Time To Venture Abroad

Exporting is a multibillion-dollar industry that can be extremely lucrative -- if you're properly prepared

it shows that free trade really works.”

The U.S. Commercial Service (www.export.gov/cs) is one such agency looking to aid exporters. It offers a two-part support mechanism — much of it on Uncle Sam’s dime. Through its 107 local offices, the agency assesses a company’s product or service and analyzes the business setup for any structural weaknesses or deficiencies. From there, it uses its international network of 150 offices to pair the company with local resources, conduct the necessary market research, and aid with the regulatory process.

Hot Spots
When identifying a market, most entrepreneurs look to familiar regions. For many African Americans, the Caribbean and the African continent are popular starting points. According to Carlos F. Poza, acting assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. Commercial Service. Canada and Mexico are two other good options. With the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the ’90s, trade expanded between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Under NAFTA, tariffs were reduced and protective measures, such as intellectual property protection and arbitration/dispute resolution protocols, were put in place. In 2003, some $97.46 billion worth of products was shipped from the U.S. to Mexico alone, while Canada’s share of U.S. imports amounted to $169.48 billion.

In Mexico, hot export areas include travel services, marketing to manufacturers, telecommunications, information technology, Internet-related products, security equipment, and construction materials. “Mexican companies buy almost every type of product possible from the U.S. It’s a huge market for U.S. goods and services of all kinds,” says Mitchell. Canada is a hot spot for agricultural products, industrial goods and materials, chemicals and plastics, office machines and equipment, motor vehicle parts, apparel and footwear, and miscellaneous consumer goods.

“When NAFTA became a reality, you saw an increase in trade activity, particularly in Canada and Mexico,” says Manuel A. Rosales, assistant administrator for the Office of International Trade. “Now we have almost 97,000 small businesses exporting to Canada and Mexico alone.” The U.S. currently has trade agreements with Israel, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Jordan and is in the process of negotiating with five Central American countries (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador); the Dominican Republic; and four countries in the South American Andes region (Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru). Negotiations with Singapore, Morocco, and Australia are also underway.

The Caribbean market, which imported some $10.8 billion worth of merchandise from U.S. companies in 2003, is not to be overlooked. “Our market share in the Caribbean is not as high as in Canada and Mexico, but it’s usually in the 40% to 50% range, so it’s quite attractive,” Poza points out. “Most of those islands are service economies so they import even their foodstuffs. So you have a very wide range of products in demand — from consumer goods to capital goods. So the Caribbean is a very good market.”

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (www.agoa.gov) has opened up possibilities on the African continent as well. The act seeks to more firmly integrate sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy while opening that region

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