Tag Archives: T.I. Apps & Agencies

Manufacturers Use Trade Intelligence to Identify Sources of Materials and Components

Foreign sourcing is one of the predominant applications that many trade data users seek. PIERS and Datamyne are the only TI providers whose products integrate daily shipping manifests from DHS/Customs with statistical and company data from the Census Bureau and D&B respectively.  Each boasts of their particular brand of easy-to-use interfaces.

U.S. companies have long turned to overseas sources for cheaper raw materials and components. Utilizing AMS inbound shipment manifests (BOLs) – detailing shipper (exporter), consignee (U.S. importer) along with specifics on the product(s) transported – U.S. manufacturers and distributors can easily identify potential foreign suppliers.

Vetting the list of candidates is another matter. Here, technology can aid to some degree. Various filters can be applied such as preferred country source(s), minimum shipment thresholds, number of other customers (importers) that a particular seller(s) maintains, source history /track record, and diversity of products sold. All these criteria can assist a U.S. company in sifting the list of potential suppliers and is inherent within the BOL data.

In addition to the expected normalization and refinement procedures that respectable TI providers apply to the Customs Data, Datamyne* and PIERS employ supplemental data sources to further enhance the value of the data and application in the sourcing arena.

Connecting D&B company information like credit score, annual sales, key personnel, financials and current contact information to daily (15,000,000 annually) shipment manifests helps narrow the prospect list considerably. D&B (and other vendors) provide a reputable base by which to normalize the dozens of iterations that exist on shipping manifests for any given company, thereby making the vetting process more accurate and meaningful.

Statistical data can be employed to identify which countries are the most popular sources for a particular product. Aggregated values (cost of goods) can be compared to see which countries export said product cheapest. One can also chart overall sourcing and pricing trends (on a monthly basis). Further investigation of trade flow statistics can reveal tariff considerations, transportation costs and preferred port-to-port routes.

Once again, in the end, the best that data and technology can provide is a partial solution to the objective of foreign sourcing. The remaining gaps of data interpretation, contextual understanding and appropriate application require Trade Intelligence of the third kind. Notwithstanding, an informed utilization of TI products such as Datamyne’s new Datamyne 2.0 interface can get a U.S. manufacturer or distributor a long way down the road in identifying new overseas sources for their raw materials or product components.

*Although Datamyne doesn’t currently incorporate the full extent of available D&B data such as credit scores, personnel records or detained financial data, they do currently use it in their normalization processes… and have plans for further integration in the future.

TI: Trade Intelligence, Part 2. Questions Lead to Answers Lead to Cash?

What, then, is Trade Intelligence?  Many, if not most, data providers like to link their company and products to that term in one fashion or another.  After all, it sounds a whole lot sexier than “trade data”.  Data is about as sexy as dirt.  Wouldn’t you pay more for “trade intelligence” than you would for “trade data”?  I imagine that it evolved from the popular use of the term “business intelligence”.  One should be discerning though; a pig dressed up like a princess and given a noble title, is still, after all a pig.

As founder /CEO of CenTradeX, I (and my team) spent a decade trying to build better bridges between trade data and trade data users. The initial premise was that there was tremendous inherent value locked away in publicly available trade data that had been hitherto ignored or undervalued.  Our journey led to many innovations in the field of “trade intelligence”.

The first was combining many sources of data together to provide a more complete picture, 3-D versus flat, for example: U.S Trade Flows with Global Statistics with State Exports. Thereafter, we integrated several sources of company data with statistics… a project that often kept me up late into the night, and that I called a “Beautiful Mind” endeavor because it about drove me crazy.  Marrying huge sets of data organized under very different, asynchronous code systems is not a simple task.

Another aspect of bridge building was presenting the data in graphic form with user-friendly reporting tools.  One of our first customers, Howard Cochran, IB professor at Belmont University, used to comment that we “taught data to dance”.  Our goal was to dress up data to look like Disney… trade data dancing and singing alluring melodies that would woo potential customers.  All these innovations were elements of the bridge building process to transform trade data into trade intelligence.

