New York City is undoubtedly one of the most important centers of international trade in the world. Every day, all kinds of consumer goods, commodities and professional services are exported and imported by New York City companies and through the metropolitan area's air- and seaports. Statistics on this activity are available in the International Trade chapter of NYCdata compiled by the Weissman Center for International Business, Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. In order to succeed in this complex arena of business, one must be well informed and prepared for many situations. The Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) either has or can bring one into contact with the resources and programs which one needs to research potential international business opportunities. These resources include:
- handbooks about exporting and importing
- directories of companies in the United States and around the world
- industry sector and market research databases for the United States and foreign countries
- electronic indexes to articles published in current periodicals covering business and industry in specific countries, trends in specific industries and issues in international trade in general
- trade statistics issued by the United States, many foreign countries and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and OECD
- the USA Trade Online database of U.S. export/import data produced by the U.S. Census Bureau
- government sponsored export promotion programs
- foreign trade commissions located in and around New York City
They can be categorized into a number of areas such as general background information, market research and country information, regulations, business leads and contacts, shipping and logistics, finance and assistance organizations. On the following pages you will find such resources arranged by topic to help you answer many of the frequently asked questions in the field of international business. These guides are not exhaustive, so please visit the Science, Industry and Business Library for further assistance in finding the information you need.
International Trade Basics
If you are contemplating starting an international business venture, for instance, by exporting or importing a product or service, you may want to read some general works discussing the potential profits and pitfalls of conducting international business. SIBL holds a number of basic guides and handbooks. These include:
To find other similar titles in the library’s collection, browse the reference shelves in *R-SIBL HF1416 or the circulating collection in 658.8 or 658.84. Search the following subject headings in the online catalog:
- Export marketing
- International trade
- International business enterprises
On the internet, the following sites discuss issues involved in exporting:
- A Basic Guide to Exporting (Produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce)
- Export.gov - The official U.S. Department of Commerce export portal includes a section on basic export education.
- SBA Guide to Exporting
Foreign Market Research and Trade Statistics
In order to sell a product or service, there must be consumers who want to buy it. Market research will help you determine how likely you are to find buyers for your product or service. Market research can help you find the largest or fastest growing markets for your product or service, and market trends, outlook, and practices in a particular place.
Industry Sector and Market Research Resources
Research data on U.S. consumer markets is often difficult to find; market research reports are expensive and most often not available in a public library. Foreign consumer market data is even harder to come by. Industry sector reports for the United States and foreign countries are more readily available. Several of the electronic resources at SIBL can help:
- Mintel Oxygen Academic
Research reports on the U.S. consumer market useful for those who are interested in importing foreign consumer products.
- First Research
U.S. industry sector reports which include past and current financial performance, trends and forecasting, and industry ratios.
- Plunkett Research Online
Company profiles and industry sector analisys for the United States.
U.S., China and global industry sector reports including current financial performance, future outlook and risk analysis.
- Country Commercial Guides
U.S. Commercial Service reports on risks, opportunities and trade barriers in many countries of the world.
- Business Monitor Online (BMI)
Research reports on over 175 global markets focusing on major industry sectors. Includes political, economic and business environment risk reports and SWOT analysis for each market.
- Economist Intelligence Unit Country Reports
Offers quarterly reports about the economic and political situation of almost every country.
- Emerging Markets - Internet Securities
Offers extensive current news, economic, industry, and financial information on many emerging market countries such as Brazil, Czech Republic, India and Vietnam.
Searchable full-text and abstracting resource provides global content, including Dow Jones and Reuters newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Includes multilingual content covering 8,000 publications from 118 countries in 22 languages. Sources include general business and industry publications, newspapers, trade journals, newswires, company reports, radio and television transcripts, and images.
- Business Source Premier
Index of articles published in close to 2,500 business periodicals. Includes MarketLine industry profile reports for the United States and foreign countries.
- Top Markets
U.S. International Trade Administration site which identifies the best foreign markets for a variety of industry sectors such as industrial automation and renewable energy.
Trade Statistics Resources
In addition to market research reports, export and import trade statistical data of particular products and commodities can yield information about the potential of a target market. Researching the export/import statistics for your product or commodity also provides hard data for use in drafting a business plan if you intend to seek financing from a bank or other source.
The Science, Industry, and Business Library offers access to three electronic databases of export/import statistical information produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. They are available by reserving a workstation in the Electronic Information Center at SIBL. These databases are:
- USA Trade Online
A product of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the detailed statistical data found within this database is current and will help you to determine how much of your product is either being exported from the United States and to where or from where the product is being imported into the United States. Reports can be created based on commodity and time period and can be further limited by foreign country, U.S. port and can be ranked by decreasing value. Reports either can be printed or exported to a spreadsheet.
