Export Promotion:

U.S. Export Assistance Centers' Efforts to Support U.S. Businesses

T-NSIAD-99-242: Published: Sep 9, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the activities of the U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC), focusing on: (1) USEAC agencies' efforts to improve coordination among federal agencies and nonfederal export service providers; and (2) the challenges USEAC agencies face in their efforts to better meet the needs of the business community--particularly firms that export services and firms that are not yet ready to export.

GAO noted that: (1) agencies participating in the USEACs are making joint calls on prospective clients and sharing information on clients and services, where appropriate; (2) the USEACs have also pursued partnerships with nonfederal export-service providers, including state and local government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations; (3) in many cases, the USEAC agencies have co-located their staff in the same office suite or building with such nonfederal providers; (4) for fiscal year 1998, nearly 20 percent of the export actions reported by USEAC trade specialists mentioned at least one partner as having participated in assisting a firm in exporting a product or service; (5) while coordination among the various entities has improved, USEACs face significant challenges in helping firms that export services; (6) at a time when opportunities for service sector exports are growing, the Department of Commerce's export promotion services are often unavailable or inappropriate for firms that export services--as they were largely designed for firms that export goods; (7) certain USEACs have initiated creative approaches to addressing this issue; (8) for example, one USEAC helped to stage a series of international video conferences through which U.S. architects could gain market intelligence and meet potential clients; (9) USEACs are also helping groups of service exporters in the design services sector (including architectural, engineering, industrial, graphic, and new media design) and the education sector to form consortiums through which they can jointly pursue export business; (10) some USEACs have also used a special partnership program developed by the Small Business Administration to assist enterprises that are not yet ready to export; (11) under this program, USEACs organize federal and nonfederal export-service providers into consortiums that provide firms that are not ready to export with comprehensive export training tailored to the firms' needs; (12) USEACs then offer intensive follow-up counseling to those firms that successfully complete the program; and (13) some firms participating in this program have become customers for USEAC export promotion and finance services and, ultimately, exporters.

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