Global Diversity Export Toolkit
Global Diversity & Featured Events
Locate Events Targeted to Your Needs! View featured events for minority and women-owned businesses interested in learning how to export or increasing their international sales. Find information on all of our events, including webinars, trade shows, and virtual events.
Explore our robust resources dedicated to assisting U.S. exporters begin and expand sales into international markets.
The U.S. Commercial Service, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, offers companies a full range of expertise in international trade. Please contact us! We are eager to help you! The U.S. Commercial Service promotes U.S. exports, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises; advances and protects U.S. commercial interests overseas; and attracts inward investment into the United States. Companies can find assistance in more than 100 offices nationwide and in more than 75 international offices.
Find Your Local Office
Today, it’s more practical than ever to sell goods and services across the globe. Ninety five percent of the world’s potential consumers are outside of the United States, and the global affinity for Made in USA products and services is second to none. Many exporters continue to boost their bottom line and build their competitiveness by selling to world markets, and you can too. U.S. small and medium-sized companies—firms with fewer than 500 employees —account for 98 percent of the nearly 280,000 exporting businesses. The internet, improved logistics options, and array of federal, state, and local export assistance has made exporting more viable for even the smallest businesses.
Explore the Strategic Reasons to Export
Yes! U.S. services are respected globally, opening the door for American companies to find success selling to international markets. To succeed, find ways to demonstrate your service’s value, uniqueness, and reliability since the client doesn’t have a physical product to evaluate. How can your proposal be compelling enough for a client to look outside their local market? Communication skills are paramount. Your potential client may be involved in the design and fulfillment of the service, and delivery can be time sensitive. Show that you understand and can meet their specific needs. Your service may also need to be customized for the local culture or language. Research the country and its business practices to be responsive. You can also consider the best way to deliver your service – cross-border from the U.S. or from a local market presence.
Today, it’s more practical than ever to sell goods and services across the globe. Small, medium-sized, and large businesses all have the amazing opportunity to expand internationally, however there are several steps that must be taken to ensure that your company is ready to export.
Learn How to Export
Export Readiness Assessment
Are you looking to grow your business through exporting? Assess your company’s readiness to enter your first markets, expand into additional markets, or take on more challenging, high-growth export markets.
Assess Your Readiness
Export Training l Upcoming Events
Get export ready by attending a trade event, which can be a great way to connect with experts, other businesses, and potential foreign business partners. By organizing trade missions and educational seminars; providing matching or export counseling services at trade shows; and recruiting buyer delegations to U.S. trade shows, the U.S. Government helps U.S. exporters expand global sales at trade events.
Locate Trade Events
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide counseling and training to small businesses including working with the SBA to develop and provide informational tools to support business start-ups and existing business expansion.
Find an SBDC Resource
The U.S. Commercial Service’s Global Diversity Export Initiative (GDEI) is committed to helping businesses in underserved communities in the United States, including African-American-owned, Asian-American-owned, Hispanic-American-owned, Native American-owned, veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, and LGBTQI+-owned businesses, among others, increase their exports. The Women’s Global Trade Empowerment forum provides events, tools, and resources designed specifically to helping women-owned businesses accelerate their exporting journey.
Minority Women Focused Resources
Hear from successful small business exporters on the Export Nation Podcast.
Methods of Payment
To succeed in today’s global marketplace and win sales against foreign competitors, exporters must offer their customers attractive sales terms supported by the appropriate payment methods. Because getting paid in full and on time is the ultimate goal of the exporter for each export sale, an appropriate payment method must be chosen carefully to minimize the payment risk while also accommodating the needs of the buyer. There are five primary methods of payment for international transactions. During or before contract negotiations, you should consider which method is mutually desirable for you and your customer.
Learn About Methods of Payment
As you develop your exporting strategy, government programs can help finance your export activities, such as participation in trade shows and translation of information. There are also programs to enable you to acquire, construct, renovate, modernize, improve or expand facilities and equipment to be used in the United States to produce goods or services involved in international trade.
