Trading Thoughts Blog
Permanent link for Reaching Global Markets: A Small Business Guide to Funding Exports on December 14, 2022
How can small businesses grow their customer base and increase profitability? Export!
When local markets are facing tough times or simply not bringing in enough revenue, the next step in expanding a small business and increasing revenue is to start exporting goods to access new global markets.
Common Concerns about Exporting
Exporting, however, may seem quite daunting and expensive to the inexperienced individual. Fortunately, there are several financial resources, mentors, and consultants available for small businesses to utilize to create an export strategy and set up export operations unique to their business needs.
Setting up and maintaining export operations does require an investment of both time and money, but with 95% of the world’s consumers outside of the U.S., it has the potential to turn into a profitable investment. If traditional bank financing doesn’t fit your business needs, there are different types of loan programs that help in setting up and/or maintaining export plans and provide alternatives to traditional loan options to fund export endeavors.
Programs funded through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) that small businesses should be aware of include:
- SBA State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
- SBA International Trade Loan Program
- SBA Export Working Capital Program
- SBA Export Express Loan Program
SBA loans are provided through banks, but SBA guarantees a substantial portion of the loan – up to 90% – making it more likely to get accepted than a traditional, non-SBA-backed loan.
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
One of the most easily accessible financial assistance options available for exporting is the STEP program.
The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a completely different category than the other loan program since technically it’s not a loan at all. Though the money given to the state government is awarded by SBA, it is ultimately the individual state’s economic development department that distributes these funds– no repayment is required.
State-level STEP assistance helps small businesses:
- Learn how to export
- Participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows
- Obtain services to support foreign market entry
- Develop websites to attract foreign buyers
- Design international marketing products or campaigns
Roughly 46 of the 50 states were awarded STEP funds, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgie, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Michigan’s STEP program, MI-STEP, administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, offers up to $15,000 in export assistance that covers up to 75% of export eligible expenses. For more information on MI-STEP, check out our blog article Michigan Small Businesses Are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should Take Advantage of MI-STEP .
Coverage rates and total assistance varies by state, check your state’s STEPpolicy for exact export assistance information.
International Trade Loan Program
The most expansive of these would be the International Trade Loan Program. Companies can be approved to borrow a maximum of $5 million through this program with a processing time of roughly 5 - 10 business days.
These loans are available to help small businesses enter international markets and compete with businesses already present in the market. It works by combining fixed assets, working capital financing, and debt refinancing for the maximum amount of assistance.
Export Working Capital Program
The Export Working Capital Program is similar to the International Trade Loan Program in that there is a $5 million maximum borrowing limit and 5 - 10 day processing time, but the purpose is slightly different.
People applying for this loan already have a finalized sale or export contract in hand and just need the extra funds to seal the deal. This venture is ultimately a bit less risky than going into a market blind – like the prior program – which makes the approval process easier.
Export Express Loan Program
The Export Express Loan Program allows small businesses to get loans accepted within 36 hours with the trade-off of only being able to borrow $500,000 or less.
The reason turnaround time is so quick is that Export Express lenders can directly underwrite a loan without SBA prior approval.
Meet Your Export Mentors
For businesses interested in learning how to export their goods and explore funding opportunities and resources available for this endeavor, GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center along with state and federal partners from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce - Grand Rapids, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Networks Northwest, U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), and more, are offering four opportunities to join us for our New to Export Workshops throughout the state of Michigan in 2023, visit our event page for dates and details !
Natalie Bremmer is a Student Assistant at GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center . She is a Junior currently pursuing a Bachelor in Business Administration degree in Finance, Human Resource Management, and General Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys lifting weights, getting lost in a good video game, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.
Posted on Permanent link for Reaching Global Markets: A Small Business Guide to Funding Exports on December 14, 2022.
Permanent link for Big Changes Are Coming: Huge Drop in the Monthly U.S. Trade Deficit on June 15, 2022
by Natalie Bremmer
Big news rocked the trading world recently with the announcement of the monthly goods and services trading deficit dropping a staggering 19.1% for the United States.
