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U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Texas Oil Company Started Doing Business in Cameroon and Morocco

July 23, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

The geographic distance between Texas-based Arnold Oil Company and Sub-Saharan Africa may be thousands of miles, but their economic relationship has never been closer. U.S. businesses like the Arnold Oil Company are increasingly finding economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa: between 2001 to 2012, U.S. trade to sub-Saharan Africa tripled from $6.9 billion to $22.5 billion dollars. Africa is now home to six of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world, leading President Obama to call sub-Saharan Africa the “world’s next major economic success story.” That is why the Department of Commerce is working to facilitate and advocate for American businesses in this growing region, and U.S. firms are eager to help unlock even more of Africa’s economic potential.

A family-owned supplier of automotive and oil lubricant products, the Arnold Oil Company became interested in expanding its business abroad. They met with the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Austin to request assistance in developing an exporting and marketing plan for their products. After creating a plan that satisfied the company, the USEAC arranged for a meeting with a representative from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to assist the Arnold Oil Company with financing its exports.

But the USEAC took its assistance one step further, introducing the Arnold Oil Company to a buyer in Cameroon, who eventually was signed as a distributer. As a result of this relationship, the Arnold Oil Company was able to ship their first exports of oil lubricants to Morocco, generating revenue of more than $24,000 in 2013. With assistance from the USEAC, the Arnold Oil Company was able to expand its business into one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.

In 2012, the Commerce Department launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign to help U.S. businesses, like the Arnold Oil Company, take advantage of the many export and investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the campaign, Commerce has expanded trade promotion programs tailored toward Africa and dedicated an online Africa business portal to direct businesses to federal resources. In addition, on August 5, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on strengthening trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa.  The Forum will be attended by President Obama, Secretary Pritzker, Mayor Bloomberg, and other senior U.S. government officials. The U.S.-Africa Business Forum will intensify efforts to strengthen trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa and seek to create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment. These efforts are helping American businesses expand and enter the global market for the first time, and the Department of Commerce remains committed to helping create more exporting success stories.

Businesses interested in learning more about the benefits of exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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Four Points for Finding “Harmony” in Exporting

July 23, 2014

Kenneth R. Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Orlando U.S. Export Assistance Center.

A person in a stock room examines boxes

The numbers on the box help trade authorities know what’s in the box.

Numbers, numbers, numbers…! There are so many numbers to keep track of in global trade; and three, in particular, are commonly confused: the Harmonized Schedule (HS) Code, Schedule B Number, and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Number. They’re related but not the same.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, or Harmonized System, is a means for customs agents to know “what’s in the box” without having to open it or understand what’s written in various foreign languages on the shipping documentation. It’s a system for identifying commodities in trade based on a string of six to eight digits. The Harmonized System is used by 179 countries covering about 98 percent of world trade for the assessment of customs duties (“border taxes” on imports) and the collection of statistical data.

Under the Harmonized System, products are classified into two categories, 21 sections, and 96 chapters by form and function. For example, 8471.30, is “Portable automatic data processing machines, weighing not more than 10 kg, consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display.”

English translation: laptop computer.

Combined with the product’s origin and value, customs agents use the HS Code to derive the tariff to be assessed.

The string of numbers that customs uses to assess taxes is six to eight digits long. To get even more specific in the collection of statistics, however, countries that use the Harmonized System are permitted to add digits to the HS Code to a total of 10 digits. In the United States, we refer to the full, 10- digit string as the Schedule B Number if it’s for export and the HTS Number if it’s for import.

So many numbers, so little time! Here are four important things to know about the Harmonized System, Schedule B, and HTS:

  • Nearly Identical. Schedule B and HTS Numbers are identical except for the last two digits. You’d use these numbers on forms submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. You can self-classify your exports under Schedule B and obtain on-line training and support from the U.S. Census website.
  • Electronic Export Information (EEI). Exporters have the legal obligation under the Foreign Trade Regulations to record the export of any consignment whose value is equal to or in excess of $2,500 using the EEI. The Schedule B Number is used on the EEI to identify the commodities being exported.
  • Trade Data and Foreign Tariff Schedules. You can derive an HS Code by looking at the first six to eight digits of a Schedule B or HTS Number. Because of its universality, trade data is commonly reported by governments, the World Trade Organization and United Nations using the Harmonized System Code. Hence, the HS Code is an important tool in conducting market research. Similarly, the HS Code is the key to searching foreign governments’ tariff schedules.
  • Free Trade Agreements. You can view a list of Free Trade Agreements to which the U.S. is a Contracting Party, as well as detailed information on the benefits of each and how to take advantage of them.

