Three Reasons Africa Should Be Your Business’ Next Export Market

May 12, 2015

Shannon Christenbury is an International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Charlotte, NC. More and more American companies are looking outside the United States to find new customers. Expanding to new markets leads to increased revenue and more growth – great results for any American business. For many companies I work with in Charlotte, growing markets in Sub-Saharan Africa are some of the most promising markets to explore. In fact, a number of area businesses are already growing because they have taken advantage of opportunities on the continent. Here are three reasons U.S. companies need to consider Africa as an export market:

  1. There’s never been a better time to do business there. Years of steady economic growth have created a growing middle class, and that means there are more consumers looking for quality goods and services. And an increased focus on the market is making the export process simpler.
  1. African leaders and consumers are seeking the Made-in-America label. Not only do customers appreciate the quality of American products, they also recognize the positive contributions U.S. companies make through corporate social responsibility programs.
  1. Support from the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service is an unparalleled advantage. We have increased staff on the ground in Africa and an unequaled amount of expertise on the market, so there’s no better way for your company to have success on the continent than to work with us.

The best way to get started in taking advantage of opportunities in Africa is to join us at Trade Winds—Africa in September. Our team is leading the largest-ever U.S. trade mission to Sub-Saharan Africa, and we will connect your company to qualified, vetted partners who can help your business succeed. We will give you access to the African leaders and decision-makers that can give you the access you need.

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Are you ready to find your next customer and grow your business? Join us at Trade Winds! To get more information or if you have questions, contact us at tradewinds@trade.gov and follow the conversation on Twitter: #TradeWinds15.


Department of Commerce Hosts Forum to Better Aid Internet Exporters

May 11, 2015

Ashley Zuelke is the International Trade Administration’s senior advisor for Export Policy, Promotion and Strategy.

(Left to right) Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Stefan Selig,  Secretary of Commerce Penny Prtizker, and Devin Wenig, Chief Executive Officer of eBay at a "Listen and Learn" session.

(Left to right) Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Stefan Selig, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Devin Wenig, Chief Executive Officer of eBay at a “Listen and Learn” session.

Recently, incoming eBay CEO Devin Wenig, eBay executives, and Department of Commerce leadership including Secretary Penny Pritzker and Under Secretary Stefan Selig hosted a first-of-its-kind “Listen and Learn” session with small businesses who are successfully making international sales online through eBay Marketplace.

For policymakers, the session brought to life the experiences of technology-enabled exporters, and for participating businesses, it provided valuable insight into the scope of available U.S. government export resources and how to effectively use them.

In many ways, the listen and learn session focused on access – both to global customers and to export assistance.

Advances in technology have given U.S. small businesses unprecedented opportunity to have an online storefront facing the 96 percent of consumers outside the United States. Platforms like eBay, with seller and customer rating systems and payment facilitation tools, are helping small businesses overcome common challenges for exporters: meeting foreign buyers, building trust, and ensuring payment.

While available federal government data shows that less than five percent of U.S. goods-producing companies export, eBay research on its sellers demonstrates that more than 90 percent of U.S. companies on the platform are selling to international customers. eBay sellers at the roundtable each shared the percentage of their sales that go to international customers, which ranged from 5 to 45 percent.

Sellers detailed what factors into their decision to sell internationally. Providing excellent customer service is paramount, so steps in the export process that are unclear or uncertain provide the biggest roadblocks: pricing for the full cost of a shipment, ensuring shipments reach the customer and clears overseas customs agencies, and ensuring the necessary paperwork is complete.

Many of the company challenges discussed are what prompted the President’s Export Council to make a recommendation to President Obama on how agencies can better serve technology-enabled exporters, leading to a key focus on responding to customer needs and modernizing U.S. export assistance in our national efforts to promote trade, the National Export Initiative/NEXT, launched in May 2014.

Two of the 10 sellers participating were aware of U.S. government export assistance resources, pinpointing why building partnerships with e-commerce platforms like eBay is critical to the international success of small business exporters.

Key U.S. government resources sellers said more U.S. businesses need to know:

  • Start by connecting with your local office in more than 100 offices across the country for business planning, verifying buyers and distributors, strategies for selling online, and troubleshooting.
  • Local offices are the gateway to help from Commercial Service Officers in more than 75 markets, an opportunity that sellers navigating overseas customs procedures should not miss.
  • The Small Business Administration has representatives in 20 of the domestic offices listed above, and both and the U.S. Export-Import Bank have financing and insurance products that can be right-sized for micro multinationals to expand production facilities, translate product literature, and insure against commercial and political risks.