However, at the end of the day, we learned a very important lesson:  No matter how much creativity and technological wizardry we brought to the table, we could not build a bridge that would reach to the other side.  The last section of that bridge is people.  No interface or TI product can, or ever will, stand alone as THE consummate solution. Suppliers, Marketers, Consultants, Analysts, Trade Reps, Teachers, Matchmakers, and the trade data users themselves, ultimately provide the “intelligence” behind TI products.

Therefore, the core, primary, essential element of Trade Intelligence is first and foremost people: people are the intelligence behind “trade intelligence”. And thus the reason why WorldTradeDaily.com focuses on all the key players in the industry from CEOs to database engineers, marketers and clients.

*This post was originally published during the first week of May, 2011.  

TI: “Trade Intelligence”, Part 1. The Real Genius Is In the Question.

PART 1 of “Trade Intelligence” looks at the real “smarts” required to make TI products useful and profitable. If vendors claim that their respective product can provide the “magic” that will make your business succeed, they are lying. No matter how sophisticated and technologically slick the “inter-face” is, profitable end results will only be extracted with considerable “face” time invested in the process by you and trusted trade “sages”. Machines (or TI products) that can out think (or do the thinking for) their human creators (or data users) still only exist in the realm of science fiction.

From WIKI: “Intelligence derives from the Latin verb intelligere which derives from inter-legere meaning to ‘pick out’ or discern.”  Other references note that intelligence is also “The aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment.” “The unique propensity of human beings to change or modify the structure of their cognitive functioning to adapt to the changing demands of a life situation.”  Also from WIKI: “Business Intelligence is a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information used to enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational insights and decision-making.”

In my opinion, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of intelligence is curiosity: the hunger to know, to learn, to discover. Another aspect of intelligence is to see patterns, connections, and find meaning in seemingly unassociated fragments of information. Finally, intelligence applies these discoveries adaptively in order to reach its objectives.

I’ve often remarked during my presentations that the “the genius is in the question”. Questions drive innovation and application in the Trade Intelligence field. Behind every impactful report (in whatever product /application you may use) are queries. Queries are questions, crafted by ubiquitous database /tech guys, to fetch, arrange and deliver data in response to your questions. On a deeper level, the need to develop more meaningful connections between various types of data drives every respectable company in the industry in response to customer demand.

In coming up with profitable answers that will support and assist in making important business decisions in the realm of world trade, one must be careful to craft the question correctly… and to know what questions need to be answered. Then, a particular TI product can be evaluated on the basis of how well it can address those respective questions. Be careful to look beyond the price tag. After all, you’re going to be investing your most valuable commodity into the process of extracting any substantive value out of it…your time.

Part 2 of this article will examine the process of creating “Trade Intelligence” products along with practical “answers” that translate into bottom-line profitability.

*This post was originally published during the first week of May, 2011.  

CITD- Centers of International Trade Development -Trade Links

Maurice Kogan, at the CITD has assembled one of the very best collections of helpful links and resources on international trade available on the web. Check out the resources at their website, called theirTrade Information Database” or you can click on one of the links listed below.  Each of the links takes you, in turn, to a “jump page” with the appropriate sub-categories (links) conveniently organized.

Export Readiness Tools: How to information and tools to prepare and train for international trade:

Trade Reference Tools: Quick look-ups to commonly needed international commodity codes definitions and conversions:

Trade & Economic Statistics: Worldwide trade and economic data needed to track international trade flows by country, to assess economic conditions and to access and segment markets.

Foreign Market Research: Extensive industry country and topical market research to help pinpoint best export markets assess particular markets, adapt to local cultures and customs, and develop effective market entry strategies:

Trade Contacts & Leads:  Trade directories and specific trade leads to identify prospective suppliers buyers and distributors:

Trade/Investment Regulations: U.S. and worldwide laws and regulations affecting market access and compliance:

Trade Documentation: Requirements, procedures and forms needed for documentary compliance:

Trade Promotion: Directories of trade shows and other events for face-to-face contact with potential buyers:

Finance & Insurance: Trade finance/insurance guidance, programs, sources of assistance, and on-line application:

Transport & Logistics: Requirements, tools and services to manage logistics and deliver the goods:

International Trade News: Current developments on topics industries and regions of interest to international traders:

Trade Resources Directory: California U.S. Government international private sector and academic sources of assistance:

You may also want to check out the WTD article we did on Mr. Kogon earlier this year.