- U.S. Exports of Merchandise
- U.S. Imports of Merchandise
Export and import commodities are often categorized in these databases by Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number. These numbers are the most precise way of identifying your product. While it is possible to search for a product by key word, it is often more precise and efficient to use the HTS number. You can find these in print in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (available in the library) and on the Internet from the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Other freely accessible trade data products on the web include-
- Trade Stats Express
U.S. International Trade Administration database of U.S. national export and import data and U.S. state level export data updated regularly either quarterly or annually.
- UN Comtrade
United Nations database of trade between member countries.
Monthly report of the U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The full report is available in a variety of file formats or can also be accessed by individual chapters, or Individual Exhibits, such as U.S. Services by Major Category-Exports and Exports and Imports of Goods by Principal End-Use Category. An historical archive of the reports are available back to the early 1990s. Click on Country/Product Data at the top of the page for other more specific reports.
Country-specific Information and Statistics
Many of the world's most respected publications containing the most current country information are well represented in SIBL's collections. One example of such a title is:
On the web, the International Trade Data System site maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury provides links to many country specific publications issued by various U.S. federal agencies including the CIA World Factbook, the State Department's Background Notes and the Commerce Department's Country Commercial Guides for selected countries. The CIA World Factbook and the Background Notes are directly available from:
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a United States federal agency, maintains a page called the Investor's Information Gateway which includes many of the same federal government links above plus others from sources such as the OECD and the World Bank grouped into 20 different categories. OPIC is an agency which focuses on expanding American investment into approximately 150 developing nations.
The GlobalEDGE site maintained by Michigan State University's Center for International Business Education and Research provides links to many excellent sources of country-specific business information.
The United Nations publishes their member countries' annual trade statistics in the International Trade Statistics Yearbook.
With documents obtained from the World Bank Group and other foreign investment promotion agencies, the Investment Promotion Network (IPAnet) provides "free access to online foreign investment and privatization resources" which include reports covering country-specific economic conditions, investment-related laws, product markets and industry sectors. In addition, its directories provide contact information to over 30,000 organizations and individuals active in foreign investment.
Many countries make their national statistics available online. Both the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics provide links to the central statistical offices of many countries.
Finding Trade Leads and Business Contacts
Once you have decided that there is a market for your product or service, you must then find actual buyers. Methods of identifying buyers include trade shows, trade missions, direct mail campaigns, and advertising. You may eventually need an in-country presence through a representative or distributor. Exporters may eventually need an in-country presence in their foreign market through a representative or distributor. The library can assist you in locating business leads and contacts.
There are many trade shows, both in the U.S. and abroad, where buyers and sellers can come together to discuss business, and sellers can display their wares. There are sites on the web that can help you find trade shows, among them the Federation of International Trade Associations, www.tsnn.com and the U.S. Commmercial Service's Export.gov site.
- Business USA - U.S. Government website for general business information which includes a current database of international trade leads.
- FI TA Tradehub – The Federation of International Trade Associations’ directory of purchase tenders from worldwide customers. Requires login to view this database.
SIBL subscribes to some online directory databases that can help to locate business contacts abroad.
- Directory of American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries (merged into Uniworld)
- Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States (merged into Uniworld) - Formerly two separate databases, both were merged into Uniworld which is a directory of U.S. companies with locations in foreign countries and foreign companies with offices in the United States.
- D&B (Dun & Bradstreet) Million Dollar Directory - Database of major U.S. and foreign companies.
- OneSource (within Reference USA) - Use the "build a list" link in the Companies search field.
- Emerging Markets - Internet Securities (EMIS) - Reports on the finances and macroeconomic conditions of emerging market economies. Includes a company search by industry sector and keyword.
- Europages - Free, online directory of companies in Europe.
International Sales Contract Basics, Terms of Sale and Methods of Payment
International trade means that business is transacted between vendors and customers located in different countries with their respective differences in law. The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) governs all contracts for the international sale of goods between parties whose principal places of business are located in the United States and other countries participating in the convention. The CISG has been adopted by most nations with developed economies and currently applies to two-thirds of all world trade.
There are a number of books covering international sales contracts such as-
- ICC Model International Sales Contract
*R-SIBL K1030.4.I33 2013
- A Short Course on International Contracts: Drafting the International Sale Contract: For Attorneys and Non-Attorneys
- *R-SIBL KF915.Z9.S53
A proper international sales contract should also clearly state the agreed upon terms of sale, that is, the point at which the title to the goods and the financial responsibility thereof devolve from the vendor to the customer. Such terms are usually specified by the use of Incoterms such as EXW, FAS, FOB, CFR, CIF, etc. the definitions of which can be found in Incoterms 2000 published by the International Chamber of Commerce. Online, an explanation of Incoterms can also be found at http://www.i-b-t.net/incoterms.html and http://www.unzco.com/basicguide/c11.html#Terms.
