Export Promotion:

Government Agencies Should Combine Small Business Export Training Programs

GAO-01-1023: Published: Sep 21, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 2001.

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The Export Enhancement Act of 1992 created the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee to coordinate the delivery of federal export promotion services and to eliminate the areas of overlap and duplication among federal export promotion programs. The Export Enhancement Act of 1999 reiterated that eliminating duplication was a primary objective. In 1993, Congress recommended that three agencies co-locate their staffs at a domestic network of 19 "one-stop shops" called U.S. Export Assistance Centers. These centers were to provide coordinated export training, as well as trade leads, export finance, and counseling to U.S. firms interested in becoming exporters. GAO found that the Department of Commerce did not coordinate closely with the Small Business Administration in introducing its export training program. As a result, Commerce and the SBA provide separate and duplicative training programs for potential small business exporters. Neither Commerce nor SBA systematically collect outcome data for their export training programs. Instead, both agencies track the number of clients trained and Commerce identifies export successes for its clients overall, but not for training participants. Staff at Commerce and SBA do not systematically follow up with training participants to learn whether they have exported, the difficulties they encountered, and how training programs might need to be adjusted to be more helpful.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary of Commerce, as Chairman of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, stated in his June 19, 2002 letter, that the Commerce and Small Business Administration export training programs had been combined, as recommended by the report. He also stated that Commerce is now conducting regular follow-up surveys of export training participants to learn whether they become active exporters, and to gather suggestions for improving the training program, as recommended by the report.

    Recommendation: The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee should eliminate duplication of export training services by determining the best way to combine the SBA's and Commerce's export training programs delivered by the U.S. Export Assistance Center's (USEAC). In addition the USEAC's systematically follow up on new-to-export training participants as part of an effort to consider the training needs of small businesses in order to make program adjustments.

    Agency Affected: Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee


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