Small, but Mighty: How the U.S. Government Helps Small Businesses Succeed Internationally

August 22, 2023

Uma Menon is with the ITA Office of Public Affairs

This is the second post in a blog series about the 2023 National Export Strategy, a government-wide strategic plan to support American businesses through trade promotion activities. This article focuses on the Export Assistance for Small Businesses and Underserved Communities chapter of the NES. 

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There’s no question about it: small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and the primary source of jobs for Americans. The success of small businesses is crucial for our national economy, especially because they make up 99.7% of all companies in the United States. Trade presents a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to grow. After all, 95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders.

For this reason, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to helping small businesses, including first-time exporters and those from underserved communities, reach global markets through the 2023 National Export Strategy (NES). The NES highlights that building a more resilient U.S. economy not only requires diversifying what our nation exports, but also expanding the pool of exporters to ensure equitable economic growth in communities across America.

Graphic featuring the ITA logo, an image of a group of 4 business executives in an office in a roundtable setting, and text that reads: National Export Strategy, Helping Small Businesses. Image also features artwork from the National Export Strategy cover page.

Here’s how U.S. government agencies are supporting small businesses looking to export internationally.

1. Introducing small businesses to global markets

There are endless opportunities for exporting, but small businesses often face challenges in tapping into this knowledge due to limited networks and knowledge on how to navigate the process. The International Trade Administration (ITA) is using its wide range of institutional relationships to help businesses find global clients and partners. ITA’s Global Diversity Export Initiative, for example, has also initiated 12 strategic partnerships with community organizations and a Building Bridges to Global Markets event series to share exporting tools and resources with minority, women, LGBTQI+ and veteran-owned businesses. Under the Prosper Africa initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development is connecting African diaspora businesses with companies in Africa to promote mutual prosperity and success. Additionally, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can participate in government-organized trade missions to visit potential markets or attend trade shows around the world where ITA staff help U.S. exporters connect with potential foreign buyers.

2. Providing trade and commerce data

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 1% of minority-owned businesses export their goods or services. Thorough and expansive data, as collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, ITA and other government agencies can help businesses understand trends in trade and investment in target markets and sectors. The first chapter of the NES, Exports and the U.S. Economy, provides a profile of U.S. trade of goods and services. ITA also hosts a Visual Data Center, which helps users absorb large amounts of data, identify emerging trends, and make informed decisions. Want to learn which export markets may be right for your company? Use ITA’s Global Market Finder and the Market Diversification Tool to identify potential markets. You can also find information about your target markets with the FTA Tariff Tool and USA Trade Online.

3. Supporting digital progress

Keeping up with emerging trends in technology is vital for commercial success and innovation. To help businesses adapt to new technological environments, ITA has a plethora of eCommerce learning resources online as well as trade specialists trained to provide guidance on digital commerce.  With technological progress comes some uncertainty, but the U.S. Government is also prepared to help small businesses identify and mitigate risk early. The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a Cybersecurity Framework, awareness training and other resources to help small businesses develop risk management processes. Similarly, ITA’s STOPfakes program provides companies with online trainings and country toolkits to address IP-related issues before they export.

4. Helping SMEs access capital and thrive

Access to capital and investment can help small businesses achieve greater heights and thrive.  U.S. Government initiatives like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides public financing during the early stages of research and development to support innovation-led growth. The Small Business Administration also has several export loan guarantee programs that increase access to financing.

Learn more about other ways the government is supporting and creating a level playing field for small businesses and underserved communities in the 2023 National Export Strategy

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