For more information on international solutions and logistics, visit export.gov.


Exporting is an Open Book: 11th Edition of ‘A Basic Guide to Exporting’ Now Available 

May 7, 2015

Curt Cultice is a Senior Communications Specialist for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service.

Basic Guide to Exporting CoverSince May is World Trade Month, it’s only fitting that the U.S. Department of Commerce reiterate its commitment to helping companies—especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) —that are interested in exporting. Earlier today, we released the 11th edition of ‘A Basic Guide to Exporting’ which will help businesses navigate the avenues of trade.

U.S. companies, particularly SMEs that are new to exporting, as well as those looking to expand their current export sales, will find this fully revised and expanded publication an invaluable tool. With 96 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States, exporting holds excellent opportunities for U.S. businesses to expand market share, build competitiveness, and add to their bottom lines.

For many businesses, the export process can seem overwhelming and too difficult to pursue. This book dispels the myths that exporters need to be big, or that exporting needs to be complicated, making exporting more viable than ever for even the smallest businesses. In A Basic Guide to Exporting, first-time exporters will find information on topics including:

In addition to practical, “how to” advice, the publication includes case studies of successful exporters. Take for example, Dallas-based Avazzia, Inc., highlighted in Chapter 8: Preparing Your Product for Export. Founder and CEO Tim Smith, whose father taught him the basics of electronics as a youngster, applied his engineering expertise honed in high school to help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a man on the moon. After leaving NASA, Smith created electronic devices that manage chronic and acute pain, and started his own company in 2004. The firm manufactures 11 varieties of therapy devices and 50 accessories, selling to markets in Canada, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, United Kingdom, and India.

Today, Avazzia’s exports account for 20 percent of the company’s overall sales, and could well grow to 50 percent within two years. As its sales have grown, so have the number of employees, which now total 15. Along the way, the firm has benefitted from U.S. government export assistance dealing with quality and safety certification issues, and the business matchmaking services of the worldwide U.S. Commercial Service that helped the company connect with international partners. “Our sales generate increased cash flow, which helps us meet payroll; so you might say I’m bullish on our export potential,” said Tim Smith. To those companies interested in exporting, Smith advises them to, “Leverage your ongoing business experience, [because] you may have a greater skillset than you realize. If you’ve sold here in the United States, that’s a great asset to becoming a successful exporter.”

Smith is by no means the sole source of export encouragement you will find in the book. Read the chapters on export advice and the experiences of entrepreneurs who took on the challenge of selling internationally and never looked back. We hope you will be inspired to join their ranks.

This is part one in a series of four blogs. Next week, we will discuss what’s new in the 11th edition of A Basic Guide to Exporting, available at www.export.gov/basicguide, and soon in hardcopy at GPO Bookstores.



Enjoy All that America Has to Offer – Celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week!

May 6, 2015

Kelly Craighead is the Executive Director of the International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office. 

Many tiny images highlighting U.S. travel destinationsThis post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

It’s National Travel and Tourism Week and there is a lot to celebrate! Last year, 74.7 million international visitors to the United States generated $220.6 billion dollars in spending – a record number of visitors and a record year. Overall, the travel and tourism industry generated $1.5 trillion in total sales in 2014, which supported 7.8 million U.S. jobs.

If you’ve ever wondered why the U.S. Department of Commerce is interested in travel and tourism, the reason is simple: Commerce wants to help more U.S. businesses export. Travel and tourism, considered a services export, generates export dollars when international visitors to the United States spend their money on U.S. flag carriers to get here, or when they spend money on travel related items including lodging, food, attractions, shopping or use transportation within the country.

When people visit the United States to explore our cities and visit our attractions, they experience the unique diversity of our people, geography, and products. These visitors return to their home countries with an affinity for the USA brand and may seek out American goods sold in their home countries that remind them of their travels across the United States. Thus, new opportunities for U.S. companies to sell their products in international markets are created and U.S. exports increase.

Recognizing the important role of travel and tourism to the U.S. economy, in our National Travel and Tourism Strategy, we set a lofty goal: to attract 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. With the full support of the Obama administration and an actively engaged set of vital industry partners, I’m pleased to say we are on track to meet this ambitious goal.

To that end, during this auspicious week, for all we have done together—and the more we have to do—I, along with my colleagues at the Commerce Department, salute each and every travel professional for the impactful contributions their organizations make to the U.S. economy.