April 2022’s numbers were just released on June 7th, 2022 stating that the $107.7 billion trade deficit from March 2022 had dropped by $20.6 billion down to $87.1 billion in April 2022.
More specifically, U.S. April exports were $252.6 billion, roughly $8.5 billion more than March, and about a 3.5% increase between those two months. U.S. April imports were $339.7 billion, which is a $12.1 billion or 3.4% decrease from the previous month of March.
Though April was a great month, in the big picture the United States is still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Between April 2021 and April 2022, the goods and services deficit increased by 41.1% totaling $107.9 billion. This is essentially due to exports increasing by 18.8%, coming in at $151.3 billion, and imports simultaneously increasing by 24.3%, totaling $259.2 billion within this timeframe.
Three Month Trends
On a more positive note, the U.S. three-month trade deficit average is starting to look a lot more promising. Between February 2022 and April 2022, the average goods and services deficit fell by $0.3 billion, down to a total of $94.3 billion. During this time period, U.S. exports increased by $8.3 billion for a total of $242.2 billion, and imports increased by a marginal $8.0 billion totaling $337.4 billion.
Monthly Export Trends
In April 2022, the U.S. export of goods increased by a substantial $6.1 billion to a total of $176.1 billion. The largest portions of this increase came from industrial supplies as well as food and animal feed, accounting for about $4.5 billion combined. Another large portion of the increase was due to the export of capital goods– namely civilian aircraft.
During the same month, the U.S. export of goods also increased by roughly $2.4 billion, totaling at $76.5 billion. The main categories that caused this increase were travel and transport which increased by $1.5 and $0.3 billion respectively.
Monthly Import Trends
In April 2022, U.S. imports of goods actually decreased in comparison to the prior month by $13.0 billion, with a sum of $283.8 billion for the month.
Some of the largest contributors to this decrease were consumer goods, industrial supplies, and capital goods which all decreased by $6.3, $5.4, and $2.6 billion respectively. However, U.S. imports of automotive vehicles rose by roughly $1.4 billion.
Alternatively, the import of services during the same month increased by $0.9 billion compared to the month prior, capping out at $55.9 billion. The largest contributors to this increase were travel, with a $0.6 billion dollar increase, and other business services at $0.2 billion.
For the full report, you can find the U.S. Census post here.
Keep up with VAGTC’s Trading Thoughts Blog for additional updates covering the trade deficit information released in July.
Natalie Bremmer is a Student Assistant at GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center . She is a Junior currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys lifting weights, getting lost in a good video game, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.
Posted on Permanent link for Big Changes Are Coming: Huge Drop in the Monthly U.S. Trade Deficit on June 15, 2022.
Permanent link for Michigan Small Businesses are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should Take Advantage of MI-STEP on April 20, 2022
by Natalie Bremmer
Michigan Economic Development Corporation's MI-STEP
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) oversees Michigan’s State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) to give financial assistance to small businesses to pursue exporting their products and gain access to larger global markets.
They have roughly $2.667 million worth of aid to give out to small businesses across the state. Up to 75% of pre-approved exporting expenses can be covered with a $15,000 maximum per business in a fiscal year when the Michigan company follows the MI-STEP eligibility criteria.
This program makes entering or expanding in new global markets viable for small or medium-sized businesses eager to expand while accommodating a more limited budget.
