U.S. Trade and Development Agency:

Limitations Exist in Its Ability to Help Generate U.S. Exports

GGD-94-9: Published: Oct 20, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (TDA), focusing on: (1) whether TDA activities increase U.S. exports; (2) the factors that affect TDA ability to generate U.S. exports; and (3) five other countries' major development projects abroad that increase their exports.

GAO found that: (1) since 1980, over 850 firms have participated in various TDA project planning activities that have generated $3.8 billion in exports; (2) most TDA major development projects have not generated any U.S. exports or have produced fewer exports than originally anticipated; (3) TDA cannot accurately forecast if major development projects have the potential to produce U.S. exports because of the lack of specific export information; (4) TDA believes that many projects will produce more exports in later phases; (5) some government and private officials believe TDA activities are successful even if they do not directly produce exports because they foster relationships within foreign countries; (6) TDA is improving its project management by enhancing data collection and performing program audits more frequently; (7) factors that limit TDA ability to generate exports include its limited and indirect role in the project development process, changes in international political and market conditions, and its dependence on other U.S. agencies for services; (8) the federal government has established the Trade Promotion Coordination Committee to improve export promotion agency coordination; (9) TDA is expanding its project planning activities to include elements of the architectural and engineering design phase; and (10) the five countries reviewed use their foreign aid resources to fund major development projects, have a more integrated approach to identifying and funding projects, and use proactive strategies to foster commercial benefits.

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