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Conference promotes trade to improve US economic recovery

Publish Date: Monday, September 28, 2009

Strategies for American economic growth must include trade as a centerpiece, was the message of John Engler, President of the National Association of Manufacturers and keynote speaker at the Trade North America Conference in Detroit on September 9.

At the conference, Engler and U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary Dennis Hightower both spoke about the importance of free trade and the value of trade agreements like NAFTA.

According to the Commercial Service, NAFTA links 444 million people that produce $17 trillion worth of goods and services. Last year, the United States exported more than $400 billion in goods and services to Canada and Mexico.

"The Census Bureau reports that nearly 240,000 small and medium-d U.S. companies exported in 2006.  U.S. small businesses export well over $1 billion a day," Engler said. "NAFTA is the heart of this. Small and medium-d firms are huge beneficiaries of NAFTA: More than 110,000 of these companies export to the NAFTA market, averaging more than $630,000 a piece."
The US Commercial Service organized the conference to teach business leaders about NAFTA and surmounting the hurdles associated with exporting goods and services around the world.
The conference included speeches and multiple sessions from experts about different areas of foreign trade, ranging from customs and regulations to intellectual property.

Tunga Kiyak, outreach coordinator for the International Business Center and managing director of the Academy of International Business, presented education resources offered by Michigan State University during an afternoon session.

Kiyak introduced the group to globalEDGE (, a resource for business people with country information, cultural information and tools to help U.S. businesses be more competitive.
globalEDGE free online modules are available for people to learn the entire exporting process from developing exporting strategies to shipping and trade. The modules were created based on the book "A Basic Guide to Exporting" in cooperation with the U.S. Commercial Service.

Brian Small, a full time MBA student at Michigan State University's Broad Graduate School of Management, worked with the U.S. Commercial Service advising companies as part of a summer internship. In preparation for the conference, he worked with sponsors and provided marketing information.

"The conference was a huge success," Small said. "We had a great turn out and received excellent feedback from participants. The conference was an exceptional opportunity to expose people to resources they may not have known about before and create relationships between service providers and clients."

After his summer with the U.S. Commercial Service, Small joined the Michigan Export Growth Program at MSU. The program, created by the International Business Center, is offering free consulting for businesses interested in international expansion through the Michigan Export Growth Program sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

"The program gives businesses a free resource to run an exhaustive market study on their specific product or service," Small said. "It gives them a unique opportunity to develop an export strategy supported with in-depth research and data. If they don't export now, the Export Growth Program will help their business identify viable export markets and next steps to execute the plan." 

The goal of the program is to foster new economic growth in Michigan by encouraging international expansion. More information about the program can be found online at

"Commerce has an array of tools to help businesses at every point in the cycle-from the birth of an idea, to the standing up of the company with that idea, to finding markets once that idea has been transformed into a product or service," Hightower said.

"But what we have found is that too many of these tools are left on the shelf. As a consequence, many American businesses are missing out on viable opportunities-especially when it comes to accessing foreign markets."