#SmallBusinessWeek: Commercial Diplomacy and Tools for U.S. Businesses

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A local Chamber of Commerce hosts their 3rd Annual event for Small Business Saturday on November 26, 2016 in Los Angeles.
A local Chamber of Commerce hosts their 3rd Annual event for Small Business Saturday on November 26, 2016 in Los Angeles.

#SmallBusinessWeek: Commercial Diplomacy and Tools for U.S. Businesses

Since 1963, the White House has honored America’s small businesses by celebrating National Small Business Week and recognizing the tremendous contributions they make to our economy and communities. During this year’s National Small Business Week, we want to highlight how the Department of State uses commercial diplomacy to support the 28 million American small businesses. If you are a small business owner or service provider, we hope you take a moment to learn more about these tools!

Office of Commercial and Business Affairs (CBA): CBA is the Department of State’s gateway for American businesses overseas. We assist and advocate for American companies abroad, strengthen intellectual property enforcement, promote a vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation, and ensure U.S. private sector concerns are integrated into our foreign and economic policy.

Direct Line for American Business: Through the Department of State’s Direct Line program, U.S. ambassadors overseas provide market intelligence via webinar to U.S. companies looking to do business abroad. With over 270 embassies and consulates in over 190 countries, our ambassadors and their economic and commercial experts are uniquely positioned to share actionable information with U.S. businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises. Direct Line provides economic and market overviews as well as sector-specific commercial opportunities to assist U.S. exports and investment. Upcoming Direct Line events include:

To receive information on upcoming Direct Line events or to suggest topics, click here.

The Business Information Database System (BIDS): BIDS gives U.S. businesses current information about significant foreign government and multilateral development bank procurements. Through an interactive map interface, businesses can find new export opportunities, validated by U.S. government economic and commercial experts overseas. Public and private partners can link to or download BIDS data for matchmaking, analysis, and other purposes.

Business Visa Center (BVC): BVC is part of the Department of State’s ongoing effort to efficiently issue visas for business travelers to the United States. The BVC is available to assist businesses in the United States and their partners, customers, and colleagues around the world.

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC): OSAC helps the U.S. private sector anticipate and manage overseas security issues, including identifying and tracking threats, particularly those targeting private sector personnel, facilities, investments, interests, and intellectual property.

Overseas Business Insights: Overseas Business Insights is a monthly newsletter with original articles spotlighting the business environment in Western Hemisphere countries. The newsletter serves as a resource for any U.S. company, including small businesses considering exports or investments abroad. The publication is currently run by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Archived copies can be found here.

STOPfakes.gov: This website is a one-stop shop for U.S. government tools and resources on intellectual property rights. The federal agencies behind STOPfakes.gov have developed resources to educate and assist businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as consumers, government officials, and the general public.

Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA): Other governments have modeled their own small business support networks after the U.S network, which features small business development centers (SBDCs) operated by U.S. universities and supported by U.S. states and the Small Business Administration (SBA). The State Department, SBA, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and the United States Agency for International Development have collaborated with 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere to establish new SBDCs or to foster connections between existing centers. Currently, 118 SBDCs in Latin America and the Caribbean serve approximately 30,000 businesses per year. The SBNA Partnership Program will provide project grants of up to $52,500 to foster partnerships between U.S. SBDCs and one of their counterparts in the Western Hemisphere.

Centers are encouraged to apply at http://americassbdc.org/sbna/. The deadline for the first round is June 30, 2017. Centers can also establish a counterpart center relationship at the next international sister center workshop, tentatively scheduled for September 5, 2017, in Nashville, TN, at the America’s SBDC Annual Conference. Prior to the meeting, State can arrange virtual introductions for Centers by Centers indicating their interest areas at http://partner.state.gov.

Please visit our websites for more information about these programs and additional resources and follow @EconAtState on Twitter for updates.

About the Author: Meg Hawley-Young serves as Acting Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.

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