I encourage all Americans to assist the United States in welcoming our visiting international guests. Help them see the beauty and wonder in your hometown, your state capital or your favorite American attraction. Consider pitching in to spruce up the public lands and waterways in your area or be a “voluntourist” and lead nature hikes or birding quests. You can also visit a museum or historic house. Get out a map and see what you can experience for yourself within a day’s drive of your house!

Enjoy all that America has to offer. Celebrate our nation’s great places, great spaces, and great faces. Discover this land like never before.

For information on travel and tourism, please visit http://travel.trade.gov. For great ideas about visiting the United States, please visit www.discoveramerica.com.


World Trade Month: Reflecting on How Trade and Investment Lift the U.S. Economy

May 5, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Shipping containers on a dockMay is World Trade Month. Every year at this time, we acknowledge the importance of trade and investment, and reiterate our commitment to the workers and businesses that sustain our country’s competitive advantages.

And given the records we achieved last year, this World Trade Month offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on how trade and investment lifts the U.S. economy.

For the fifth straight year, we set a record for annual exports. In 2014, we shipped out $2.34 trillion in goods and services. Those exports accounted for 13.4 percent of total GDP, compared to 7.5 percent 30 years ago.

U.S. jobs supported by exports also produced record numbers in 2014—11.7 million jobs. And those export supported jobs pay on average between 13-18 percent higher wages than non-export supported jobs.

As more American businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to increase exports to the 96 percent of consumers who live outside the U.S, we will see the trends of economic growth and job creation continue. That is why the entire administration is focusing its efforts on making trade promotion legislation a reality, which will give the President the same authority to negotiate trade agreements that every president has had since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Events honoring World Trade Month, as well as assisting U.S. companies in their exporting efforts, are happening across the country.

Here are just a few of the events taking place this month:

  • May 2-10: National Travel and Tourism Week: recognizing the travel and tourism industry, our largest service export sector.
  • May 4-8: National Small Business Week: honoring America’s entrepreneurs since 1963. SMEs make up 98 percent of our country’s exporters.
  • May 12-14: Discover Global Markets: the Americas, in Miami, Fla.: connecting U.S. businesses with market opportunities in Central and South America.
  • May 16-22: Department of Commerce trade mission to Egypt, Jordan and Israel: focusing on export opportunities in the areas of health care equipment, services and technologies.

And trade promotion seminars throughout the country are currently being held. These seminars help first-time exporters connect to new markets and help experienced exporters connect to more markets. We encourage businesses to contact their nearest Export Assistance Center to find out about events in their local areas, or to speak to an export or industry specialist.

I encourage you to follow the International Trade Administration on Twitter at @TradeGov where we will highlight many of the great events taking place this month.

Finally, thanks to all of the exporters who made 2014 the record year it was. We salute you on this World Trade Month.


Deputy Commerce Secretary Andrews to Small Businesses: You Don’t Have to be a Big Business to Go Global

April 30, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews yesterday encouraged small businesses to grow globally by selling more of their products and services to the world.  Deputy Secretary Andrews spoke to a group of small business owners at the White House.  The panel discussion is part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to help American business take advantage of the vast opportunities outside their borders.  Ninety-six percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, and the rapidly expanding global middle class is creating tremendous opportunities for all businesses to diversify their customer base.   Exports contributed five straight years of record high growth to the U.S. economy.  To continue this path of record export growth American companies need strong trade agreements to sell more of their products overseas.  Trade is essential to job creation, the economic security of American families, as well as the nation’s competitiveness and national security.

American prosperity is directly tied to the ability to reach new markets and new customers beyond U.S. borders. The benefits of trade for small businesses are too large to ignore. U.S. firms that export are more likely to grow more rapidly; increase productivity; weather changes in the economy; hire more workers; and, pay wages that are 18 percent higher than the national average.

More and more small businesses are exporting everyday proving that going global isn’t just for large companies.   Ninety-eight percent of U.S. exporters are smaller companies.  The small business share of U.S. exports increased from 27 percent to 35 percent over the past decade.  Advances in technology, communications, and transportation have made it easier than ever before for smaller companies to reach these consumers and do business internationally.   This is good news, but the Commerce Department and the Obama Administration are committed to doing more to help even more businesses go global.

At Commerce, we have services to help businesses go global, including:

  • Export assistance centers in 100 U.S. cities with exports that help local businesses find and analyze markets where their goods and services are competitive.
  • Foreign Commercial Service Officers in more than 70 embassies and consulates throughout the world, who promote the export of U.S. goods and services, attract foreign investment into the United States, and defend U.S. commercial interests abroad throughout the world.
  • The Advocacy Center, to help U.S. companies bid on foreign tenders against international competitors.
  • Enforcement & Compliance staff, who work to protect U.S. industries from unfair trade through the enforcement of antidumping and countervailing duty trade laws.

