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    Trade Secrets


    What do first-time exporters
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001

    Trade Secrets helps firms navigate successfully through the export process.

    ITC is working with 30 institutions worldwide to create a series of national guides called Trade Secrets. The guides provide answers to the most common exporting questions. This section takes a "Close Up" look at the Trade Secrets process - questions exporters ask, sample responses, which national guides are in development, and how partner institutions are using them.

    Are you considering exporting a product or service for the first time? Are you an established exporter looking to expand into new areas? Or are you from an institution which helps small businesses expand into foreign markets?

    Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that export products or services - no matter where they are located - face common questions about how to set up export operations and make them a success. Finding reputable foreign buyers, arranging finance, preparing a business plan, determining pricing, completing export documentation, packaging a product, obtaining shipping quotes - these and other operational questions require answers in order to export successfully.

    ITC has developed a cost-effective approach to reach a maximum of SMEs with practical answers to their most frequently asked questions about exports. The approach is based on a joint publishing and marketing process for a series of national guides called Trade Secrets: The Export Answer Book for Small and Medium-Sized Exporters.

    The secrets to successful trading are not secrets at all. The secret aspect of the Trade Secrets publications is that exporters in developing countries are given - in one comprehensive publication - the information, references and answers utilized by "export experts" in their country. Intended to be a one-stop source with answers to most questions that exporters ask, the publications also alert readers to little-known techniques to reduce costs, save time or find help - those secrets of trade that would take exporters years to learn.

    National versions are the key

    Each Trade Secrets is co-published by ITC and a national partner institution, which researches, customizes, prints, markets and distributes its own customized version of the reference guide. ITC does not offer an international version, because the usefulness and value of the book comes from its customization to reflect unique issues facing exporters in, for example, Chile, Egypt, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

    Questions are accompanied by a choice of related resources and references for delving into a particular topic. The guide is designed for day-to-day use, to quickly locate short yet comprehensive answers to the most important questions regarding exports in a particular country.

    While most questions are similar, answers need to be adapted to certain regions or countries. For example, export documentation needs are country-specific. Export financing options also vary by country. There are national variations among the services offered by trading corporations, commodity boards, development authorities, export promotion councils, export credit and guarantee corporations, export inspection agencies and ISO 9000 certification agencies, among others. The Trade Secrets process allows countries to capitalize on information which all SMEs need, and complement it with country-specific information.

    In Uganda, for instance, Trade Secrets notes which commodities are best grown for competitive export, and focuses on coffee, flowers and organic produce; it lists international market prices for a wide range of Ugandan products; it tells how Ugandan exporters can find export market niches while avoiding competition with other countries with similar economies, such as Ghana and Kenya, and lists leading countries to which Uganda exports its products.

    A partnership with ITC

    By using two ITC documents - the Generic Version of Trade Secrets and Guidelines for National Adaptation - partner institutions are able to provide a user-friendly, affordable reference book to existing and prospective exporters in developing countries and economies in transition. National partners also benefit from being part of a Trade Secrets "partner network" in which they exchange experiences, concerns and tips in publishing and distributing national versions.

    This process has proved to be a success, with 30 countries having signed Joint Publication Agreements with ITC. The pages ahead provide sample questions and answers from the generic version, in order to give readers a sample of the type of information SMEs typically seek, and how the Trade Secrets process can provide answers.

    To order a national version where it is available, ITC has prepared a list of organizations which have published Trade Secrets or plan to do so within the next year (see page 20). If you are interested in publishing a national version, please refer to the article on developing national versions (see page 21).