MI-STEP may seem confusing at first glance, so here are its three main objectives:
- Increase amount of small and medium-sized businesses in Michigan that participate in exporting
- Grow the dollar value of Michigan exports
- Provide an avenue for Michigan small businesses to explore new trade opportunities
The eligibility criteria to secure aid from this program include:
- Being in accordance with SBA standards
- Demonstrate understanding of export costs and business with foreign markets; including freight forwarding, packing, shipping, and customs brokers
- Show potential for successful exporting as well as a positive impact on the regional economy
- Provide an EIN number that is linked to a Michigan address
- Must be in good standing with the Michigan Department of Treasury as well as any other regulatory agencies
- Must be a U.S. company that is prepared to export goods of U.S. origin with a minimum of 51% U.S. content
Once a business gets this aid, there are particular transactions that will be covered by MI-STEP funds. These include but are not limited to:
- Participating in foreign-trade missions
- E-commerce fees for advertisement and website design
- Participation in international trade shows
- Foreign sales trips (up to two people on an economy flight)
- EXIM export credit insurance premiums
- Participation in export training workshops
One company that benefitted greatly from an MI-STEP award was Armor Protective Packaging: a rust removal company that specializes in making clean, safe, and easily used vapor corrosion inhibitor packaging. Through MI-STEP, they were able to expand to provide to 90% of the Fortune 500’s industrial companies as well as several other countries across the world. More specifically, MI-STEP helped this company with having the funds to create a local website translated and customized for the different languages and cultures of the specific countries they were selling to– effectively expanding their digital footprint. They were also able to travel to some of these countries to network and secure international business partners which was another huge step for them to reach their global markets.
GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center
The Van Andel Global Trade Center is an easily accessible resource with various export training programs and workshops that are eligible for MI-STEP coverage that teaches small businesses how to find success similar to how Armor Protective Packaging did. VAGTC’s incredibly knowledgeable team has been working with businesses across Michigan for over two decades in both one-on-one and group settings– entirely depending on their clients' needs. Throughout their time at GVSU they’ve worked with over 10,000 companies and have assisted more than 31,000 business professionals. Not only do they have a wealth of experience with exporting, but they also assist companies of all sizes with importing concerns.
VAGTC consults with companies in the following areas:
- Export & Import Procedure Manuals
- Compliance (export and import)
- Free Trade Agreements such as USMCA
- Global Supply Chain Logistics
- Export Controls Training: ITAR & EAR
- Cultural Training
- Market Research
- Foreign-Trade Zones
- Global Risk Factors
- Harmonized Schedule/Classifications, Export Control Classification Numbers
- and more!
Their website has a variety of helpful resources like guidebooks, available programs, trade zones, and Worldwide Credit Reports. VAGTC memberships are also available for discounts on workshops and more individualized assistance.
With an ever-expanding global market, there has been no better time to enter it than right now. Check out MEDC's MI-STEP website with full details on the program and begin taking full advantage of all that MEDC has to offer! Companies can also learn more about VAGTC’s services and how we can get you connected to the MI-STEP program by contacting us today! Now is the time to grow your small business through increased export sales, let us help!!
About the Author
Natalie Bremmer is a Student Assistant at GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center . She is a sophomore currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys lifting weights, playing video games, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.
Posted on Permanent link for Michigan Small Businesses are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should Take Advantage of MI-STEP on April 20, 2022.
Permanent link for What is the Harmonized System and Why is it Important? on April 8, 2022
What is the Harmonized System (HS) and the HS Classification?
The Harmonized System (HS) is a globally recognized way to identify goods being imported and exported by assigning a standardized classification. The HS classification is used for declaring goods at the time of export in export declarations and for the purpose of filing customs entries at the time of import in the country of destination. The HS classification is used to determine duty rates and collect duties, taxes, and fees for the imported products.
The Harmonized System (HS) is something every importing and export company will need to understand so proper HS classifications can be assigned to their products. Companies need to take great care in assigning HS classification and understand the compliance risks associated with their HS classification decisions. Exporters and importers alike have a legal responsibility to properly claim and classify goods/products.
The Harmonized System (HS) Breakdown
The Harmonized System (HS) is a very structured classification system made up of sections, chapters, notes, headings, and subheadings.
The United States has two published versions of the Harmonized System (HS). For imports, the U.S. publishes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the U.S. for the HS classification of imported products and the assignment of duty rates. For exports, the U.S. publishes the Schedule B for export HS classifications and the collection of statistical data.
The Harmonized System (HS) is broken down into 22 sections which act as groupings of similar chapters.
There are 97 chapters of products that are organized from least manufactured to more manufactured and logically group classifications by make or by use. The first two digits of each HS classification are the chapter number. Within each chapter, the Harmonized System (HS) provides a four-digit heading with the primary legal definition of what is to be included in that heading. Those headings are further broken down into six-digit subheadings. The heading and subheading legal definitions are universal and all countries agree to use the same legal definitions.
