Trade Point USA has begun operating its I-TRADE System - an Internet-based clearinghouse of trade information, trade products and services.

The I-TRADE (International Trade Resource and Data Exchange) System, will let new and experienced traders tap into private and public sector sources of information as well as obtain referrals for qualified providers of trade support services.Users, for example, will be able to obtain market analyses so they can identify foreign markets and get the information they need to make decisions about financing, risk management and transportation.

The service also will help them find trading partners, negotiate a transaction and ship or receive goods.

"We believe that the development of the Trade Point system is contributing significantly to the progress the world is making toward a truly global economy . . . an economy in which having access to accurate and timely trade information, split-second communications, advanced computer technology and the Internet can level the playing field for small and medium-size companies," Randy Smith, director of Trade Point USA, said in a prepared release. "The products and services provided within I-TRADE are a giant step in this direction."

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Trade Point USA is a nonprofit trade information organization set up in cooperation with the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development. It is part of the Global Trade Point Network, which was launched in 1992 as part of a United Nations program meant to increase the efficiency of international trade.

The worldwide network of organizations shares trade leads, regulatory information and service listings. The goal is to encourage the growth of international trade by providing small and medium-size companies with the tools they need to compete in the global marketplace, using the latest information and telecommunications technologies, such as the Internet.