Extraordinary (Top Secret) Report on TI Providers Published by the EU, Part 2

Continued from Part 1. The following are additional excerpts from the “Catalogue of WEB Data Services on Global Trade” written by C. Versino, M. Tsukanova, G.G.M. Cojazzi, circa 2010 on behalf of European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen.  A copy of the complete 90 page survey may be download from our WorldTradeDaily.com Google docs site. 

INFODRIVE: Service by InfoDriveIndia, primarily on customs data for Indian trade. Large coverage in terms of number of customs ports. Also re-seller of customs data for: US imports, UK imports, China imports and exports. Pay service.

PIERS: Import and export information on cargoes moving through ports in the U.S., Latin America, and Asia. Pay service.

STATISTIKA VED: Russian service providing transactional data on import and export from Russia, Ukraine, China, Kazakhstan, Belorussia and Moldova. Records available only in Russian. Pay service.

TIPS: Indian import and export customs data. Pay service.

THE DATAMYNE:  Transactions and statistical monthly data with multi-national coverage. They missed the link, but its here. 

TRADEIQ/TRADEVIEW: TradeIQ: US import transactional data, searchable by Bill of Lading data. TradeView: import/export statistical data.

TRADE MAP: Statistical trade data for 220 countries and territories on Harmonized System products. Trade data is also available at the tariff line level for more than 120 countries and on a quarterly and monthly basis for about 50 countries. Pay service.

UN COMTRADE: Statistical trade data with worldwide coverage. Maintained by United Nations in cooperation with the OECD. Free access service.

URUNET: Customs data for South-American countries. Pay service.

USA TRADE ONLINE: Created by STAT-USA and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division, it provides monthly and cumulative U.S. export and import data using several product nomenclatures. Pay service.

Other trade data services:

IMPORT GENIUS – Searchable transactional database covering all ocean container imports entering the United States.

ITC – Provided by the United States International Trade Commission, US import & export data.

SINOIMEX – According to a country of interest, this website provides statistical/transactional data on a country’s imports/exports as well as detailed data on a country’s importers/ exporters.

TRADE DATA ONLINE – Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau service on Canada and US import and export.

WITS. Statistical data on trade with worldwide coverage. World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) was developed by the World Bank, UNCTAD and UNSD. It gives access to trade and tariffs data compilations. It is based on various databases: COMTRADE, TRAINS, IDB and CTS.

“This document is a catalogue of WEB services providing data on global trade. It updates to March 2010 the first edition published in 2007. Each service is described in the catalogue according to a form specifying data fields, geographical coverage, temporal span, search criteria and reporting facilities on data records. The information has been derived from WEB sites, email contacts with service providers, trial runs, and interviews with users.”

Extraordinary (Top Secret) Report on TI Providers Published by the EU, Part 1

In the WTD article: International Trade Data Considered Confidential, Top Secret or Dangerous, I wrote that, “During a presentation on trade data and application to a European convention of trade associations in Koln (Cologne) Germany, I exhibited the specific trading patterns and shipment details of several of their top exporters.  Amidst currents of grumbling and disquiet throughout the audience, one spokesperson finally stood up and screamed, “How are you allowed to obtain and publish such information [about our companies and] who will stop you!?”

Interestingly enough, the EU published a comprehensive and well written survey of many of the top Trade Intelligence Providers in an effort to deal with this issue.

The following are excerpts from the “Catalogue of WEB Data Services on Global Trade” written by C. Versino, M. Tsukanova, G.G.M. Cojazzi, circa 2010 on behalf of European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen. The mission of the JRC-IPSC is to provide research results and to support EU policy-makers in their effort towards global security and towards protection of European citizens from accidents, deliberate attacks, fraud and illegal actions against EU policies.  A copy of the complete 90 page survey may be download from our WorldTradeDaily.com Google docs site.  

“This document is a catalogue of WEB services providing data on global trade. It updates to March2010 the first edition published in 2007. Each service is described in the catalogue according to a form specifying data fields, geographical coverage, temporal span, search criteria and reporting facilities on data records. The information has been derived from WEB sites, email contacts with service providers, trial runs, and interviews with users.”