While the globally recognized headings and subheadings remain
constant, each country can further break down the subheadings with
country-specific suffixes. In the U.S. two digits (digit 7 and 8) are
added as the duty rate suffix and two digits (digit 9 and 10) are
added as a statistical suffix – making the U.S. classification a
See the photo above for an example using Coffee.
Why is HS Classification Important for your Business?
First of all, for importers, the HTS classification determines the duty rates and the duties paid at the time of import so it has immediate revenue implications. Non-compliance can result in fines, penalties, and the back payment of additional duties owed.
Paying duties is a non-negotiable, so proper classification can reduce your compliance risk in the short and long run. The result will never be good when using the wrong classification. If your misclassification caused you to overpay in duties, you won’t receive a refund. If you are underpaid in duties, you are required to pay the difference, and customs will decide if you will need to pay interest, and whether or not fines and penalties will be imposed.
For exporting, HS classification is used in:
- Export documentation (ex. Commercial Invoice)
- Export Declaration
- Import customs entry in a country of destination
For importing, HS classification is used in:
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for customs clearance and entry
All in all, use the HS classification to your advantage. Generate proper classifications and importing and exporting will be smooth sailing.
Are You Interested in Learning More?
GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center offers a yearly Fundamentals of Harmonized System (HS) Classification Training. Check out our Events page to register for this upcoming event!
About the Contributor
Jenna Hoover is working as a student assistant for GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center. She is a junior at GVSU currently studying Finance and Supply Chain Management within the Seidman College of Business. You can find her visiting local coffee shops as she studies for classes or checks in on her Roth IRA. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog, Gertrude, and hanging out with friends along the beautiful beaches of West Michigan.
Harmonized Tariff Classification
Posted on Permanent link for What is the Harmonized System and Why is it Important? on April 8, 2022.
Permanent link for Harmonized System Updates Your Company Needs to Know on October 27, 2021
The 7th edition of the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature will enter into force on January 1, 2022.
Why is this important to your business?
The Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature allows for goods to uniformly be imported and exported to/from countries around the globe, 211 economies participate in this system. The Harmonized System allows for customs tariffs international trade statistics to be tracked and reported as goods flow throughout the global supply chain.
The 7th edition of the HS will include 351 amendments to the current system according to the World Customs Organization.
Some of the major changes include classifications that deal with advancing technology, health & safety equipment, and society protections.
Technological advances are occurring daily. Thus, current heading classifications and provisions are not able to properly track new technology that is being created and traded around the world. Updated 2022 HS provisions and classifications will include e-waste, tobacco products, drones, smartphones, and other multifunctional devices.
Health & Safety Equipment
Recent years have highlighted the need for a quicker and more streamlined way to deploy tools that help diagnose and treat infectious diseases. Classification for these tools has been simplified and provisions have been put into place in the 7th edition for supporting medical research occurring on a global scale.
Protecting Society from Dual-Use Goods
The World Customs Organization has increased its efforts to combat world terrorism. Subheadings within the HS have been created for dual-use goods that could potentially be converted to an unauthorized use product such as an explosive device.
Conventions & Clarifications
A number of goods controlled by global Conventions such as chemicals controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Rotterdam Convention to name a few, have also been updated and reflect clarifications of verbiage to ease the process in classifying products correctly.
Van Andel Global Trade Center recommends companies review the United States HS for 2022 and be ready for any changes that may be implemented on January 1, 2022, that could impact the products your business buys and sells globally. Communicate 2022 changes to suppliers, export customers, dealers/distributors, customs brokers, and international freight forwarders. In some cases, it may be beneficial to obtain binding rulings from Customs to ensure there are no issues/delays moving goods around the world.
The official announcement from the World Customs Organization of amendments effective January 1, 2022, can be found here.
Harmonized Tariff Classification
Posted on Permanent link for Harmonized System Updates Your Company Needs to Know on October 27, 2021.