Revitalizing the American Entrepreneur Exporter

It’s time for America to take back its title as the world’s most successful exporting nation. It begins when US entrepreneurs embrace global trade and accept the inherent challenges – and rewards – by becoming an exporter. As a successful entrepreneur and exporter to 130 countries, let me share with you some advice that will encourage you to consider seriously expanding your distribution to include overseas markets.

It may seem that support for America’s entrepreneurs is languishing. Between high taxes and scarce financing, entrepreneurs are running out of resources in their quest to successfully export products to foreign markets. I suggest the first stop for any entrepreneur seeking to export should be the Export-Import Bank (EX-IM). EX-IM is mandated by Congress to focus on small business, which is why 20 percent of all EX-IM Bank transactions go to small U.S. exporters (imports are not eligible).

A real benefit of working with EX-IM is that they guarantee foreign receivables so that American commercial lenders will accept them as collateral. Without the EX-IM guarantee it is nearly impossible to borrow against your foreign receivables and inventory destined to export markets. Because of the EX-IM guarantee advance rates are also much higher, so they provide the American exporter more working capital. This means that small businesses can purchase new equipment and inventory and hire more employees as they aggressively expand their international sales efforts.

One of EX-IM Bank’s priorities is to bolster the “Made in USA” brand while supporting U.S. jobs. This includes a stipulation that any exporter using EX-IM funds must ensure that at least 51 percent of the material content used in any product originates from U.S. sources.

EX-IM Bank is not only for manufacturers and distributors, but they also work regularly in the service sector, promoting short-term contract agreements for U.S. workers representing construction management, the legal profession, architecture, and general services, for example.

Small business exporters also should be contacting the U.S. Export Assistance Centers and the Commercial Sections of our Embassies overseas. These are an important resource in helping American exporters reach potential customers in every country.

If you’re a newcomer to exporting, the U.S. Government and the private sector are working together on education programs to help new exporters navigate the paperwork and red tape inherent in foreign trade. A good example of this type of program is the Florida District Export Council’s Export University program. Thousands of students have passed through its courses. America will greatly benefit as this program is rolled out nationally.

But passive voices won’t get the US export market moving again. As an entrepreneur you must lend your voice to those who want to see America expand its free trade agreements around the world. Today, the US only has 17 free trade agreements with other countries. Our competitors have dozens of such agreements, giving them free or low tariffs with other countries, making US exports more expensive. At this writing, free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea have been languishing in Congress for years. If these were passed, it is estimated that 500,000 US jobs would be created immediately.

It is important to note that we have a trade surplus with our 17 free trade partners. In those countries without free trade agreements we have a staggering and unsustainable trade deficit.

As an American entrepreneur you have a direct link back to the 18th and 19th century when schooners and clipper ships traversed the globe to open trade routes. You share a passion for wanderlust and a keen sense of natural curiosity of the world that today’s entrepreneurs must embrace even as their forbearers knew that such forays would be accompanied by great risk. We inherently understand that the greater the risk, the greater opportunity to develop new markets and revenue. Trading internationally is a proud US tradition that must be nurtured and promulgated.

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