Specifically, the sources examined are:

ANONYMOUS:  WEB application on a cargo data-warehouse. Contains import/ export container records from about 40 countries. Data sources can be queried from a single interface point. The data are searchable in English. Pay service.

COMEXT: Statistical datasets focused on European Union trade covering intra – and extra – community trade. Maintained by the European Commission Statistical Office (EUROSTAT). Free access service.

CTI & CSS: China Customs Imp & Exp Trade Database (CTI) provides shipment data from and to China. China Customs Statistics (CCS) offers China import and export statistical information. CTI & CCS are online services provided by the same company. Pay service.

EXIMKEY: Indian import & export customs data. Free access service covering a limited number of customs sea/air ports in a time frame of 24 months.

GTA & WTA: Statistical trade data for about 70 countries reported monthly. Value, quantity, unit price, reporting country, and trading partner country on both exports and imports classified in HS and country-specific subdivisions of HS. Some countries provide information included in additional data fields, such as: importer/exporter information, port/customs district data, reexport/domestic export data. Excellent interface to navigate the data. Pay service.

This Article will be continued in Extraordinary (Top Secret) Report on TI Providers Published by the EU, Part 2.

International Trade Data Considered Confidential, Top Secret or Dangerous

During a presentation on trade data and application to a European convention of trade associations in Koln (Cologne) Germany, I exhibited the specific trading patterns and shipment details of several of their top exporters.  Amidst currents of grumbling and disquiet throughout the audience, one spokesperson finally stood up and screamed, “How are you allowed to obtain and publish such information [about our companies and] who will stop you!?”

U.S. Waterborne Shipment import data collected daily by CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and made available through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to the public by special request ($100 per daily DVD on a monthly subscription basis) reveals what many label as trade secrets about the particulars of international traders and their corresponding transactions.

There are times when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

US. Intelligence Community

Perhaps coincidentally, during the European convention, my stateside team was paid a surprise visit by an assemblage of well-dressed men representing “interested parties” within the U.S. intelligence community.  They had been monitoring extensive data flows from our Nashville office to a Beijing location of what appeared to be sensitive information.

Thus began our campaign to (quickly) educate the respective intelligence agents involved as to the particulars of the data that we were selling to our associate in China (data that was publicly available through their own DHS/U.S. Customs as well as other TI vendors like ourselves).  It was all rather terrifying.  Not because we were doing anything unlawful or out of the ordinary, but because, on some level, it didn’t matter that we were in the right if our business was temporarily shut down while investigations were being made. It would have the same detrimental financial effect whether we were “right or wrong”.

Having had prior dealings with China, Inc. as to trade data being considered governmental trade secrets and my recent experience during the European Trade Convention, I was spooked and sobered.   Obviously these folks took trade data seriously.

Ironically, much of my tenure at CenTradeX was spent in an effort to convince prospective clients of the relative merits of trade data.  I’ve spent my career trying to mine and communicate value to end users utilizing technology and graphics.  Despite my evangelistic zeal, by and large, most folks just don’t get it.  To them, trade data is about as interesting and as sexy as dirt.

Dollar General's Zero Budget to Improve Sourcing

I remember meeting with top procurement executives of Dollar General trying in vain to convince them to use trade intelligence to enhance their sourcing efforts.  Here’s a company that generated 8 billion dollars in annual revenues with conceivably half sent to overseas suppliers.  Their projected budget for data: ZERO.  Their projected budget for data analysts: ZERO.  The value they placed on trade intelligence: ZERO.

China Inc., the European trade community and the Intelligence Community don’t share that perspective. The right piece of intelligence aptly applied at the right moment has won wars.  Inversely, acting on wrong information has been catastrophic.

ECRM is to the Sourcing World what Speed Dating & EHarmony is to the dating world.

Over the last 10 years, ECRM has developed a winning combination of technology, systems and people that match retailers with suppliers in a very dynamic, efficient way.  To liken them to a “trade show” is to compare the bar scene to a senior prom.

