Posts Tagged ‘TradeStats Express’


4 Ways Understanding Data Can Inform Your Export Strategy

June 18, 2014

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

Relying on export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Understanding the facts behind export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Numbers can be misleading, especially when they’re used as a proxy for quality thought in decision making.

Now, let’s be clear, here. When I say that numbers can be misleading, I’m assuming that you’re looking at an X and a Y axis with data points and no text except that which is necessary to label the graph. Alternatively, you’re looking at 10 numbers: five years and five corresponding dollar amounts or volumes. That’s where a lot of U.S. exporters begin their market research; and, if that’s where their research ends, that’s a problem.

Potential exporters need to look behind the data points on the graph by asking some important questions:

  • What happened before the trend?
  • What happened after the trend?
  • What caused the trend?
  • Can you compete (i.e., price, quality, terms of sale, features, post-sales support)?

Here’s a hypothetical: Imagine for a moment that you sell building products and the data indicate a 5-year growth trend in Timbuktoo for exactly what you sell. Assume, too, that the data are two years out of date and that you don’t follow soccer. Little did you know that Timbuktoo hosted the World Cup two years ago and that, if you had more recent data, you’d see a drop in demand for building products once the stadium, exercise buildings, dormitories, and tourism infrastructure had been completed.

I should also mention that all the best relationships were probably formed well before construction started. Should you spend much time exploring the Timbuktoo market? Based on what little we know about your company and Timbuktoo from this example, there’s nothing exceptional about Timbuktoo but you wouldn’t know that from statistics alone.

So, what’s a company with limited resources supposed to do to identify potential export markets? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use raw data only as a starting point. TradeStates Express and the UN Comtrade Database are two great online sites where you can find raw data and begin your researching process.
  • Use reports to improve understanding. General reports and information about export opportunities can be found at the Market Research Library.
  • Consult “people in the know” to challenge assumptions. ITA offers business counseling and can provide the inside scoop for companies looking to export. U.S. and foreign trade shows are also a great resource for businesses who want to learn more about the exporting opportunities available to them. The District Export Council can also be a source of information and counsel to those who need.
  • Visit the Market. The U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Centers, state and local Economic Development Organizations, and chambers of commerce organize trade missions and can facilitate your visit to the market to make contacts for future deals. Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to get more information.

In addition to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, more info about government-wide services and resources for exporting are available at


Did You Know that ITA has New Import Trends and Data?

August 16, 2011

Natalie Soroka is an economist in the Office of Trade and Industry Information within the International Trade Administration. She focuses on international trade statistics and trends, as well as the impact on the domestic manufacturing sector.

In promoting U.S. trade interests, it can be easy to forget about the other side of the coin: imports and their importance as inputs to U.S. manufacturers and exporters. Early last year the Census Bureau started to include state-level merchandise import data with their monthly data release, which is now also available on our TradeStats Express platform. Similar to the state export series, this resource can be used to explore state-level trends in goods imports going back to 2008.  For example, in 2010 New York’s main import was precious stones and metals, most of which consisted of diamonds from Israel, India, Belgium, and South Africa. As far as trends over time, as you would expect state imports generally declined across the board in 2009.  However, two states bucked the trend and actually increased their imports: Kansas and Utah.  In Kansas’ case, this increase was nearly all due to high mineral fuel imports, which then dropped the following year (causing Kansas to be one of only four states that saw goods imports decline in 2010).

Bar graph showing state imports of oil and gas as a percentage of total state goods imports. MT, LA, HI, WY, MS, TX, PA, WA, CO, IL, MN, OK and KS are above the national average of 14.6 percent.

State reliance on imports of oil and gas as a percentage of total state goods imports

As for Utah, in 2008 the state reported increased imports of precious stones and metals, as well as aircraft.  In 2010 imports largely rebounded nationwide, except in four states: Delaware, Kansas, Wyoming, and Maine.  Delaware showed the greatest decline, which was largely due to a steep drop in imports of mineral fuel.  In 2008, mineral fuel accounted for more than a third of Delaware’s goods imports, but has since dropped 89 percent, accounting for only 5 percent of goods imports in 2010.

Speaking of fuel, many states rely heavily on oil and gas imports, importing higher than the general nationwide average share of nearly 15 percent. In particular, oil and gas account for more than half of total goods imports in five states: Montana, Louisiana, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Mississippi. On the other side, two states did not directly import any oil or gas in 2010: Rhode Island and West Virginia.

In 2009, 100,891 companies only imported, 196,903 companies only exported, and 78,940 copanies imported and exported.

Twenty percent of companies engaged in trade both import and export.

In addition to the state import series, this past April the Census Bureau also started to release data on U.S. importing companies. In addition to highlighting the characteristics of companies that imported in 2009, this release also shows that for U.S. businesses, exports and imports are not mutually exclusive, with a sizeable portion both exporting and importing in 2009.

For more information on state import trends and U.S. importers, check out ITA’s Trade Statistics webpage.