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Exporting Resources You May Not Know About

U.S. Census Bureau • The U.S. Commercial Service • SBA’s STEP


As you grow your exports, it’s important to find the information you need to take your business to the next level. That’s why I’ve outlined three fabulous resources you might not know about that will help you understand trade regulations, access market intelligence and find money for market development.

1. U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade


The U.S. Census Bureau has an abundance of trade data that can help you formulate your exporting plan. It offers data on more than 10,000 products, enabling companies—particularly manufacturers—to gather market share details, analyze foreign competition and get a clear picture of the outlook for their products in a given region.

The Census Bureau also has tools that help exporters understand all the regulations associated with doing business outside the U.S. All export information must be filed through the Automated Export System (AES), which is an electronic method for filing export information with the Census Bureau and Customs and Border Protection. While some of the services have nominal costs, other assistance is offered for free.

For up-to-date raw data on foreign trade, the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau offers USA Trade Online (https://www.usatradeonline.gov/). With this dynamic service, you can access current and cumulative U.S. export and import data for more than 9,000 export commodities and 17,000 import commodities. USA Trade Online provides trade statistics using the Harmonized System (HS) up to the 10-digit level and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) commodity classification codes up to the six-digit level.  Visit "Introduction to Schedule B/HTS Classification" and "FTA Tariff Tool" to learn more about HS and NAICS classifications.

2. The U.S. Commercial Service

The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. It has 129 offices in 82 countries and offers companies market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.

In an earlier article, "Best-Kept Secret to Global Success in the New Year," I wrote this about the U.S. Commercial Service:

“For a small company with a sizable budget, the Gold Key Service (GKS)—through the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service—is one of the most efficient ways to meet with pre-screened potential cross-border business associates, whether you are seeking an agent, a distributor or a joint-venture partner. We touched on this in Point No. 4 in “How to Find and Pre-Qualify Importing Wholesalers.” Individual meetings are arranged, most taking place at the U.S. embassy in the host country. Many companies testify that this is a wise investment because you pay only for your airfare, lodging and entertainment and have a series of productive meetings already set up.”

3. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP)


STEP is a three-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Funded by federal grants and matching funds from the states, the program is designed to help increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting.

Currently (as of 2012), SBA is providing $30 million in STEP grants to states, territories and the District of Columbia to enlarge the pool of small businesses ready and willing to export.

The STEP program is in line with President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), which called for doubling U.S. exports by 2015 and giving America a stronger competitive edge in the global market.

Companies that qualify can use the money in various ways. Funds can be used for subscriptions to services offered by the Department of Commerce, translation of websites to foreign languages or for other export initiatives determined to be appropriate by the SBA. These are just a few among many offerings from the STEP program.

These three powerful resources offer a bundle of help to importers and exporters alike. Who knew?

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