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In a presentation titled “Exporting for Profit: If Not Now, When?” Lawrence J. Brill, senior international trade specialist at the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, explained the many government programs aimed at aiding businesses looking to sell abroad.
Some of these programs have existed for years, while others are newer initiatives, and all now fall under President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
“NEI is an ambitious effort to marshal the full resources of the United States government behind American businesses that sell their goods and services abroad,” Brill said. “Over the next several years, we’ll continue significantly ramping up Export-Import Bank trade financing for businesses, especially small and medium businesses that want to export their goods.”
Brill said OTEXA is involved in a range of activities geared toward this goal. OTEXA sponsors USA Pavilions at major international trade shows, sponsors trade missions to foreign countries, provides individual and company-specific export counseling, conducts market research, publishes export information that can be found at otexa.ita.doc.gov, and is a member of the International Trade Administration’s Global Textile and Apparel team, information for which is available at buyusa.gov/textilesandapparel.
“The U.S. Commercial Service is the lead trade promotion agency at the Department of Commerce,” Brill explained, adding it has 125 offices abroad and offers free consultation and a variety of other services for U.S. companies.
OTEXA offers what it calls “Customized Matchmaking Services” for companies that qualify for its “Gold Key Service” and international partner searches, to help identify customers and markets for brands and companies, and conducts background checks on local companies. In order to qualify, a U.S.-based company’s product must be 51 percent made in the U.S., which includes all aspects of the operation, from ingredients and production to advertising and distribution. He said theoretically a product could be manufactured outside the U.S. and still qualify.
Brill advised those looking to export for the first time or grow their sales that they need to visit and gain knowledge of potential markets and have a commitment from the top of the company. He said a three-to-five year development period should be expected and recommended that companies conduct extensive market research before entering a particular country or region.
Also important is choosing the right agent or distributor and to obtain proper legal advice on the intellectual property rights laws in that nation.
The U.S. exported $19.2 billion worth of textiles and apparel in 2010 — $3.5 billion in apparel and $15.2 billion in textiles, Brill noted. The top apparel export markets were Canada, Mexico, Japan, the U.K., South Korea, the Benelux countries, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Australia. Not included in this group but considered the faster-growing U.S. export markets were Chile and Singapore.