Methods of payment are also spelled out in the contract whether the customer agrees to pay by open account, letter of credit or payment in advance which are the most common terms of payment. This is normally arranged through your own commercial banker, however, it is important to understand all the various accepted and customary methods of payment for international business transactions. The online A Basic Guide to Exporting contains a chapter on Methods of Payment. A letter of credit, often abbreviated as L/C, is the most frequently used method of payment between international buyers and sellers especially if there is no prior history of transactions between the two parties. According to the site, it is a “document issued by a bank … stating its commitment to pay someone a stated amount of money on behalf of a buyer so long as the seller meets very specific terms and conditions. Letters of credit are more formally known as "documentary letters of credit.” Other less common methods of payment include documentary collections, open account and payment in advance.
Some of the library’s reference titles include:
- ICC Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits
- Letters of Credit
- The Law of Letters of Credit: Commercial and Standby Credits
- Letters of Credit
- Standby and Commercial Letters of Credit
International Trade Regulations
When conducting business between the United States and another country, you most likely will have to contend with a multitude of national tariffs, regulations, and documentation requirements of both countries.
Generally speaking, if you are the exporter, you are responsible for shipping your product abroad by employing the services of a freight forwarder. It is the responsibility of your customer, the importer, to deal with import regulations and paying any customs duty in the import country. He or she usually employs the services of a customs broker to handle these details. However, if you are exporting a product sensitive to national security, it is your responsibility to be aware of any U.S. export restrictions. Furthermore, despite the fact that it is not usual for the exporter to be liable for import regulations, it would not be a bad idea to be aware of them for your intended export country.
Finding import regulations of foreign countries is often quite difficult to uncover, however, SIBL holds a limited number of resources. There are also some official and unoffical websites that cover this area as well as U.S. export regulations.
- The U.S. Department of State’s Country Commercial Guides issued for every country with which the United States trades contain a section titled “trade regulations and standards” highlighting trade restrictions peculiar to that country.
- Information about export documents, licenses and requirements can be found on the Bureau of Industry and Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection sites.
- The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection online database for filing Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) information.
- Trading with free trade agreement countries, such as Canada, Mexico and South Korea, is detailed on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site.
As an importer you are responsible for knowing all about U.S. import regulations and customs duty. An experienced customs broker can help immensely with this task. See the next chapter on Shipping and Logistics for information about finding customs brokers.
- General information about U.S. trade regulations can be found at the website of the U.S. Customs & Border Protection.
- Importing into the United States: A Guide for Commercial Importers – Published by the U.S. Customs Service.
- Customs regulations are found in Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) both in print in the library’s reference collection and online in the eCFR site.
- Import duties are determined by consulting the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) which is available in print in SIBL’s reference collection and online on the HTS section of the United States International Trade Commission site.
Shipping and Logistics
When exporting or importing, you will likely need the assistance of third parties to help you complete your business transaction. They have experience in shipping to and dealing with officials and agents in your intended import country.
The process of actually moving your goods overseas can be quite complicated. You must be concerned with packing, labeling, documentation, insurance, foreign and, sometimes, domestic regulations. Freight forwarders can help with all this and determine the most economical means of shipment, whether by land, air or sea. While you should understand the logistics of export or import, you will almost certainly need the services of a freight forwarder who will handle most of the details for you.
Once your shipment has arrived in the port of entry, the services of a customs broker are necessary, but not mandatory, to get them through customs by handling the necessary paperwork, documentation, payment of duty, etc.
Your local chamber of commerce, trade associations, international departments of banks or an international trade specialist can help direct you to reputable freight forwarders or customs brokers. As a start, you can also consult several directories available at the library:
- Membership Directory (National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America) *R-SIBL HJ6685.N36a
International Trade Finance
If you are a businessperson, you probably already have a relationship with a commercial bank which should be the first source of financing you use. The New York Small Business Resource Center’s Business Owner's Manual has a general section on financing, which is also applicable to financing an import or export business. Listed below are a few Internet sources which may be of particular interest to an exporter:
- SBA Export Loan Guarantee Programs
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers loan guarantees through participating financial institutions of $1,000,000 or less. SBA Export Express loans are also available for amounts $500,000 and less with a quicker application turn-around time.
- Export-import Bank of the United States offers loan programs for amounts greater than approximately $2,000,000.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce’s export.gov portal provides a full listing of these two programs in addition to other United States financing schemes.
