How Do I ... Export

It is 5 a.m. I can hear that my one year old is ready to get up. I go into his room and hand him a stuffed deer, which I bought in Colorado, although it was made in Vermont. I change his diaper, made in China, and walk across the rug, assembled in Mexico. After he loses interest in the deer, I hand my son his favorite toy -- a wooden yo-yo, made in Canada.

We go down the stairs, and I slip on my sandals, made in Israel. I take out the stroller, made in New Zealand, so we can go around the block with the dog (who was a stray so I'm not sure where he hails from). His collar was manufactured in Seattle.

We come back and I make some eggs, laid in Virginia, in a skillet made in England. We drink some juice containing apples from Chile. We are joined by his three-year-old sister, who refuses to change out of her nightgown, made in Sri Lanka. She has just shared a milky hug with her father, who now must go change his shirt made in America, before he leaves for work. Later, I leave for an interview in my Japanese-brand car, which was built in Indiana.

I am feeling worldly (and a little tired). My seemingly domestic morning has been a multinational event.

Trade is important to our nation's economy. Exports create jobs, and small businesses are a part of that -- exporting $375 billion worth of goods and services in 2006. More than two-thirds of exporters have fewer than 20 employees, according to the Commerce Department.

Are you considering exporting but don't know where to start? Here are some resources to help you take the plunge. In an upcoming column, I'll look at importing and trade resources on a local level.

The Small Business Administration's Office of International Trade offers free publications online, such as "Breaking into the Trade Game, A Small Business Guide to Exporting." The most current edition was updated in 2005.

Export.gov is an excellent resource, compiling a list of Web sites and information from many U.S. government departments and agencies to aid businesses of all sizes in planning international sales strategies. To use the service, you must register with Export.gov and be a U.S. company. It allows you to refine your search for trade leads by searching via industry.

The site also offers a list of export and industry specialists in about 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries. For example, select "Maryland" and you'll be able to access a list of names and contact information for trade specialists listed by industry in Baltimore. If you select "Virginia," you'll get a list of contacts in Northern Virginia and Richmond who have agreed to give advice as an Export Assistance Center.

The United States Trade Representative negotiates directly with foreign governments to develop trade agreements, resolve related disputes and participate in global trade policy discussion. The office offers broad information on trade issues, but don't waste your time looking for small business help on its Web site. Its Office of Small Business Affairs was established in 2002, but its small business fact sheets were last updated July 1, 2004, and its articles on small business were last updated in 2005.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is a lobbying group and membership organization representing businesses of all sizes, offers a "trade toolkit." You can search for data and statistics on country. My quest to find data on selling in the Azores simply told me that I needed a passport to visit there, while my search on Australia came back with 579 different reports and data.

The chamber also helms a project called American Chambers of Commerce Abroad, referred to as "AmChams." They are voluntary organizations of U.S. businesses and individuals doing business in a particular country. You can search by country. For example, if you're looking to sell your savoir-faire in France, you may want to review AmChamFrance to better understand the marketplace, make contacts or determine if you want to join. Don't be deterred that the site says "members-only," it has valuable sections available to everyone.

Got tips or resources on exporting? Post them in the comments section below.

By Sharon McLoone |  July 17, 2007; 6:00 AM ET How Do I...
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For those who (will) ship through California, TradePort.org is the best online resource for new and established international traders.

The Federation of International Trade Associations - Fita.org - provides very useful links to trade tools, resources, and markets around the world.

Posted by: Rosaliene Bacchus | July 17, 2007 1:39 PM

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