In recent weeks, Washington Post Live held three forums on exporting – in Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Several hundred small business owners attended and asked questions of experts who told them how to go about selling overseas. The “Made in America” brand is strong, many speakers said, talking about the millions of potential buyers living beyond U.S. borders. Resources to help reaching them are available at the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Services offices, the Export-Import Bank, and the Small Business Association, along with state and local international trade offices. Mayors and governors are increasingly heading up trade missions bringing U.S. business owners selling everything from cars to basketballs to mascara abroad. The growing number of free trade agreements, including the most recent accords with Panama, Colombia and Korea, make it easier and cheaper to sell to consumers in those countries. Currently the overwhelming amount of exports out of the United States are headed to Mexico and Canada, but the trend is to send more goods farther afield. A company located, for example, in Cleveland, Ohio, just needs a website to showcase their goods in Indonesia, Australia or anywhere with an internet connection. In fact, several business leaders in these three cities said their export business began when an overseas caller who found their website, called and said they were interested in buying.
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