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Strategic Alliances Help U.S. Firms Export

Partnerships between the Department of Commerce and the private sector are helping small and medium-sized companies to export. Here is a look at how one of these partnerships, with Federal Express, is working.

The federal government provides a wide range of services to help both existing exporters and companies wishing to export. These services include information, matchmaking, financing, problem-solving, and an international network of trade specialists. But getting the word out about these resources can be a daunting challenge. It was in an effort to respond to this challenge that two years ago the Commerce Department began a series of partnerships with private-sector enterprises. The partnerships were seen as an additional, way of reaching out to a wider universe of potential and existing exporters. These efforts are now beginning to bear fruit, as new clients are made aware of the U.S. government resources that are available to them.

Who are these private-sector partners? They include a diverse group of companies with which the Commerce Department has not traditionally engaged, such as delivery companies, banks, Web-based marketplaces, publishers, and trade associations. So far, agreements with the Commerce Department have been signed with Federal Express, the National Association of Manufacturers, PNC Bank, and eBay.

Each of these partnerships is based upon a number of core principles that are consistent with the department’s mission: the recognition of the importance of exporting in today’s global economy, a desire to harness the export potential of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses, and a commitment to market the export resources of the Commerce Department to the private-sector partners’ clients.

The Federal Express Experience

One of the private-sector partners, Federal Express, was chosen in May 2004, after submitting a bid under a zero-dollar open procurement that was advertised through Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), the federal government’s online procurement service. The company was chosen because of its existing client base, its international focus, and its ability to reach out to small and medium-sized businesses.

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Screenshot of FedEx Web site

Under the agreement, Federal Express is obligated to market the programs and services of the Commerce Department’s export promotion unit, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, at no cost to the agency. The Commerce Department is not authorized to market Federal Express or its products.

Already, a number of marketing initiatives have been put in place by Federal Express. These include:

Outreach events. In 2005, some 75 Commercial Service client outreach events were supported by Federal Express. Select Federal Express clients that are currently exporters or wish to begin exporting are referred to the Commercial Service’s USA Trade Promotion Client Development Unit for follow-up. Since the start of the partnership, over 120 marketing events have been staged, with more than 9,000 participants.

Communication and marketing. In 2005, Federal Express’ International eNewsletter, sent to almost 120,000 international shippers, promoted Commercial Service programs in several countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, and the United States. Each issue of the newsletter now prominently features links to the Commercial Service’s Web sites and services.

• Training and education. More than 4,300 Federal Express employees have been educated on the values of the partnership and how the Commercial Service can assist companies in developing their export business.

The Bottom Line: Better Outreach

By leveraging the unique strengths of both parties, these partnerships have enhanced the Commerce Department’s export assistance efforts in a number of critical ways. First, the partners are bringing exporters, who may have been otherwise unaware of such services, to the U.S. government. Second, they raise the visibility of exporting as a business development strategy, thereby encouraging companies that could export but have not yet started to do so. Third, by using the sophisticated marketing and advertising capabilities of the private-sector partners, they amplify the outreach efforts of the Commerce Department.

The most important outcome of these partnerships, though, is that the shared client—the exporter—now has improved access to opportunities and services. This is clearly a winning situation for all.

For More Information

For more information about the partnership between the Commerce Department and Federal Express, visit and

The Numbers of Exporting

97% — the percentage of U.S. exporters that are small and medium-sized firms

95% — the percentage of the world’s consumers who are outside of the United States

66% — the percentage of U.S. exporters selling to only one market