I met Charlie Bowles, founder/CEO during one of our WTCA (World Trade Center Association) conferences.  ECRM had worked with several Centers putting together matchmaking events for their member companies.  Mr. Bowles is one of those straight shooting, no-nonsense, street-smart visionary entrepreneurs who is a lot of fun to work with. You never have to wonder where you stand or what’s going on.

ECRM logo

ECRM & CenTradeX worked on a joint project to develop a database, vetting system and search/reporting engine on several industry “verticals” in their Marketgate online matchmaking interface. Toys, school supplies and packaging materials were the initial areas of build-out.

As part of the development process, we attended one of 50 plus three-day matchmaking events to witness their magic firsthand. ECRM contracts with luxury resort hotels to do a complete take over.  They book the entire facility.  Several floors of hotel rooms are transformed into mini-mart exhibit centers displaying respective sellers wares.

Dozens of bona fide buyers for a particular product group (for example: toys would bring in Mattel, Walmart, Toys-R-us, and the likes) are provided top-shelf accommodations FREE all expenses paid.  Sellers (suppliers) in turn pay an average of $10,000 for guaranteed, prequalified, technology enhanced “speed dates” with the prospective buyers taking in 30 to 40 individual face-to-face meetings with buyers during a single event.

Buyers attract Sellers, like bees to nectar or boys to beer.

Some have likened ECRM’s business model to nightclubs that provide free liquor to the ladies so as to attract swarms of paying male drinkers.

Prior to the event, a comprehensive evaluation of each seller and their merchandise is entered into the ECRM system.  Each participant, both buyer and seller, receives a tablet PC preloaded with all the necessary vitals and meeting schedule.

We witnessed the magic firsthand. Buyers strolling through a sellers display area and within minutes selecting items, deciding quantities, agreeing on terms and confirming delivery schedule. Everything was promptly scanned into the system, thereby creating confirmation and necessary documentation.

Within a 10- 15 minute span, a forthcoming year’s worth of merchandise was transacted, not just the endless chitchat and vendor banter characteristic of most trade shows.

We interviewed people involved in all aspects of the process: hotel staff, ECRM hospitality folks, tech engineers, management and marketing personnel as well as the suppliers and buyers themselves. For the most part, ECRM had worked out an excellent mix of data, technologies, systems, marketing and people.

ECRM got their initial boost from doing business with Walmart.  Thus far their success has been primarily limited to the retail products one would find at Walgreens or CVS.  They have struggled to find traction both in other industries (automotive, electronics, furniture) and outside the U.S. in foreign markets.

Chinese Transactional Import-Export Data Considered “Trade Secrets” by China Inc.

Deng Xioaping, the late, great leader and reformer, is credited with the catchphrase, “To get rich is glorious”, an anthem that unleashed a wave of personal entrepreneurship that continues to drive China’s economy today.

In a previous life (prior to CenTradeX), while managing a small offshore investment fund focused on the Greater China region, I got to tag along with a gaggle of prestigious fund managers from around the world as they interviewed most of the 26 listed publicly trade companies on the newly established Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges.  The early 90’s were the Wild, Wild West of social capitalism in China.  At the time, already a million millionaires had emerged from within the behemoth Dragon.  Transparency and accountability were major issues then for the infant stock markets, as they are now within the foreign sourcing realm.

To Get Rich is Glorious. It's the winding road to wealth that can be tricky

Through a unique partnership with a Trade Intelligence company located in Beijing, CenTradeX was able to apprehend several years of transactional customs data translated into English.  This terabit of information detailed each and every import and export transaction by every Chinese company of every product bought or sold from 2000 through 2006.  Included in the detail were the:

  • 8 digit HS code identifier and product description.
  • Company name, address, phone, unique ID (like our EIN #), personal contact.
  • Dollar value and number of units shipped (thus deriving price per item).
  • Supply chain routing information such as port, customs district, method of transport.

Essentially, the data represented the “Holy Grail” of Trade Intelligence on perhaps the most important emerging economy on the planet.   However, as the years went on, our partner had increasing difficulty legitimately acquiring the information.  Since our commercialization of the data depended upon its guaranteed and continual flow, we refrained from distribution.  Furthermore, after hearing a few scary and very sobering stories, we decided to try direct official government channels.

