My View: International trade makes more sense than ever in S. Fla.


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While the U.S. economy is still on uncertain footing with slow to uneven growth, South Florida businesses can look to outperform the national trend by expanding internationally. Global logistics providers coupled with the explosion of e-commerce have put the goal of worldwide trade within reach, especially for small to medium-sized businesses that can now compete like never before. There are also numerous federal, state and local support programs in place that make the task of going global easier, faster and more rewarding.

The case has been well-made for U.S. businesses to expand beyond their borders by looking to the so-called BRICM nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico – which continue to experience tremendous economic growth. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund has identified as many as 150 emerging markets that are on the cusp of similar economic upswings.

U.S. business development agencies and organizations have implemented comprehensive programs to help American businesses better target these rapidly emerging international markets. Many of their resources are specifically targeted to SMEs because of the enormous benefit they reap from international trade. As illustrated in an in-depth study recently conducted by IHS and DHL Express, SMEs engaged in international markets are twice as likely to be successful as those that that only operate domestically. Out of the 410 SMEs surveyed in the study, 26 percent of those that traded internationally outperformed the market, while only 13 percent of domestic-only SMEs did so.

SMEs in South Florida that want to expand to the global marketplace for the first time, as well as those looking to expand to new international markets, don’t have to go it alone as there are considerable resources available to help guide them along the way.

Launched in 2010, the National Export Initiative provides a platform for U.S. businesses to go international, helping them find buyers worldwide, participate in trade shows and missions, receive more export financing and learn more ways to sell products and services overseas. The goal of the NEI is to double exports by 2014 and it is well on its way. American companies are already selling more goods and services to consumers who live outside the country than at any time in history – with U.S. exports hitting an all-time record of $2.2 trillion in 2012. To support the NEI, my company last year partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), to support small and mid-size businesses and help them harness new sales opportunities in the global marketplace.

Closer to home, the U.S. Commercial Service and its individual export assistance centers across Florida are helping SMEs with direct, one-on-one counseling on export issues and with market intelligence regarding overseas markets. These centers, including one based in Miami, also identify international buyers and representatives through their matchmaking services and help organizations overcome barriers to trade.

Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership dedicated to economic development in our state and for our state’s companies, provides many resources for local businesses, including International Trade & Business Development Field Offices that are staffed with international marketing professionals. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also provides assistance and even helps secure much needed international trade financing for SMEs through a variety of programs.

Getting an international trade strategy in place takes research, thorough planning and coordination, but the resources, technology and logistics networks and services available today make it easier than ever before.

Ian Clough is CEO of Plantation-based DHL Express U.S. More information is available at

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