by Robert Jones, Jesse Lapierre and Margaret Hanson-Muse of the US Commercial Service
American companies attempting to dispose of surplus  equipment outside the U.S. have an opportunity to significantly broaden their market areas. In some cases, production equipment that is no longer viable in the domestic arena may actually have significantly greater value in a developing country than back here at home. However, standing in the  way of greater marketing opportunity is a unique set of  challenges.
When you are attempting to export surplus equipment, products or services outside of the comfort of home, a number of factors—including language and cultural differences, logistical issues, political uncertainty and potential corruption, regulatory hurdles, tariffs, import fees and monetary issues—can make navigating foreign waters tricky, particularly for a smaller company. Yet even a large organization regularly exporting its products through established channels is faced with an entire new set of challenges when attempting to sell surplus assets to foreign markets. Investment recovery departments are often understaffed, so finding the in-house expertise necessary to dispose of non-performing assets overseas raises plenty of challenges. Who can an associate member or small corporate IR department turn to for answers and guidance?
The somewhat surprising answer to the questions above is the U.S. Commercial Service (CS). “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you” is not an oxymoron in this case. The U.S. Commercial
Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce (part of the State Department). It posts Commercial Service Officers throughout the world with significant local knowledge and contacts. These officers stand stand well prepared to help U.S.-based companies navigate the waters of exporting surplus goods to “their” part of the world. They have offices in 80 countries and also operate in 108 U.S. cities, providing support for potential U.S. exporters.
The U.S. Commercial Service provides the following services:
  • Market Intelligence to help U.S. exporters target the right market(s) for their products and services with world-class market research, both generic (by market and product) and customized for your specific needs.
  • Trade Counseling to provide information you need to navigate the export process from beginning to end.
  • Business Matchmaking services to connect you with the right partners and prospects, qualified buyers and distributors.
  • Trade Advocacy for U.S. companies to level the international playing field for international  procurement.
Helpful Online Tools
The U.S. Commercial Service uses several websites that are packed with useful information. Even though they fill thousands of pages, the data is well presented and easy to find.
  • is an excellent place to start for market research, trade events, trade leads, and information on how to export, providing a wealth of information. Downloadable publications include Basic Guide to Exporting, Export Programs Guide, Trade Finance Guide and numerous trade updates by industry and region.
  • also includes webinars, as well as information on specific markets, industries and trade events. Here, you can sign up for email updates with specific information relative to dozens of industry updates, including those related to energy, healthcare technologies, manufacturing, and even used and reconditioned equipment. The site has links to help you find export opportunities by industry, region or country.
  • is a CS website that helps companies drill down into specific countries for a broad array of information and available services. Entering your ZIP code will give you the portal page of the region nearest your location, with a listing of available services, events and local contacts. Export University is a series of introductory, intermediate and advanced courses presented by the Commercial Service and designed to prepare companies to do business overseas, review marketing penetration considerations, discuss joint ventures and licensing, and provide an understanding to help you succeed in your efforts. Some sessions are held as webinars, but most are in-person, half-day classes. Gold Key Service.
The CS Gold Key Serviceis a highly effective option for U.S. companies ready to export to a specific country or region. It is designed to give U.S. companies the advantage of local expertise to schedule meetings with prescreened potential agents, distributors or other business contacts, according to the firm’s needs. The service includes the following: Four to six meetings per day (including the research necessary to identify potential agents/distributors); assistance in contacting all potential prospects and scheduling appointments with interested parties; the services of a commercial specialist or trade aide in accompanying the firm to appointments and providing market research (if  available); an embassy market briefing; a “Welcome” kit; and hotel reservations at preferential rates (if possible). The local U.S. Embassy will arrange for a car and driver and/or for a translator/interpreter at additional cost, if desired. Lead time is negotiable for the Gold Key Service, but it is generally four to six weeks after receipt of 10 to 15 sets of company brochures and the completed Gold Key form.
The pricing for a Gold Key Service program is surprisingly affordable: as low as $350 for a small or
medium enterprise (SME) using the service for the first time and $700 for subsequent engagements. (An SME is defined as a firm with 500 or fewer employees.) Large firms or their subsidiaries pay only $2,300 for the service. Interpreter-escorts, if requested (and they are recommended!), are $200 to $250 per 8-hour day.
Video Gold Key Matching Service.
The Video Gold Key service allows clients to conduct interviews with prospective business partners prior to visiting a country. The service also allows companies to obtain feedback regarding the market
for their product and, as a result, to use their time in country more efficiently and effectively. The Video
Gold Key Service is not intended to be a substitute for a country visit, but may represent a solution
for client companies unable to visit a market at a particular time.
Platinum Key Service.
If Gold Key Service is not enough, the CS offers additional support called Platinum Key Service. The Platinum Key Service allows U.S. companies to take advantage of longer term, sustained and customized U.S. Commercial Service assistance on a range of issues. The service is solution-oriented and tailored to the client’s needs through a mutually agreed-upon time frame and scope of work. The service can include a range of issues including, but not limited to, identification of markets, launching of products, development of major project opportunities, resolution of commercial disputes, and assistance on regulatory or technical standards matters. The service is fee-based and can last as long as a year, based on your company’s requirements.