Need help? Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Opportunities for U.S. Companies to Export

July 17, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

U.S. exports reached a record $2.3 trillion in 2013 and support a record 11.3 million U.S. jobs. Thousands of companies across the country made exporting a strategy to growing their business and in fact, exports have driven the economic recovery and job creation in a number of U.S. cities. Because of the critical role of exports, the Department of Commerce recently launched the next phase of the NEI Next emblemNational Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT. Building on the success of the National Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT is a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will help American businesses capitalize on existing and new opportunities to sell Made-in-America goods and services abroad.

As part of this effort, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, Calif. yesterday, where she led a roundtable discussion on the importance of U.S. exports with the “Global San Diego Export Plan” team. This plan, which aims to integrate exports into San Diego’s economic development strategy, is being developed in close consultation with the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker met with local private and public sector leaders and learned more about the success of their export strategy and the challenges they still face. The partnership-driven export and investment strategy has made a big impact on the San Diego economy, but there are still more areas and opportunities for growth. One of the key objectives of NEI/NEXT is to promote exports as an economic development priority for communities across the country. San Diego’s export plan is an excellent example for how other cities and metropolitan areas across the country can partner with businesses and government to better facilitate exports.

Roundtable participants also spoke about the practical challenges they are facing including the role of small and medium sized businesses, infrastructure, retaining talent and branding. Secretary Pritzker discussed Department of Commerce resources and ways the Department and ITA could provide assistance to businesses and the Export Plan team to help overcome some of these challenges.

Since the launch of President Obama’s National Export Initiative in 2010, the United States has seen strong export-driven economic growth and has broken export records four years in a row. Increasing U.S. exports remains a top priority for the Obama Administration, and the Commerce Department is ready to assist San Diego and other communities in making the most of their exporting potential.

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Introducing ITA’s Trade Developer Portal

July 14, 2014

Kimberly Becht is the Deputy Program Manager for Web Presence in the International Trade Administration.

ITA's Trade Developer Portal provides APIs for office locations, market research, trade events, trade leads and trade news.

ITA’s Trade Developer Portal.

In support of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the Commerce Department’s strategic plan, the International Trade Administration (ITA) has taken a major step in making its data open and accessible to the public through its Trade Developer Portal.

Announced today by Secretary Pritzker, the portal is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create web and mobile applications using information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Making its data public to software developers is one more way ITA is helping U.S. businesses export and enabling foreign investment in American companies through the use of cutting edge technologies.

The Trade Developer Portal helps fulfill the Department’s top priority of making federal data open and available to third party developers in order to foster economic growth.

Currently, the developer portal includes:

  • access to information about trade events;
  • market research;
  • trade leads;
  • locations of domestic and international export assistance centers; and
  • trade news and articles.
Our developer portal can help developers show country-specific pages based on U.S. government data.

Our developer portal can help developers create country-specific pages displaying U.S. government trade data.

Over the next few months, we plan to add APIs around business opportunities, tariff information for goods and services covered under Free Trade Agreements, and frequent questions asked by exporters. We are continuously adding and enriching data sets with the long-term goal of sharing all publicly disseminated information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Through the portal, we will engage developers by showcasing applications, providing access to our data owners, and soliciting input to help us improve the quality of public data. The picture on the left is just one example of what can be done using the information currently available in our Trade Developer Portal.

If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance using our APIs, please let us know.  We are excited to partner with you in the next phase of the open data revolution!

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NEI/NEXT Priority Objective: Expand Access to Finance for U.S. Exporters

July 10, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Yuki Fujiyama is a trade finance specialist with the Office of Finance and Insurance Services Industries in the International Trade Administration.  He serves on the Department’s liaison team to the U.S. Export-Import Bank and he is the author of The Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters.

Attendees at the Seminar learned the best ways to get paid from export sales, as part of a continued effort to support U.S. exporters.

Attendees at the Seminar learned the best ways to get paid from export sales, as part of a continued effort to support U.S. exporters. You can learn about this in our Trade Finance Guide.

The U.S. government is focusing on expanding access to finance for U.S. exporters, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and their foreign buyers.

On June 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce partnered with a number of local organizations and federal agencies to present The Global Connect: Arlington Trade Finance Seminar at Arlington Economic Development in Northern Virginia.

