Export Promotion:

Activities of the Commerce Department's District Offices

NSIAD-86-43: Published: Feb 14, 1986. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the mission, activities, and effectiveness of the Department of Commerce's district offices.

GAO noted that: (1) the primary goal of district offices is to assist small firms in developing their export potential; (2) in recent years, district offices have devoted an increased portion of their resources to assisting businesses in complying with export control regulations; and (3) Commerce tracks its success by measuring how many new exports take place as a result of district office counseling and other assistance. GAO found that: (1) district offices were not as effective in influencing businesses to enter new export markets as their reported accomplishments suggested; (2) only 38 percent of the firms surveyed found that export counseling was somewhat influential in making decisions to export in new markets; and (3) there was insufficient control over the accuracy of district office reporting. GAO also found that: (1) district offices tightened controls over reporting and revised the criteria for measuring success in developing new exporters or markets; (2) the firms assisted by the district offices did, for the most part, find the help useful; and (3) although Commerce tries to measure the effectiveness of its export promotion efforts by reporting export accomplishments, it cannot measure the usefulness or value of facilitating exports to established markets.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The survey was completed as of November 1989. A total of 960 firms were surveyed in which 217 returned responses. The data was used to support the December 1989 Strategic Review of US&FCS services.

    Recommendation: To better evaluate the United States and Foreign Commercial Service's (US&FCS) contributions in developing new exporters and new markets and the value of its export facilitation assistance, the Director General, US&FCS, should periodically survey the businesses that are helped by the district offices to obtain their perceptions of the value of the services received.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: International Trade Administration: United States and Foreign Commercial Service


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