There are many other services available for U.S. companies. For example, going to the website and selecting information on doing business in Colombia, rings up the following information: (cost and more contact information for each of these services is available on the web pages of each country covered by the U.S. Commercial Service.) Country Commercial Guide. (CCG) provides a comprehensive look at a country’s commercial environment using economic, political and market analyses. CCGs are prepared annually at U.S. embassies and consulates through the combined efforts of several U.S. government agencies.
Business Facilitation Service.
CS Bogota will assist the U.S. company or its local representative in organizing a promotional event or strategic activity related to market access, entry, or promotion of products and services or in obtaining a better understanding of Colombia and the business and improved security climate. Such events or activities can include video conferences, press conferences, focus webinars (see video conferencing services), luncheons, dinners, cocktails receptions, seminars, sales meetings, targeted mailings and any other strategic activities. Services may also include   interpretation/translation, pickup and delivery of company registration and bid documents, use of conference room, and a full range of video conference services; photocopying, courier, postage, telephone/fax/email and other communications services; arrangement for transport; and other miscellaneous services. CS Bogota can provide limited advocacy research and meetings  arrangements to facilitate U.S./Colombian business relationships.
Single-Company Promotion.
Want to knowledgeably enter the Colombian market? The U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia assists U.S. firms promoting American products and services through its Single-Company Promotion program. The service provides a venue and related services to U.S. businesses interested in  developing small-scale, locally managed trade promotion initiatives. The service is offered in  response to Colombian market opportunities or specific requests by firms for assistance. Let the U.S. Commercial Service assist you with the most appropriate venue and preferential rates. The senior commercial officer will host a cocktail reception at her residence upon request. This service is
tailored to meet your specific needs.
BuyUSA Featured U.S. Exporters.
(Cost ranges from $75 for a first-time SME to $300 for a large company.) A listing on BuyUSA. gov/Colombia gives U.S. exporters targeted exposure to help find business partners in  the Colombian market. It helps to promote a product or service available for export.  The listings are in the Spanish language. Clients requesting this service will be listed under one of the standard categories in the Featured U.S. Exporters directory, for one year from the time of posting. Each listing will contain the company name, a description of the product, product line or service offered by the U.S. exporter, and the company’s objective in the Colombian market, as well as an image, if appropriate, and a link to the exporting company’s website. A directory listing is an inexpensive and effective way to gain additional exposure in the Colombian market.
International Company Profile.
CS Bogota will conduct due diligence on a Colombian company through such actions as visiting the company; confirming its operations, its suppliers, customers, neighbors and bankers and performing a limited eview of its financial data. You can request answers to a detailed set of questions or add special ones of your own to our standard list. This service helps U.S. exporters verify the business operating status of local companies.
International Partner Search.
(Cost ranges from $350 for a first-time SME to $1,400 for a Large Company.) The International Partner Search saves you time and money by eliminating the need for cold calling, expensive trade show traveling and foreign advertising. Using your company literature, our experienced trade  professionals will contact key players in your sector in Colombia, and we will deliver a prequalified list of potential trading partners in a maximum of 30 days. The service helps potential U.S. exporters locate prequalified potential Colombian agents, representatives, distributors and/or licensees.
Screened/Unscreened Contact Lists.
(Cost $50 to $300 per sector.) Contact lists on industrial, trade and any other sectors of the economy will be provided on request.
Trade Mission and Trade Promotion Events.
CS Bogota is active every year in supporting a large number of different types of trade missions aimed at helping exporters sell in the Colombian market. We provide trade mission participants with Colombian marketing information, advanced planning, publicity, appointments and logistical support. Other trade promotion events and programs include Matchmaker Trade Delegations of 15–20 companies several times per year; Multistate Catalog Shows working in conjunction with state trade  promotion offices; and Virtual Matchmaker services utilizing video conferencing for an affordable first step in evaluating market potential with business prospects.
Although there is no guarantee that attempting to expand your market for surplus beyond U.S. borders will be immediately successful, having accurate information, local knowledge, and contacts backed
by the influence and support of the U.S. State Department can shorten the path to potential profit substantially. The U.S. Commercial Service offers a significant support network of knowledgeable staff and background research to help members of the Investment Recovery Association export surplus equipment to countries all over the globe. Many services and most information are available at no cost, and customized services are very affordable.
If you are interested in learning more about how the U.S. Commercial Service can help you meet your specific needs, contact a U.S. Commercial Service office near you by logging on to and searching for the U.S.-based office near you, or call 1-800-USA-TRADE (872-8723). With Uncle Sam’s help, you might just become a rich uncle yourself.
Reprinted from ASSET 2.0, the Investment Recovery Business Journal, Vol. 3, 2010

© The Investment Recovery Association



Click Here to Download Full Issues of Asset 2.0