When it comes to doing business in foreign markets, getting the right information at the right time is often the difference between success and failure.
Here you'll find resources to help you conduct market research, understand trade regulations and documentation, find financing and partners, and avoid common mistakes, struggles and pitfalls.
CIA World Factbook
The World Factbook, produced by the Central Intelligence Agency and maintained online, provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities.
U.S. State Department Country Background Notes
These publications include facts about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations of independent states, some dependencies, and areas of special sovereignty.
Country Commercial Guides
Prepared annually by U.S. embassies with the assistance of several U.S. government agencies. These reports present a comprehensive look at countries' commercial environments, using economic, political and market analysis.
BBC Country Profiles
The British Broadcasting Corporations country profiles provide an instant guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions. They may also include audio or video clips from BBC archives.
International Market Research Reference Guide
This useful guide contains information about and links to more than 150 resources to help you research and assess global markets.
Step-by-Step Approach to Market Research
Conducting extensive market research sets the stage for a successful export strategy. Follow the U.S. Department of Commerce step-by-step methodology for conducting market research.
The U.S. Department of Commerce Commercial Service maintains an extensive collection of market and industry reports that include practical information on conducting business in foreign markets, best industry prospects, successful market entry strategies, and much more. The online searchable database makes it easy to access a wealth of valuable information.
Trade Data and Analysis
The U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration offers a wealth of current trade data by country, industry and state.
The U.S. Commercial Service maintains a searchable database of pre-qualified trade leads.
Gold Key Business Matchmaking Service
For a nominal fee, the U.S. Commercial Service can arrange appointments for you to meet prospective distributors, partners and buyers meeting your selection criteria. To schedule an appointment, referred to a Gold Key Service, in just about any market worldwide contact the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Minneapolis at 612-348-1638.
Finding a Partner in China
The Minnesota Trade Office has a representative in Shanghai who can help you find distributors, partners and buyers throughout China.
To request assistance from our China office, contact Li King Feng at 651-259-7484 or Li.King.Feng@state.mn.us.
There are a variety of export-related documents that may be required for certain markets or for certain products. Some of the more common documents include:
Consult the Minnesota Trade Assistance Helpline at 651-259-7498 for questions regarding the applicability of these documents to your export activities.
Product Classification (HS Numbers or Schedule B Numbers)
Products traded internationally are assigned a standardized six-digit number, called a Harmonized System (HS) Number, which are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products for the consistent application of duties and taxes. Some countries add additional digits to the HS number to further distinguish products in certain categories. For instance, in the U.S., four additional digits are added to the 6-digit HS Number making it a 10-digit number and is called a Schedule B Number.
There is a difference between the HS classification number and the Schedule B number. The HS number is an internationally accepted code. The basic HS code contains 6-digits, known as a subheading. The Schedule B is a 10-digit code built upon the first 6 digits of the HS code. Additionally, the Schedule B code is a U.S.-specific coding system used by the U.S. Government to monitor U.S. exports. The Schedule B system in administered by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau's Schedule B search engine offers a number of ways to find the appropriate Schedule B number for your product.
If you need assistance determining your Schedule B number, contact our Trade Assistance Helpline at 651-259-7498.
A tariff, also known as a duty, is a tax charged by customs on the value of imported products at the time of importation. Additional charges, such as sales and state taxes and custom fees, also may be levied on imported products.
Since tariffs essentially increase the price of imported products, which impact their competitiveness, it is very important that you know the tariffs and other fees that will be levied against your product before your export. The U.S. Department of Commerce provides step-by-step process to help you determine the tariff rates.
Some countries require imported products to have a Certificate of Free Sale showing that the products comply with U.S. laws for distribution and sale within the United States. The Minnesota Trade Office issues Certificates of Free Sale.
To request a certificate, contact Jackie Geiger at 651-259-7485 or Jackie.Geiger@state.mn.us.
U.S. companies are responsible for ensuring their exports comply with federal regulations. You should consult the following resources to ensure proper compliance.
U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
BIS is charged with the formulation and implementation of U.S. export control policy on dual-use commodities, software, and technology. Dual-use items subject to BIS regulatory jurisdiction have predominantly civilian uses, but also have military and proliferation applications, or may be used in terrorist activities. For local assistance from an international trade specialist at the Minneapolis office of the U.S. Export Assistance Centers, call 612-348-1640.
Denied Persons List and other Export Control Lists
The Bureau of Industry and Security maintains several lists of individuals and entities that have various restrictions for doing business with U.S. companies. Check the lists to ensure that you are not doing business with a prohibited individual or entity.
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC): U.S. Department of the Treasury
OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC): U.S. Department of State
The DDTC is charged with controlling the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List (USML). It adjudicates license applications for exports of defense articles and services and handles matters related to defense trade compliance and enforcement.
Finding the right information, expertise and assistance at the right time is vital to export success.
This Export Resources Guide highlights the state and federal export-assistance programs available to Minnesota companies, covering export education, technical assistance, legal and regulatory issues, export finance, and much more.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Library has resources on international trade, including company information, export statistics, country profiles, market research and cultural guides.
Located at DEED headquarters at 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, in Saint Paul, the library is available by appointment 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Librarians and Minnesota Trade Office international trade representatives are available to help researchers. To schedule an appointment call 651-259-7188 or email DEED.Library@state.mn.us