President Obama has set an ambitious trade agenda that will put American workers first by creating opportunities for businesses to grow and expand internationally.  This agenda includes passage of trade promotion legislation.   Completion of new trade agreements will help more companies maximize their full potential in global markets. Passage of a bipartisan trade promotion authority bill will not only benefit businesses and middle class workers, but will also help sustain economic growth for years to come.


A Year of Progress in Central China: April 17, 2014 – April 17, 2015

April 30, 2015

Tim Truman is the supervisory public affairs specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

Celebrating the official opening of ITA’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Office in Wuhan, China, on February 3, 2015, are (left to right): Sara Kemp, Minister Counselor of Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Beijing; Patrick Santillo, ITA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for China; Mr. LI Zuoqing, Director General of the Wuhan Department of Commerce & Deputy Secretary General of Wuhan Municipal Government; Joseph Zadrozny, Consular General, U.S. Consulate Wuhan; and James Rigassio, Principal Commercial Officer, U.S. Consulate Guangzhou.

Celebrating the official opening of ITA’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Office in Wuhan, China, on February 3, 2015, are (left to right): Sara Kemp, Minister Counselor of Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Beijing; Patrick Santillo, ITA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for China; Mr. LI Zuoqing, Director General of the Wuhan Department of Commerce & Deputy Secretary General of Wuhan Municipal Government; Joseph Zadrozny, Consular General, U.S. Consulate Wuhan; and James Rigassio, Principal Commercial Officer, U.S. Consulate Guangzhou.

April 17 has become an important date for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in China, specifically the teams at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou and Wuhan.

It was just a year ago – on April 17 – that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker laid out the commercial and economic details of the Obama administration’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Pritzker acknowledged the work of ITA’s Foreign Commercial Service, and announced that as part of the Department’s emphasis on this critical region, new Commercial Service (CS) offices would be opened in Wuhan, China, and Rangoon, Burma.

Pritzker noted that “the day-to-day work of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service is incredibly important to building prosperity…each day this team helps American companies break into overseas markets, expand, and find new customers.”

With the challenge set, the U.S. Commercial Service in Guangzhou (CS Guangzhou) took the lead to open a new Commerce Department office in Wuhan (CS Wuhan). By August 2014, the first Commerce local national was in place. By February 2015, the second local staff member was in place – temporarily based in Guangzhou. By mid-2016, the first Principal Commercial Officer will arrive at the post.

The local staff at CS Wuhan has hit the ground running. Since August 2014, the team has:

  • Organized a series of SelectUSA seminars in both Hunan and Hubei provinces to meet with potential investors and to promote investment in the United States.
  • Recruited a delegation of central China companies that attended the 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit in March.
  • Hosted representatives from 10 California colleges and universities to meet with local education authorities and schools, and deliver information about their programs to local parents and students.
  • Arranged a series of road shows in Hunan and Hubei to promote the United States as a tourism destination. The team continues to work with China South Airline and Dynamic Airways to promote a direct flight from central China to the United States.

Fast forward one year – April 17, 2015. On this day, Secretary Pritzker was on the ground in Guangzhou, China, directly helping U.S. companies explore business opportunities with this critical trading partner.

CS Guangzhou hosted the last stop on the Smart Cities – Smart Growth Trade Mission jointly led by Pritzker and Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. The CS Guangzhou and CS Wuhan teams planned a full-day of meetings and events with key government and private-sector leaders from six south and central China regions for Pritzker and her delegation of 24 U.S. companies.

Throughout the day, Secretary Pritzker learned about the south China region’s commitment to clean energy and reversing the impact of climate change. She introduced the U.S. companies to provincial and municipal government officials, initiating a process that could result in the companies exporting their world-class goods and services to the region.

The Secretary also witnessed a signing ceremony for a trade mission participant to sell its natural gas engines to the major public transportation company in Guangzhou. In addition, she celebrated the announcement of a $700 million investment from a Chinese mining company into Nevada that will create 1,200 jobs. By the end of the mission, early successes were reported and critical introductions were made.

CS Guangzhou and Wuhan have spent the past year operationalizing the commitment Secretary Pritzker and President Obama made to U.S. companies eager to do more business in the Asia-Pacific region. And these teams are just getting started.


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