Working through a well-placed government intermediary we were told that some trade data were considered “trade secrets” by China, Inc.  What in particular couldn’t be defined or foretold in advance.  Essentially it would all depend upon the perceptions of a cadre of folks which would be subject to change.  It was further advised, that unless we wanted to risk a potential raid and shutdown of our prospective business operations, we’d best refrain.

The moral of the story is that information is power.  Trade Intelligence is the power to know and make informed trade decisions.  Trade Data is the brick and mortar of trade intelligence.  Such data holds many secrets; secrets considered dangerous by some.  TI providers utilize their technological powers to mine and unlock these secrets.  Ultimately, veteran trade professionals must employ their particular alchemy of resources to make trade magic happen.

Footnote: To my knowledge, currently there are no sources where China Transactional Data is available in bulk.   Small, custom requests can be submitted to the Chinese Government. Some companies offer statistical components of the data for a particular product /industry (minus company information), for a small fee.  InfoDriveIndia.com offers historical and comprehensive trading profiles on a piecemeal basis.  Check out our downloadable charts and diagrams (located on the sidebar) for more information.

Direct Sourcing; Weighing Cost Savings Against Increased Risk and Hassle

Several years ago, CenTradeX was called upon to help Disney’s theme parks division, headquartered in Orlando, to explore direct sourcing.  They were spending several hundred million dollars every year purchasing branded merchandise from overseas (mostly China) manufacturers through middlemen.

This is a typical arrangement for most U.S. importers because said middlemen are veterans at smoothing and straightening the road in the supply chain management process.  They have established relationships with factories (or rather with other middlemen who have relationships with factories). They are experts at logistics: carriers, routes, costs, documentation, etc. and where to grease the wheels in the machinery of global sourcing to keep things running efficiently.

A plethora of financial pressures were shrinking Disney’s margins. Theme park visitors were less willing to fork over their Benjamins for overpriced Mickies and Minnies.  A brilliant recent hire from MIT had engineered a plan to save 15%-20% by going direct.  She was looking for a way to sell the idea to upper management.  You would think an annual savings of 30-40 million dollars wouldn’t be a hard sell, but it was.

Eliminating the Middlemen

Change doesn’t come easy within a big corporation. The veteran sourcing guys in Disney were used to making a couple trips to Hong Kong every year staying in luxury hotels, being wined and dined and entertained by an entourage of middlemen.  They really didn’t have to do much heavy lifting.  The lady from MIT was making waves and coming up against a lot of resistance.

As a test, we did a sourcing analysis utilizing several data sources, including the much referred to U.S. Waterborne import (Bill of Lading) manifest data collected from U.S. Customs.  In particular, we identified the factories that these middlemen were sourcing from as well as other customers (U.S. Importers) that the foreign factories were shipping to, in what amounts and frequencies as well as other supply chain particulars.

This type of information is only the beginning of a process to vet prospective suppliers. Notwithstanding, much can be gleaned from the data, and it provides a great starting point.  She hired an associate and friend of ours, an alumnus of our Nashville Universities: Belmont and Vanderbilt. The guy was a street smart, hard-working veteran of foreign sourcing.  He made handfuls of solo reconnaissance trips to China, staying in cheap hotels, eating local fare, traveling dusty pock strewn roads to out of the way factories to get face-to-face with prospective suppliers.  It’s really the only way to get things done.

Direct sourcing is not the right solution for every company.  Even Walmart, the largest sourcing entity in the world, has taken their time making the transition.  Considering they could net a potential savings of $20 – $60 billion a year, you’ve got to figure there are good reasons behind their caution.

For the daring and the desperate, however, direct sourcing can translate into greater profits by eliminating middlemen and significantly reducing the cost-of-goods.   Trade Intelligence is the place to start.  Otherwise, you’re likely to waste all your ammunition shooting blind or from the hip, and have your direct sourcing efforts blow up in your face.

Footnote: If you’re a manufacturer, now you can become a direct supplier to Disney without depending upon middlemen to connect you.  Apply HERE.  I guess we know who ultimately won the argument.  No more Mickey Mousing going around at Disney.