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) or your local Small Business Development Center can provide further information and counseling about these and other export/import finance programs. The U.S. Export Assistance Center is available for information and counseling about these and other export finance opportunities.
New York State Empire State Development occasionnally offer State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grants to small- and medium-sized businesses for a variety of applications such as to pay for airfare and other related fees to attend trade shows in foreign countries, upgrade their website, translation sevices, etc.
International Trade Assistance Resources
There are many New York City area and U.S. Government assistance programs that exist to help the small businessperson cultivate his or her international business venture.
New York City Area Organizations
SCORE, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, brings volunteer business executives together with entrepreneurs and small business people in order to give them guidance and advice about their small businesses. The New York City chapter can help you with all types of international business matters such as determining fertile markets for your product or service, finding business partners and distributors in foreign markets, or finding financing for your business venture. In addition to one-on-one counseling, SCORE offers programs and seminars, many of which are related to international trade. SCORE representatives are available at the Science, Industry and Business Library for one hour counseling sessions by appointment Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday-Thursday 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. They can be reached at the library at 212-592-7033 during the above business hours. SCORE can also be contacted at their central New York location: 26 Federal Plaza (Duane St. at Broadway), Room 3100, New York, NY 10278. Tel: 212-264-4507.
New York City U.S. Export Assistance Center of the U.S. Commercial Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, offers a wide range of one-on-one counseling services helping businesses to export their products and services. They can help identify foreign markets, put you in touch with foreign distributors, agents, and importers, lead you to SBA and Export-Import Bank financing and offer other kinds of general support. The New York office is located at 20 Exchange Place, 40th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Tel: 212-809-2675.
Office of the Mayor of the City of New York, Division for International Business – Promotes New York City as a location for international business concerns.
Empire State Development – Offers, among other services, export marketing counseling for either entering or expanding in foreign markets. Offices are located in New York City, throughout New York State and abroad in Brazil, Chile, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and Japan.
NEXCO – Hosts many international trade workshops and conferences in New York for international trade professionals.
Baruch College Weissman Center for International Business – Sponsors numerous programs, conferences and forums on topics relating to global economics and international trade.
New York City Business Solutions - While not intended specifically for international trade assistance, this city agency includes a listing of local, state, federal and nonprofit Import/Export Trade Resources
U.S. Government and other Organizations' Resources
SBA Office of International Trade – The international trade advisory service division of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
U.S. Trade Information Center – Maintained by the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, it is intended as a directory of resources to answer the frequently asked questions regarding export such as documentation, regulations, country information, market research, trade events, freight forwarders, assistance programs, etc.
www.export.gov - The official international trade portal created by the U.S. Department of Commerce with many links to materials produced by other U.S. Government agencies related to exporting.
BuyUSA.gov – United States Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce site to promote the export of U.S. products and services. Includes “Doing Business in…” guide for each country.
U.S. International Trade Administration – The international trade promotion division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
U.S. Trade and Development Agency – Fosters U.S. commercial involvement in developing countries and works to improve the infrastructure and business trading environment in those countries.
Foreign Trade Commissioners Association in New York - An alliance of national foreign trade representatives located in the New York City region which promotes trade between the United States and their respective countries.
GlobalEDGE – Michigan State University’s Center for International Business Education and Research portal for international trade research.
Federation of International Trade Associations – Features a regularly updated list of useful websites for international trade professionals.
United States Council for International Business – Represents the interests of American businesspersons to the U.S. Government, United Nations, and European Union among other international bodies.
Business Council for International Understanding – Sponsors programs to encourage dialogue between U.S. business interests and the U.S. and foreign governments.
World Chambers Network – Features an online directory of local chambers of commerce worldwide
International Chamber of Commerce – International body working to increase international trade and job creation.
World Trade Centers Association On-Line – Network of World Trade Centers in place to help business people expand their businesses globally.
Organization of Women in International Trade – Networking organization for women and men doing business in all facets of international trade.
U.S.-China Business Council – With offices in Washington, DC, Beijing and Shanghai, this non-profit organization represents the interests of established U.S. corporations as well as small- and medium-sized companies currently operating in China or intending to enter the Chinese market. Also provides tailored business advisory services along with industry and market research.
Hong Kong Trade Development Council – “The global marketing arm and public service hub for Hong Kong-based manufacturers, traders and service exporters”. Their “activities are especially geared to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the chief drivers of Hong Kong’s trade”.
JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) – A Japanese government organization “that promotes mutually beneficial investment and trade relations between Japan and other nations”.
Trans-Atlantic Business Council – Represents the interests of EU and U.S. companies in transatlantic trade issues.
Central European Business Association - New York based organization which promotes "the mutual advancement of professionals and students interested in economic and business developments taking place in Central Europe".