Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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How to Localize Export Stories

January 19, 2017

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“Berlin” by Pixabay user “LoboStudioHamburg” attribution Creative Commons CC0
“Berlin” by Pixabay user “LoboStudioHamburg” attribution Creative Commons CC0
It’s not just large corporations that export their goods overseas; business reporters can look into the trade issues within their own communities. (“Berlin” by Pixabay user “LoboStudioHamburg” attribution Creative Commons CC0)

Conversation about U.S. exports generally centers on large multinationals such as car manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. But according to the International Trade Administration, small exporting firms account for 98 percent of all exporting firms and 34 percent of U.S. exporting value. Which means there’s likely to be a business story on exporting in your own community. Here are some of the hot topics to pursue on a local level.

Exchange rates

The U.S. dollar is at its strongest in 30 years relative to other major international currencies. But this also makes U.S. exports more expensive for other countries whose currency is weaker. Are local companies exporting less and instead selling their goods domestically? Are they scaling back on manufacturing? Do experts predict that the U.S. dollar will remain strong this year? What will that mean for exporters?

Customs issues

The rules of importing and exporting goods can be complex, so how do local firms handle these issues? Do they use a customs broker and are there any in your area who could give you an insider’s perspective on that process?

Cultural awareness

Smart businesses know that what works in the U.S. may not work elsewhere. How do companies in your area adapt their messaging or product offerings for international audiences? Are there consultants in your area that help with this process?

Tariff backlash

If the new administration remains firm in its resolve to hit Mexican and Chinese imports with large tariffs, a trade war could ensue, with U.S. companies the unintended victims. It’s worth asking businesses that export to these countries if they are preparing for such a backlash.

Resources for Reporters

Chambers of Commerce Your local Chamber may be able to connect you to companies in the community grappling with these issues. The Chamber or your city may also offer workshops on exporting and other issues. Or they may have a list of resources available to companies that plan to expand internationally. This government website has a database of U.S. goods exporting by company size, market and location. It’s searchable by state and ZIP code, among other criteria.

International Trade Administration Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, this bureau has data available by industry along with  information on trade policies, exporting and more.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection This website has a wealth of information on rules on for importing and exporting goods.

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