Ashley Zuelke is the Senior Advisor for Export Policy, Promotion and Strategy at the International Trade Administration.
In recognition of World Trade Month in May, communities across the country will focus on the importance of trade and its ongoing contribution to U.S. economic and job growth. The first week of May recognizes National Small Business Week, a fitting start to the month given the role of America’s small and medium-sized business which fuel our economy. These businesses make up the vast majority of U.S. exporters and an increasing share of the value of U.S. exports.
For many small U.S. companies, however, the path to expanding globally requires a large time investment and management commitment. Many firms are not sure where to begin, who to talk to, or how to navigate available resources. As a part of the National Export Initiative/NEXT and the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, U.S. government agencies are committed to helping businesses tackle these challenges, and have produced a streamlined guide of federal export resources. The tools and resources we provide help answer questions regarding how to:
- Identify markets through independent research
- Top Markets Reports rank future export opportunities within a particular industry – available for nearly 20 industries.
- Trade Stats Express is a useful database of industry-level trade.
- USA Trade Online is a more detailed database searchable by product code. Know your product’s classification to get the most accurate data.
- Find out the tariff (or tax at the border) on your product in Free Trade Agreement (FTA) markets and use the FTA Tariff Tool to create reports and charts of trends, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
- Assess markets of interest
- Country Commercial Guides provide market intelligence and guidance on doing business in specific markets around the world.
- StopFakes.gov and its Online Training Module is a good starting point for learning how to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) in markets of interest.
- Talk to an expert:
- The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has a global network of U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in more than 100 cities and U.S. Embassies and Consulates in 75+ markets.
- If you are new to exporting or getting ready to export, contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
- The Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) Centers work in partnership with ITA to provide trade services as well.
- Your state or metropolitan area may also have an international trade office.
- If you are in the food product or agricultural industry, contact the S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the State-Regional Trade Group in your region to take advantage of the Market Access Program (funding for market research and exploration).
- The U.S. Trade and Development Agency also captures market intelligence, information on procurement opportunities in emerging markets, and contracts with small businesses.
- Make Connections
- The U.S. Commercial Service can also help with:
- Conducting background checks on potential buyers and distributors.
- Connecting your business with pre-screened potential overseas partners.
- Promoting your product or service to prospective buyers at trade events worldwide.
- Meeting with international industry and government decision makers in your target market(s).
- Navigating cultural differences.
- Exhibit at U.S. trade shows: ITA recruits and vets foreign buyer delegations for certain shows.
- Showcase at an overseas trade show in U.S. pavilions: Go to export.gov and search events.
- See if your state is an awardee of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) matching-fund awards from the Small Business Administration. State awardees administer STEP funds to help small businesses enter and succeed in the global marketplace.
- Take Advantage of Financing and Insurance
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) collaborates closely with the U.S. Commercial Service, and has trade finance specialists in 20+ U.S. cities. SBA’s finance programs include:
- Export Express, which can be used for a range of export development activities, including translating marketing materials or attending a trade show,
- Export Working Capital Program, and
- International Trade Loan
- Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank) provides federally-backed export financing credit insurance to take on the risk associated with selling to overseas buyers. EXIM products help U.S. firms protect against buyer nonpayment, sell to foreign customers on credit terms, borrow against export-related assets, finance a foreign buyers’ purchase and more.
- Looking at undertaking a project or investment in a developing market? The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provides medium- to long-term financing through direct loans and loan guaranties to eligible investment projects in developing countries, when conventional institutions are reluctant or unable to lend.
- OPIC also provides political risk insurance and support for the creation of privately-owned and managed investment funds.
- See the Trade Finance Guide for more information.
- Navigate mechanics
- Making international sales online? Learn about eCommerce mechanics.
- The U.S. Commercial Service can also help with:
- Understanding export documentation requirements and import regulations of foreign markets.
- Navigating U.S. government export controls, compliance, and trade financing options.
- Overcoming trade obstacles to successfully enter international markets.
- Logistics resources and guidance: http://www.export.gov/logistics
- When you export any good valued at over $2,500 (or requiring a license), you must submit information on the shipment to the Automated Export System (AES). Get help on filing AES, classifying merchandise, regulations and trade data by calling 1-800-549-0595. More information available on the Global Reach blog.
- Screen potential buyers and partners to make sure you can do business with them and that they are not on one of the U.S. government denied parties or export control lists.
- Learn more about export licenses, standards and economic sanctions.
Exporting can be an important way to grow your business and your bottom line. These available tools are at your disposal to help you succeed in the global marketplace.
For more information on U.S. government export programs and services, visit www.export.gov.