The Commerce Department and the American Association of Port Authorities will combine forces to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to increase exports, Courtney Gregoire, director of the National Export Initiative, told officials on Tuesday.
Under the program, ports will work with NEI to improve and expand their export promotion activities. Gregoire said the department will also include ports in overseas trade missions in the future.
Gregoire said ports' assistance is critical in helping prospective exporters find markets, financing and risk mitigation for foreign sales.
The program will be modeled after the Trade Connect program that Commerce has been running with the port of Los Angeles for five years.
Geraldine Knatz, the port's executive director, called Trade Connect a "Trade 101" for small and medium businesses. The port conducts half-day workshops to explain the mechanics of exporting, with follow-up by the port's marketing staff.
Knatz said the program has focused on exports of California products. For example, companies have found new markets in India for California wines, and in China for organic foods and frozen French fries.
Gregoire said the new initiative will be similar to one the government formed last year with Fedex, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service to promote exports among small and medium businesses.
U.S. exports grew 17 percent over 2009, Gregoire told AAPA members at the group's spring conference. She said that for the first time exports contributed an equal share to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product as domestic production.
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