Expanding access to export financing is one of the five priority objectives under NEI/NEXT, the next phase of the President’s National Export Initiative, a customer-focused initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets around the world.

Despite recent improvements in the economy, many U.S. businesses, especially SMEs and minority-owned firms, still face significant challenges in financing their export transactions.  The Arlington seminar helped local SMEs learn ways to overcome such challenges by following NEI/NEXT’s three key trade finance strategies:

  1. Engage and educate more commercial lenders and private-sector partners on U.S. government export financing and insurance programs.
  2. Educate more U.S. businesses on how to utilize the government and commercial trade finance resources that can help turn their export opportunities into actual transactions.
  3. Streamline services provided by U.S. government export financing and promotion agencies.

In addition to these finance strategies, participants also explored:

  • getting paid from export sales;
  • getting paid in foreign currencies;
  • taking advantage of  export assistance resources and U.S. Government export financing programs;
  • identifying U.S. export opportunities in Latin America; and,
  • finding global business development resources for U.S. Hispanic and Other Minority-Owned Businesses.

With the new knowledge gained from Global Connect Arlington, participants are now more equipped to enter, grow and succeed in global markets!

Do you need more info on trade finance? Our Trade Finance Guide is a great place to start!

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New Data Show Jobs Impact of Export Destinations

July 8, 2014

Isabel Sackner-Bernstein is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. She is studying Strategic Communication at Elon University.

Chart schows that NAFTA supports 25 percent of US export related jobs. Asia and Pacific supports 28%, EU supports 22%, Latin America without Mexico supports 10%. Middle East and Africa 6%, other destinations 9%.What is an export to Canada actually worth?

We know that Canada has always been an important trade partner with the United States, and we know that total exports to Canada were more than $360 billion in 2013, but new data released from the International Trade Administration (ITA) now give more insight into the value of U.S. exports by destination than just dollar amounts.

What are exports to Canada worth? How about nearly 1.7 million U.S. jobs?

New data from ITA show exports to Canada supporting more jobs than any other U.S. export market, with Mexico as a close second at about 1.1 million. Other top destinations were China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

The exports to these countries alone supported nearly 4.8 million U.S. jobs last year, which is almost as much as the entire populations of Chicago and Houston combined.

Here are some more quick facts we learned from this new data that you can impress your friends with:

  • U.S. exports set a record for a fourth consecutive year in 2013, reaching $2.3 trillion;
  • Exports to the Asia-Pacific region supported 3.2 million jobs, or 28 percent of all export-related jobs;
  • Canada was the top destination for U.S. exports in 2013, and nearly 1.7 million U.S. jobs were supported by these exports, and;
  • Although they beat us in the World Cup, goods exports to Belgium supported nearly 140,000 U.S. jobs.

Want to learn more? Check out the full report online.

So now that you’re the most well-informed member of your friend group, spread the word about how exporting is growing our economy. Talk to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to find out how to make your business go global.

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Trade Data, for the Regular People

July 3, 2014

Isabel Sackner-Bernstein is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. She is studying Strategic Communication at Elon University.A man is drawing lines connecting countries on a map of the world.

Today is an exciting day for data fanatics all across the United States. The Department of Commerce has released the international trade data for May 2014 and there are plenty of records to celebrate.

It’s been four straight years of record exports for the United States, and this data indicates we are on the right track to continuing this trend.

There are definitely some interesting points behind this month’s data. We learned:

  • May exports of goods were $135.7 billion, the highest month on record;
  • May exports of automotive vehicles, parts, and engines were $13.5 billion, also the highest on record; and
  • May exports to Canada were $27.4 billion, which were also highest on record.

These facts aren’t just for the economists. All this data is available to the general public via ITA’s TradeStats Express, and from a beginner’s stand point, this site is extremely user-friendly.

It breaks down the data into two categories, National Trade Data and State Export Data.

And there are tons of options for tailoring the information to your needs.

Say you want to find out California’s top export product.

You simply head to the TradeStats website, click on State Export Data, then click Export Product Profile to a Selected Market, fill in your information – and voila: California’s top export product is computer and electronic products.

Or, say you want to know the top U.S. export to Mongolia. Click on National Trade Data on the TradeStats website, then on Product Profiles of U.S. Merchandise Trade with a Selected Market. Choose Mongolia as your trade partner country, and there you go: transportation equipment is the United States top export to Mongolia.

The options are endless. So stop reading this and start reading TradeStats.

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