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Online Videos Offer Businesses the Basics of Exporting

A new series of 12 online videos offer exporters another tool in learning about the technical aspects of exporting and dealing with the intricacies of trade rules and paperwork.

Each year, the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center (TIC) fields thousands of calls about detailed exporting information, such as the Harmonized System (HS) classification numbers, the duty and tax rates, the way to file a Shipper’s Export Declaration (now known as Automated Export System Direct), and the way to complete a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin. Callers range from very small businesses to very large ones. What’s critical to all of them is getting accurate answers to their questions so that their goods can ship. Mistakes can cause costly delays; lost customers; and, in some cases, stiff fines.

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A scene from “North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Basics,” one video from the series of 12 produced by the Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
A scene from “North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Basics,” one video from the series of 12 produced by the Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)


To help exporters better understand those important systems and skills, the TIC recently teamed up with the Census Bureau’s Division of Foreign Trade Statistics to produce 12 short instructional videos for Web viewing. In less than three months, the videos have generated more than 20,000 views on the Census Bureau’s Web site and on, the U.S. government’s export portal.

Presentations by Experienced Practitioners

The TIC’s Doug Barry produced, directed, and provided the instructional design for each of the videos. In them, viewers see presenters such as JoAnn Queen, a TIC trade specialist, explaining how to fill out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin. She and the other presenters in the videos all do customer-facing work for their Department of Commerce agencies and, thus, are intimately familiar with the subject matter of each video.

Feedback from users has been very positive, with one freight forwarder exclaiming, “You guys are brilliant. What took you so long?”

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security has ordered additional videos for the series. Those videos will primarily focus on export controls. The Census Bureau has ordered other new videos. They will detail how businesses can use foreign trade data to create export plans that identify best markets and sectors.

Filling a Need

Barry explained that the videos tapped into a need for clear, step-by-step instructions on what’s needed and how to fill out the forms. “In the current economy, we expect to see many more companies trying to export,” he said. “So we’re assembling a multimedia toolbox to ease the process and reduce mistakes.”

He added that with more online self-service tools, he and his colleagues—both in the TIC and elsewhere in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service—can focus more of their time on handling more complex counseling requests from businesses.

Will the videos and the recently published 10th edition of A Basic Guide to Exporting replace the popular toll-free service available at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (1-800-872-8723)? Not likely, said Barry. “You can’t explain everything to everybody in a video. Some people will continue to need the extra help and to have someone answer the question that no one thought of. The world of international trade changes everyday.”


For More Information

The 12 export training videos are available on the Web. Each video runs about three or four minutes and can be viewed online or downloaded for off-line viewing. For additional sources of export counseling, contact the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (1-800-872-8723);