How to Set Up Your Online Business for International Trade
International trade may seem like something that only multinational corporations practice. But the so-called little guy online businesses can be international traders, too. In fact, the term simply refers to a transaction between two or more individuals or companies in different countries. If you’re a designer living in the United States and you create some stationery artwork and web pages for someone in Germany, you’re involved in international trade.
Keep up with international trade issues
If you really want to be effective in marketing yourself overseas and become an international player in world trade, you need to follow the tried-and-true business strategies: networking, education, and research. Join groups that promote international trade, become familiar with trade laws and restrictions, and generally get a feel for the best marketing practices around the world.
Here are some suggestions for places you can start:
The Market Access Unit page of the Irish government’s Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment website: This page contains links to the European Union’s Commercial Policy as well as requirements governing Export Licensing and Import Licensing.
Small Business Exporters Association: This group of small and midsize business exporters is devoted to networking, assistance, and advocacy.
globalEDGE: This site is published by Michigan State University and includes hundreds of international trade links.
Newsletter Access: This website has information on how to subscribe to more than 9,000 different newsletters that discuss international trade issues.
Research specific trade laws
Rather than wait for overseas business to come to you, take a proactive approach. First, do some research into the appropriate trade laws that apply to countries you might do business with. The Internet has an amazing amount of information pertaining to trade practices for individual countries.
You can seek out international business by using one or more message boards designed specifically for small business owners who want to participate in international trade. These message boards let users post trade leads, which are messages that announce international business opportunities.
For example, at the TradersCity Import and Export Trade Leads board, you may find a message from a Finnish company selling surplus paint, a U.S. company that needs office equipment, or a British company offering X-ray equipment for export. Advertisements on this site typically include the URL for the business’s website. The site does not charge a fee to post notices.
If you’re in the business of creating computer software or hardware, you need to be aware of restrictions that the U.S. government imposes on the export of some computer-related products. In fact, you may incur a fine of more than $100,000 from the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. State Department for exporting just about anything high-tech to a Denied Person, Specially Designated National, or Restricted Country.
The Buy & Sell Exchange site of the Federation of International Trade Associations lets you post your own trade leads or search for other leads by keyword. You can find the Trade Leads page of the extensive globalEDGE site which includes links to sites that post trade leads in countries such as Egypt, India, and Taiwan.
Explore free trade zones
A free trade zone (FTZ) is an officially designated business or industrial area in a country where foreign and domestic goods are considered to be “outside” the territory covered by customs. You don’t have to pay customs duty, taxes, or tariffs on merchandise brought into, handled, or stored in an FTZ. You can find FTZs in many countries as well as in many U.S. states.
The purpose of FTZs is to reduce customs costs and make it easier for businesses to send goods into foreign countries. You can store your items in FTZs for a while, exhibit them, and, if necessary, change them to comply with the import requirements of the country in question, until you want to import them into that country.