Find Finance Resources
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Export Express Program: Provides small businesses that have export potential with funds to cover the initial costs of entering an export market. The program offers up to $500,000 in export development financing to buy or produce goods or to provide services for export. The loan proceeds can be used for most business purposes, including expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or real estate acquisitions.
International Trade Loan Program: Provides U.S. businesses that are preparing to engage in or are already engaged in international trade or are adversely affected by competition from imports with up to $5 million in financing to upgrade equipment and facilities. Although this loan program can also be used to refinance existing indebtedness that is not structured with reasonable terms and conditions, it cannot be used to purchase a business.
Export Working Capital Program: Provides up to $5 million in short-term, transaction-specific working capital loans to U.S. small business exporters. Uses of this financing include: pre-export financing of labor and materials; and post-shipment financing of the accounts receivable generated from transaction-specific overseas sales.
SBA Finance Programs
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
SBA administers the STEP grant program which has helped thousands of small businesses obtain grants and find customers in the international marketplace since 2011. Through awards to U.S. states and territories, STEP helps small businesses overcome obstacles to exporting by providing grants to cover costs associated with entering and expanding into international markets. The STEP grants are distributed through State departments of commerce or economic development organizations.
Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM)
Working Capital Loan Guarantee Program: Provides transaction-specific working capital loans to U.S. exporters, made by commercial lenders and backed by EXIM Bank’s guarantee. Uses of this financing include: purchasing finished products for export; paying for raw materials, equipment, supplies, labor and overhead to produce goods and/or provide services for export; covering standby letters of credit serving as bid bonds, performance bonds, or payment guarantees; and financing foreign receivables.
Export Credit Insurance: Protect your export sales against nonpayment, offer open account credit terms to your buyers, and increase cash flow with EXIM’s export credit insurance.
U.S. Trade and Development Agency (Feasibility Studies l Pilot Projects)
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) connects the U.S. private sector to infrastructure projects in emerging markets, achieving its mission by funding feasibility studies, technical assistance and pilot projects that integrate the innovation and expertise of American companies. USTDA also connects overseas project sponsors with U.S. partners through reverse trade missions, industry conferences and expert workshops.
International market research is a key piece of successful export planning. It is important to critically review and assess demand for your product or service, as well as factors related to a given export destination. The information will maximize your company’s efforts while keeping the export plan cost and time efficient. Resources can help you compare markets and target the right ones. Start by collecting trade data to gauge market size. Look for where opportunities may exist, whether demand is increasing or decreasing, and if there is competition. For smaller companies, identifying 3 to 5 potential markets might be a good number to explore. You may also group potential countries by largest markets, fastest growing markets, and smaller markets with high growth. Then review country and industry reports to assess market conditions, opportunities, and challenges. This will help you decide which markets represent the best opportunities and are worth the investment of additional time and resources. Country Commercial Guides provide insight on market conditions, opportunities, regulations, and customs from U.S. Embassies worldwide.
Conducting Market Research
Market Research by Industry
You may also view market research by industry.
Research By Industry
The International Trade Administration publishes a variety of trade-related statistics and tools for public use.
Market Analysis: Market Diversification Tool
Among U.S. companies that export, more than half only export to one market. The Market Diversification Tool can help identify potential new export markets using your current trade patterns. Based on the products you export and the markets you currently export to, the tool uses an algorithm to rank potential markets you may want to consider as future export markets.
The algorithm used to develop the ranking does three main things. The tool compares potential export markets to the market where you are already exporting, based on the premise that it may be easier to export to similar countries; examines product-and service-specific trade data to see whether potential markets are primed for more exports from the U.S. of the product(s) or service(s) in question; and considers data that reflects whether potential export markets are generally good markets for exporting and doing business.
