Israel Diamantaires Launch Internet Portal; Request Free Trade Area

February 13, 2004

Israel Diamantaires Launch Internet Portal; Request Free Trade Area

The Israel diamond industry has entered the digital era, with the launch of the Israel Diamond Institute's new Internet portal This business-to-business site boasts a host of features geared to making doing business with Israel as simple and accessible as possible.

The highlight of the portal, and a feature of great importance to potential buyers from abroad, is a powerful search engine which will enable them to locate diamantaires by types of goods offered. Upon registering, buyers are able to define the polished goods they are seeking by carat, color, cut and clarity and rough diamonds by appropriate criteria. By pressing the search command they will receive a full list of diamantaires offering the stones they need, including full contact details and company profile. In addition, the data base offers an alphabetical index with similar information.

The portal is divided into two sections: an internal one in Hebrew for use by Israeli diamantaires, and an external one, in English, geared to customers from abroad. The English section contains up-to-date information on news and events of interest to the industry, as well as special offers by airlines, hotels and restaurants for registered members. A bulletin board will post business opportunities, and there will also be forums and chat groups open to members.

Uri Schwartz, past president of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers' Association, was the driving force behind the portal. "We are very hopeful that the diamond portal will make a major impact on the industry, and will become a leading tool in the marketing of Israel's diamonds," says Schwartz, who co-chaired the committee that developed the super-site. "I welcome this initiative, which has brought us into a new era. It will promote the entire industry and will enable individual diamantaires to expand their activities abroad," says Shmuel Schnitzer, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, who also served as co-chair of the portal committee.

The timing behind the launch of the portal is not accidental, according to Simcha Lustig, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute. "Especially in these times when people all over the world travel less and rely more heavily on communication by phone, fax and Internet, I see a great importance in launching this portal." Although he believes that the portal will enable buyers to visit Israel even more easily than before, he noted that buyers will be able to access the Israeli market from their own offices.

Lustig says that the new venture is only one of a series of measures being taken by IDI to expand marketing opportunities for the industry. These include establishing Israel Diamond Pavilions at a greater number of trade shows, a focused advertising campaign in international media, and professional delegations visiting various markets.

In related news, Israel Finance Minister and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Israel Diamond Exchange's annual general meeting Feb. 12. "The contribution of the diamond industry to Israel's economy has been enormous. For many years you were Israel's hi-tech sector, and drove exports," said Netanyahu. "I want to help you with your challenges. I will do all I can to remove obstacles in your way."

Shmuel Schnitzer, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, also addressed the meeting. He cited the achievements of the industry - polished exports of $5.5 billion and rough exports of $2.2 billion in 2003 - as well as its challenges. He mentioned the efforts being invested in finding new sources of rough, as well as in bringing back some of the manufacturing from cheaper labor countries through technological advances.

Schnitzer also noted that the industry was in the process of implementing a strategic change which is turning Israel into a world trading center for both rough and polished diamonds, in addition to its position as a strong industrial center. He said that the impressive amount of rough exported last year, a rise of 40%, reflects that trend. Schnitzer said that all stones produced by Israeli manufacturers, including those polished abroad, are being marketed from Israel.

Schnitzer asked for Netanyahu's help in two areas: First in turning the Israel Diamond Exchange into a free trade area, in order to attract investors. He noted that the bourse was in the process of drawing up a strategic plan for this in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The second area is in providing insurance for overseas buyers, who have not been able to purchase policies for Israel visits since the start of the intifada.

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