim is that when replacing one attaché with another, there should be a solid basis and information to allow him to continue the work of his predecessor. So far, it has not been uncommon for operational work not to be handed over between seconded staff, thus not building on foreign economic relations, but restarted whenever there is a change of personnel in a destination.
In order to better coordinate between a newly appointed official and one who is leaving for Sofia, the new rules provide for an overlap period. In this way, the staff will pass on to each other the work and information on initiatives that have been launched and need to be continued, as well as the contacts established with the administration and business in the host country.
Particular attention is paid to the training of personnel applying for the TEAO. The requirements for their foreign language training are increased, and each of them must develop a concept of foreign economic relations with Bulgaria of the country they apply for. A uniform approach to the possibility of applying for a long-term secondment has also been introduced, equal for all applicants — employees of the Ministry of Economy and Industry and external experts participating in the competition. The competency requirements for long-term secondees have also been increased. This ensures competitive selection and is based primarily on their expertise and experience. At the same time, the political element in the composition of the selection committee has been removed to ensure the objectivity of the selection.
A special training and education programme is being developed for incoming trade representatives in cooperation with the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this way, they will acquire basic and specific information that will allow them to enter as quickly as possible into the activities of the TEAO. Similar trainings are being done for Bulgarian diplomats, but so far the commercial attachés have not been through them.
It should be recalled that a week ago the selection of sales representatives in seven countries was launched and announced in the mass media. This is also part of the overall change to promote their work and attract more staff to apply for these positions. Until now, such open procedures have rarely been carried out. By August 2022, not a single public procedure had been implemented, and for the whole of 2021 there were only two. The public procedures will enable the selection of commercial attachés from the widest possible pool of candidates, which will also improve the quality of the work of the Bulgarian Trade and Economic Affairs Offices.
The work of the TEAO is key to attracting more investment and promoting Bulgarian exports. Our commercial attachés abroad establish contacts with companies that may be interested in starting projects in our country and have the task to support Bulgarian companies that want to enter the respective market. To facilitate the connection with them, on the initiative of Minister Nikola Stojanov, an interactive map with their contacts and location was developed, which is available on the website of the Ministry of Economy and Industry.