U.S. Helps Join Sellers, Buyers in Export Market
Given the quality and the global acceptability of most American goods and products, the United States ought to rank as the world’s leading exporter.
In reality, the U.S. export performance is dismal when compared to that of Japan and Germany and even some Third World countries, says C. Carmon Stiles, director of the Southwest division of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce.
Stiles said his agency can help small and medium-size companies explore their potential in the lucrative export market, even to finding a “buyer-seller” match.
Balance of Trade
Stiles notes the balance of trade is worsening as U.S. imports keep rising, other countries erect stiffer trade barriers against American goods, a strong dollar makes U.S. goods dearer overseas and more subsidized foreign goods are dumped here.
The U.S. trade deficit is running well over $120 billion annually and the forecast is for the gap to get even wider as more Third World countries attract American investments with their cheap labor.
U.S. trade laws restrict barriers in this country to counter in equal measure those of its trading competitors.
“Americans are not natural world traders,” Stiles said. “Besides, ours is not a country like Japan whose survival depends on exports.”
Stiles said 20% of companies in the Fortune 500 account for 80% of American exports. That means thousands of other American companies haven’t even thought of entering the export market.
The United States can practically wipe out unemployment with a major push toward export, Stiles said. It has been calculated that every billion dollars of U.S. exports creates 32,000 new U.S. jobs.
“Export is critical to the continuation of a sound U.S. economy. Without exports we risk higher inflation, we risk more dollars going abroad and above all we risk losing our jobs to other countries.”
Stiles said the reluctance of U.S. companies to go abroad stems in part from inadequate knowledge of other cultures and political systems while foreign competitors are thorough in their homework on trading partners.
“For an American company, especially the small ones, the domestic market is so big and so well understood they do not wish to invest time and money outside,” he said.
Here is where Foreign and Commercial Service can help.
Stiles said he receives “dozens and dozens of telex messages from all over the world interested in setting up joint ventures.”
In addition to the department’s computer data it has access to U.S. embassies worldwide. “We will even do a historical report on a foreign company and tell our local companies exactly whom they are dealing with,” he said.
The department will visit a company that wants to export and advise it on any matter relating to export.
“We work on a continuing basis, almost like a government consultant to small companies,” Stiles said. “They are paying for this service (with tax dollars) whether or not they take advantage of it.”
Despite the high value of the dollar, Stiles said, there is a specific market for many U.S. products.
“Especially so in high technology where we are very competitive even with the high currency rates,” he said.
The match-making helps an exporter cross the initial hurdle by saving a great deal of time, money and frustration in locating a buyer. Once the match is made, the seller travels to that country and begins negotiations.
Stiles said his deparment is “ready to bend over backward” to help the export effort but stressed that state and city governments, trade associations and chambers of commerce must join the effort in identifying the local export interest.