Trade Mission 101: Why Your Business Should Go

May 12, 2022

Gemal Brangman is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Trade Events Task Force

In a given year, the U.S. government leads or facilitates around 14 trade missions throughout the world—bringing U.S. businesses (quite literally) to the table with foreign governments and companies potentially interested in their products and solutions. Trade isn’t simply about exports and imports: transactions can’t happen without trust, and trade missions are an important conduit to build and facilitate relationships between individuals. But what exactly does a trade mission entail, who is involved, and where do they happen? The short answer: It varies, so let us break it down for you.

An image of business people engaged in a conversation
Participants of a trade mission consult with ITA’s commercial diplomats to gain insights and identify market opportunities.

Put simply, a trade mission is an opportunity for a company to join a group of other companies for a series of tailored on-the-ground meetings in foreign markets with prospective clients, buyers, distributors, foreign officials, and other significant organizations, all with the support of the U.S. Government. Through the International Trade Administration’s (ITA)’s Industry and Analysis business unit and the U.S. Commercial Service, we research markets and industries around the world to inform U.S. businesses of all sizes of potential export opportunities. Based on this information, we then begin the large logistical undertaking of planning out opportunities for U.S. companies to travel alongside our experts so companies can see with their own eyes what our market intelligence data reveals and so that actors in foreign markets can see what U.S. companies have to offer.

Relationships are the backbone of trade, and trade missions are among the best ways to help build them. Just last month, we concluded the second in-person trade mission that ITA has led since the onset of the pandemic. The Cybersecurity Trade Mission to South America brought 10 U.S. companies to Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay to introduce them to key players in rapidly expanding cybersecurity markets in those countries. Through the work of U.S. Commercial Service staff at U.S. embassies in the four countries, over 240 business-to-business matchmaking meetings took place, and now several companies are pursuing new trade leads thanks to their participation in the mission.

For example, ISG of Raleigh, North Carolina, is a minority-owned cyber solutions services provider that participated in the mission. On the value of the experience, ISG Company President and CEO Tony Marshall said, “Our meetings were all pre-arranged and we only met with companies that understand what we did, and know what we have to offer. We even found connections with some of the other businesses that were traveling with us.”

The Cybersecurity Trade Mission to South America was not the first trade mission that ITA led, nor will it be the last. Over the next two months, we will also lead our first Minority-Business Focused Trade Mission, a second trade mission to South America led by Deputy Secretary Don Graves, and the CleanEDGE Trade Mission to Southeast Asia. But you don’t have to travel internationally to start your export journey. Our U.S. Commercial Service has more than 100 offices across the 50 states and locations in more than 75 international markets to help you get started or expand into new territory.

While these missions are designed for U.S. companies exploring global markets, there are also opportunities for international companies looking to invest and create jobs in the United States through the SelectUSA Investment Summit, to be held June 26-29 just outside of Washington, DC at the National Harbor in Maryland. The Investment Summit is the highest-profile event in the United States dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment into the United States.

As such, whether you’re a U.S. company looking to expand or an international company seeking U.S. suppliers for your supply chain, the U.S. Commercial Service at the International Trade Administration is ready to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your nearest U.S. Commercial Service office if you’d like to learn more!