Phyllis Wigginton will formally take over chairmanship of the American Association of Exporters and Importers on July 1 for a two-year term.
But her ascension to head of the executive committee came with mixed emotions. She was unable to attend AAEI’s annual conference at the beginning of June because she fell a few days earlier, suffering a severe back injury that sent her to the hospital and might require surgery.
Wigginton, director of export controls and logistics for Mitsui, had intended to lay out her agenda for the coming year to the 500 AAEI members in the audience. Instead, someone from the association read her speech.
Her first goal, she said, is to continue increasing AAEI’s membership, which is not growing as fast as leadership would like. It’s a problem many trade associations face as companies continue to tighten budgets and rationalize memberships among groups with overlapping missions.
She encouraged AAEI members to mention the organization in social media, get involved in committees, have a succession plan for someone to take their place in AAEI if they change jobs, convince a new employer to join AAEI by negotiating membership as part of their compensation package, and use word of mouth to talk about the education and lobbying benefits AAEI provides.
Wigginton’s second priority is to establish a professional certification program by next summer, after having completed her own certified import classification specialist certification through another organization. A professional certification program could help bring in new members, she added.
Another challenge is to increase non-dues revenue, Wigginton said.
And, she said, AAEI should reinvigorate its efforts in the export arena. AAEI has been effective at influencing regulations and policy involving imports, but needs to expand its relations beyond the Bureau of Industry and Security on the export side to include the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in the State Department and the Treasury Department, which enforces embargoes. Putting the “E” back in AAEI also requires strengthening relations with other trade associations in the European Union, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Indonesia, “because our exports are another country’s imports,” Wigginton said.
“The days of a trade professional being just an ‘import person’ or an ‘export person’ are quickly fading away,” she added. “In order for future trade professionals to thrive, they will have to be equally proficient in both sides of the trade. The same goes for AAEI.”
This column was published in the July 2015 issue of American Shipper.