The month of May is widely celebrated across the United States as “World Trade Month”. National Small Business Week (May 12-16) seems an appropriate time to highlight some of the international trading resources that are available to support companies to do business internationally.

Rule # 1: Know Your International Destination

Country Commercial Guides prepared by the US Commercial Service to assist US businesses are excellent places to start. They provide a good overview for anyone, anywhere who is interested in a particular country. There is a guide for every country – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, except the United States.

For that information, a starting point is the BBC Country Profiles. They provide a more general but important overview of most countries, including the United States.

Most countries, even the poorest, have an Investment Promotion or Investment Support agency to attract and support investments in the country. Their purpose is to tell you why you should do business in that country and so will focus on its most positive attributes. More importantly, this will be a good source of information about incentive programs that may be available to you. The World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies provides a listing with links to its member agencies.

Here is a handy link to investment promotion agencies across Europe.

For those interested in doing business in the United States, that information is available at the level of the states! SelectUSA.gov provides a handy link to each state’s investment promotion office and incentive programs. Some states maintain their own overseas presence in key countries, as well.

Resources for Exporters

Some countries, notably the major economies, have dedicated resources to support exporters. This is not surprising as the export of goods and services generates the revenue that a country needs to pay for its imports. Your country’s trade and investment agency is also a good source for this information. Or you may want to try the agency or department that supports commerce.

In the United States

Under the Obama Administration’s U.S. National Export Initiative, the United States has made increasing exports, in particular in a revitalized manufacturing sector, a top priority. Export.Gov provides a one-stop shop for US exporters.

Resources for Importers

Importers of goods need guidance that is very specific to the good being imported, its country of origin and intended destination. For that you need a customs broker and/or customs attorney. But here are some overview guidelines. The US Commercial Service Country Guides contain chapters on each country’s trade regulations, including customs.

EU Export HelpDesk focus on developing country requirements, but provides a one-stop shop for those interested in accessing the EU market.

For importing into the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency provides a Guide for Commercial Importers. Or you can contact me for assistance.