Market Diversification Tool
Selling to U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTAs) partner countries can help your company to enter and compete more easily in the global marketplace through reduced trade barriers. U.S. FTAs address a variety of foreign government activities that affect your business: reduced tariffs, stronger intellectual property protection, opportunities for U.S. exporter input in the development of FTA partner country product standards, fair treatment for U.S. investors, enhanced opportunities to compete for foreign government procurements, and opportunities for U.S. service companies. Currently, the United States has 14 FTAs with 20 countries. FTAs can help your company to enter and compete more easily in the global marketplace through zero or reduced tariffs and other provisions. While the specifics of each FTA vary, they generally provide for the reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more predictable and transparent trading and investment environment. This makes it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.
Learn About Free Trade Agreements
Look to international markets for opportunities to grow your business. 95% of the world’s consumers are outside of the U.S. With information and services, you have help in finding new buyers and partners. For small U.S. businesses, finding international buyers and partners doesn’t always come easy. If you have a web presence, you already have a global marketing and international sales platform. With the right ecommerce service providers, you can process credit card payments for buyers in Australia or translate key pages into Spanish and other languages to further your reach. During the next few years, worldwide B2C eCommerce is projected to nearly double to $2.2 trillion with the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific. The International Partner Search (IPS) is a service that connects you to potential agents, distributors or other strategic partners overseas without having to travel to the market. The Gold Key Service (GKS) offered by the International Trade Administration provides U.S. companies with matchmaking appointments with up to five interested partners in a foreign market. The full service includes identification and outreach to potential matching firms, sending clients’ information to identified matching firms, preparing a profile of interested firms, attending the appointments, and providing a report with the profile and contact information for interested firms.
Find Buyers and Partners
Trade shows in the U.S. and abroad are a great way to meet many potential customers. They provide other benefits to your business too. With the visibility of a government-led trade mission and support on the ground, you’ll have a unique opportunity to develop business in foreign countries.
Find Buyers and Partners
Cross-border ecommerce focuses on online sales to overseas consumers and includes promoting your brand awareness in addition to generating sales. eCommerce has become a term that covers everything a business does online to sell to consumers, both domestically and overseas. It includes: the sale through a website; the online advertising that leads to a sale; or the brand building that helps tie it all together as a narrative for consumers.
Learn About eCommerce
The International Trade Administration advises small and medium-sized businesses to consider one or more of the following three approaches:
Internationalization: website is culturally neutral, high-performing regardless of bandwidth, and structured to facilitate translation. Regionalization: website has specifically designed landing pages to facilitate cultural and language more focused on a particular region of the world, but not a specific country. Market research and analytics help define and refine market opportunities to pursue.
Localization: modifying a company’s website to specifically focus on a particular country. Localization of a website in another country must be done correctly to be effective and demands professional assistance.
Internationalize Your Website
The Website Globalization Review (WGR) Gap Analysis service provides technical and strategic assessment of a business’s ecommerce sales channel efforts. This is a SEO diagnostic service designed to help you acquire more international consumers online. To initiate a WGR, contact your local U.S. Commercial Service office.
Website Globalization Review
The U.S. Department of Commerce is dedicated to increasing information and communications technologies (ICT) exports. We do this by strengthening the global competitiveness of these industries through industry analysis, trade policy development, trade promotion, and addressing trade barriers. The U.S. Department of Commerce works with businesses that use the digital economy to deliver their products and services. We provide international market research, procurement leads, and trade events tailored to accelerate their international growth.
U.S. and Foreign Regulations
It can be challenging to understand and comply with U.S. and foreign regulations for your international sales. Some products require an Export License before shipping. Countries have product standards that must be met, and there are a few countries that you cannot sell to. There are also considerations when shipping to U.S. free trade agreement countries. These resources introduce you to compliance issues and useful tools to protect your business. Get the basics before you ship your product.
