The International Trade Web Site
For importers and exporters, the World Wide Web lives up to its name
It's a global economy, and somewhere out there are people who want -- and need -- what you make or do. Helping you find them is the business of the International Trade Web site (www.business.gov/Trade.html), a subset of the U.S. Business Advisor Web site.
This site of sites is not fancy, nor is it purely devoted to small business. And some of the material it gets you isn't exactly beach reading. But the relevant Small Business Administration pages are clearly identified, with the SBA's "Common Questions for Trade Finance" (http://www.sba.gov/OIT/) featured right near the top.
That gets you to the page of the SBA's Office of International Trade, which has layers and layers of links, like a seemingly bottomless set of Russian nesting dolls. But it's a good starting place. You'll find some of the categories are also listed directly on the International Trade Web site. One that's on the SBA's OIT and the International Trade pages is the "Are You a New-To-Export Small Business?" listing. Click on it and you get, among other listings, a directory of U.S. Export Assistance Centers, complete with contact names, addresses, and phone numbers. This page also has a link to information on SBA international trade assistance programs. Under the latter, click on "Export Working Capital Program" and get the details on eligibility for aid, amount of loan requests, and loan terms.
Also check out the link to the U.S. Commerce Dept.'s "Global Export Market Information System" (http://www.itaiep.doc.gov), which has regional information packages. For example, "Bisnis," which stands for Business Information for the Newly Independent States (of the former Soviet Union) has U.S. embassy reports on the region, including cable archives with calls for tenders for equipment and other goods. It also has such unexotic, but indisputably handy information as an updated list of U.S. flagged shippers and freight forwarders serving the region.
Then there's the "NAFTA Home Page" (http://www.itaiep.doc.gov/nafta/nafta2.htm), which says its "mandate is to assist U.S. companies, especially small and mid-sized, who are having difficulty doing business with Mexico and Canada." Click on the linked text "Facing trade barriers? Playing field not level? Our new Center is the place for YOU!" That opens up the Commerce Dept.'s Trade Compliance Center, which tells you how to report a trade complaint and also lists U.S. trade treaties with its partners, in exhaustive detail.
Back at the International Trade main page, "Common Questions for U.S. Customs" will get you through to the nuts and bolts of customs rules, (http://www.customs.ustreas.gov/imp-exp1/index.htm) from instructions on filling out export declarations to trade statistics to customs office locations.
By Julia Lichtblau in New York