Great news! SMEs get export ABCs at the DOC ITA’s local CS’s branch of the EAC… that is IF you can find your way thru the Labyrinth of Acronyms

Initially navigating the choppy waters of international trade is made more difficult by the nomenclature, obtuse product classification schemes and the long list of important acronyms to memorize. For instance, there are many valuable resources available from the U.S. government to assist the would be exporter as well as those who wish to expand upon their existing markets overseas. Finding those resources can be a challenge. It’s like being dropped off in a strange land with no knowledge of the language and trying to get around. Getting what you want and getting where you want to go is most frustrating.

Department of Commerce Logo

In this article, we’ll attempt to demystify one behemoth source of potential export assistance… as well as define a couple of the acronyms.

George Washington established the first cabinet departments of the United States of America. On February 14, 1903, a new cabinet was formed, The Department of Commerce (DOC) and Labor, as the national arm for economic development.  One of their tasks became to gather data to assist businesses and thereby help to create more jobs.

International Trade Administration

In 1980, the DOC established a new agency, The International Trade Administration (ITA), to promote exports overseas. Further, the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) was formed as the trade promotion arm of the DOC’s ITA.

The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) employs trade professionals through local offices (USEAC – United States Export Assistance Centers) in over 100 U.S. cities with corresponding foreign offices in nearly 80 countries for the purpose of helping small to medium sized companies get started in exporting or increasing sales to new global markets.

U.S. Commercial Service

Their services include:

  • Market Intelligence to help U.S. exporters target the right market (s) for their products and services.
  • Trade Counseling to provide them with the information they need to navigate the export process from beginning to end.
  • Business Matchmaking services to connect them with the right partners and prospects.
  • Trade Advocacy for U.S companies to level the international playing field for international procurement.

Export Dot GOV

The U.S. Commercial Service uses Export.gov, the Government’s export portal, as its main online resource. It’s a good resource for market research, trade events, trade leads, and information on how to export.  Country Commercial Guides prepared by their foreign offices and published annually by the U.S. Commercial Service provide general information about the fastest growing markets and industries.

Other resources you may find helpful (listed in no particular order) include:

WTD Front Door Series: FITA the Federation of International Trade Assoc.

FITA is one of the MEGA resource web sites for international trade. It’s been around since 1984, almost 30 years. It was originally started to link all the various associations that are somehow involved in world trade in one place. There are over 450,000 such organizations! The term ” link” may be somewhat euphemistic and misleading. Notwithstanding, Barney Lehrer, head honcho of FITA for 20 years, reports that 3,000 folks come to the site everyday, which ain’t bad at all!

According to their website, these associations include “manufacturers, trading companies, contractors, freight forwarders, custom house brokers, airlines, shipping companies, port authorities, banks, insurance brokers, (trade) associations and a wide range of (other) service providers…” Wow, that is a lot of freakin’ associations. Just about covers anybody who’s anybody in the world trade arena.

So what does the FITA site have to offer? Well, you name it. Think of it as a huge, electronic social worker who attempts to match existing resources to a client’s particular need(s). Or, if you like, the grand central station of links that are related to international trade. But how do you find what you’re looking for (easily and quickly) and not get lost along the way?

Well, there is an array of links on the left hand site: 25 – but who’s counting?  One called “Really Useful Links” takes you to a page of 30 other links. BTW, maybe there should be a heading entitled “Really Irrelevant Links”, but I do digress. Anyway, the – let’s call it “parent page” with 30 links (25 for the grandparent) takes you to other “child” pages with from about 4 to 50 (although I confess I didn’t follow them all) pages with links. Well, of course there are grandchildren and great grandchildren… but you get the picture: one super huge (occasionally somewhat happy) International Trade Family.


Is there a better way to organize hundreds of thousands of links and organizations and people and reports and products and services? Nothing comes to mind. Keeping track of all those links and making sure they are constantly updated is no small task. Accolades go to Barney Lehrer, a former professional musician, for bringing harmony and grace to the occasionally chaotic trade world.

Big News: He and his partner have recently launched a new endeavor – one designed to formulate a virtual trade community – at http://www.globaltrade.net/ It looks pretty cool. I haven’t dug into it yet but I promise I will soon and let you know what it is all about. Then again, you don’t have to wait… go there now and check it out for yourself.