An export license is a government document that authorizes or grants permission to conduct a specific export transaction (including the export of technology). Export licenses are issued by the appropriate licensing agency after a careful review of the facts surrounding the given export transaction. Most U.S. export transactions do not require specific approval in the form of licenses from the U.S. Government. In fact, only a relatively small percentage of all U.S. export transactions require licenses from the U.S. government. It is up to the exporter to determine whether the product requires a license and to research the end use of the product, in other words, to perform “due diligence” regarding the transaction. For the majority of U.S. exports, the Bureau of Industry and Security or the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls are the licensing agencies. Exporters should learn which federal department or agency has jurisdiction over the item they are planning to export to find out if a license is required.
Good due diligence will help protect your company from problems, loss, and liability. Learn how to evaluate countries and potential buyers/partners. As your company expands into new markets, it’s important to continue your due diligence efforts. The International Company Profile (ICP) provides in-depth or basic background check information on a specific foreign company to help determine its suitability as a potential business partner.
Conduct Due Diligence
Protecting Intellectual Property
Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, images, names and logos used in commerce. Businesses are often unaware that their business assets include IP rights. Your intellectual property is a valuable intangible asset that should be protected to enhance your competitive advantage in the marketplace. IP includes copyrights, which cover works of authorship, such as books, logos and software. It also includes patents, which protect inventions. Other types of IP include trademarks and trade secrets. The first thing you should consider in safeguarding your intellectual property is to file for protection in the United States. Your state’s bar association can recommend experienced lawyers who can help you with that.
Pricing your product properly, giving complete and accurate quotations, choosing the terms of the sale, and selecting the payment method are four critical elements in making a profit on your export sales. Pricing can be the most challenging due to different market forces and pricing structures around the world. What determines a successful export pricing strategy? The key elements include assessing your company’s foreign market objectives, product-related costs, market demand, and competition. Other factors to consider are transportation, taxes and duties, sales commissions, insurance, and financing.
Pricing Your Products
Your products may need to be altered to make them operable, more marketable, or legally compliant in a foreign market.
Packaging and Labeling
Preparing your product to ship, choosing shipping options, and completing required documentation are critical steps in a successful export transaction.
Shipping and Logistics
Use the Customs Info Database Tariff Lookup Tool for direct access for finding duties and taxes for shipments to over 160 markets.
Tariffs and Taxes
Agricultural exports fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At the core of USDA’s mission is fostering economic opportunity and innovation that will continue to help American agriculture grow and thrive in a global economy. Through research, data and analysis, trade agreements, grants and programs that add value to products, USDA works to expand and maintain both foreign and domestic markets for American farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses.
Under special circumstances, U.S. companies can take advantage of certain customs provisions to reduce or eliminate the tariff-related costs of moving goods across borders, including temporary entry of goods.
Customs and Tariff Strategies
An IC-DISC is a domestic corporation that has elected to be an IC-DISC and its election is still in effect. The IC-DISC election is made by filing Form 4876-A, Election To Be Treated as an Interest Charge DISC. Generally, an IC-DISC is not taxed on its income. Shareholders of an IC-DISC are taxed on its income when the income is actually (or deemed) distributed. In addition, section 995(f) imposes an interest charge on shareholders for their share of DISC-related deferred tax liability. To be an IC-DISC, a corporation must be organized under the laws of a state or the District of Columbia and meet the following tests. At least 95% of its gross receipts during the tax year are qualified export receipts.
Learn about IC-DISC
All international travelers are required to have proper documentation before leaving the United States. Businesses should allow at least 6 to 8 weeks to acquire all the necessary documents.
Travel and Visa Info
The Secretary of Commerce chairs the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC). The TPCC provides a unifying framework to coordinate the export promotion and export financing activities of the U.S. government and to develop a government-wide strategic plan for carrying out such programs.
Learn About TPCC
USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance.
Learn About USAID
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), through the SBA, deliver professional, high quality, individualized business advising and technical assistance to existing small businesses and pre-venture entrepreneurs. SBDCs provide problem-solving assistance to help small businesses access capital, develop and exchange new technologies, and improve business planning, strategy, operations, financial management, personnel administration, marketing, export assistance, sales and other areas required for small business growth and expansion, management improvement, increased productivity and innovation.
SBA Startup Resources