Guide for Business Representatives
Doing Business OverseasóYour First Point of Contact
If you are planning a trip overseas or need information about doing business overseas, your first point of contact should be the nearest U.S. Department of Commerce District Office.
There are 47 District Offices and 21 Branch Offices in cities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico staffed by trade specialists from the United States and Foreign Commercial Service (US&FCS). These District Offices provide information on foreign markets, agent/distributor location services, trade leads, and counseling on business opportunities.
All District Offices have access to the National Trade Data Bank, a one-stop computerized source for current export promotion and country-specific trade data collected by 17 U.S. Government agencies. U.S. Export Assistance Centers, which combine the export promotion and trade finance services of the Department of Commerce, the Export-Import Bank, the Small Business Administration, and the Agency for International Development, now are open in Miami, Chicago, Long Beach, and Baltimore.
It is strongly recommended that business representatives inform the District Office of their plans to travel overseas. The District Office will notify Commercial Sections in overseas posts of the upcoming visit to ensure that they are adequately prepared to help.
The Key Officers Guide lists key officers at Foreign Service posts with whom American business representatives would most likely have contact. All embassies, missions, consulates general, and consulates are listed.
At the head of each U.S. diplomatic mission are the Chief of Mission (with the title of Ambassador, Minister, or Charge díAffaires) and the Deputy Chief of Mission. These officers are responsible for all components of the U.S. Mission within a country, including consular posts.
A Chief of Mission Secretary is responsible for the scheduling of appointments for that official. In addition to other duties, this secretary may also assist business persons by directing inquiries to the appropriate Mission office.
Commercial Officers advise U.S. business on local trade and tariff laws, government procurement procedures, and business practices; identify potential importers, agents, distributors, and joint venture partners; provide information on local government tenders; and assist with resolution of trade and investment disputes. At smaller posts, commercial interests are represented by Economic/Commercial Officers from the Department of State.
Commercial Officers for Tourism promote the U.S. travel and tourism industry.
Economic Officers advise U.S. business on the local investment climate and economic trends; negotiate trade and investment agreements to open markets and level the playing field; and analyze and report on macroeconomic trends and trade policies and their potential impact on U.S. interests.
Resource Officers counsel U.S. business on issues related to natural resources, including minerals, oil and gas and energy; and analyze and report on local natural resource trends and trade policies and their potential impact on U.S. interests.
Agricultural Officers promote the export of U.S. agricultural products and report on agricultural production and market developments in their area.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Officers are responsible for animal and plant health issues as they impact U.S. trade and in protecting U.S. agriculture from foreign pests and diseases. They expedite U.S. exports in the area of technical sanitary and phytosanitary (S&P) regulations.
Environment, Science and Technology (EST) Officers analyze and report on EST developments and their potential impact on U.S. policies and programs.
Financial Attaches analyze and report on major financial developments.
Consular Officers extend to U.S. citizens and their property abroad the protection of the U.S. Government. They maintain lists of local attorneys, act as liaison with police and other officials, and have the authority to notarize documents. The Department recommends that business representatives residing overseas register with the consular officer; in troubled areas, even travelers are advised to register.
Immigration and Naturalization Service Officers are responsible for enforcing the laws regulating the admission of foreign-born persons (i.e., aliens) to the United States and for administering various immigration benefits, including the naturalization of resident aliens.
Regional Security Officers are responsible for providing physical, procedural, and personnel security services to U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel; they also provide local in-country security briefings and threat assessments to business executives.
AID Mission Directors are responsible for AID programs, including dollar and local currency loans, grants, and technical assistance.
Political Officers advise U.S. business executives on the local political climate and analyze and report on political developments and their potential impact on U.S. interests.
Labor Officers follow the activities of labor organizations to supply such information as wages, nonwage costs, social security regulations, labor attitudes toward American investments, etc. Advise U.S. business on local labor laws and practices and analyze and report on activities of local labor organizations, labor laws and practices, and their potential impact on U.S. interests.
Administrative Officers are responsible for normal business operations of the post, including purchasing for the post and its commissary.
Security Assistance Officers are responsible for Defense Cooperation in Armaments and foreign military sales to include functioning as primary in-country point of contact for U.S. Defense Industry.
Information Systems Managers are responsible for the post's unclassified information systems, database management, programming, and operational needs. They provide liaison with appropriate commercial contacts in the information field to enhance the post's systems integrity.
Communications Programs Officers are responsible for the telecommunications, telephone, radio, diplomatic pouches, and records management programs within the diplomatic mission. They maintain close contact with the host government's information/communications authorities on operational matters.
Public Affairs Officers are the press and cultural affairs specialists and maintain close contact with the local press.
Legal Attaches serve as representatives to the U.S. Department of Justice on criminal matters.
U.S. Department of State and Commerce Country Desk Officers
Both the Departments of State and Commerce have country desk officers based in Washington, D.C. who have comprehensive, up-to-date information on particular countries and can advise U.S. companies of the political and economic climate.
International Economic Policy (IEP) country desk officers in the Department of Commerce collect information on individual country regulations, tariffs, business practices, economic and political developments, trade data, and market size and growth, keeping a current pulse on the potential markets for U.S. products, services, and investments.
IEP has several regional business information centers that focus on new opportunities for trade and investment in various parts of the world: the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the European Community.
For a specific country desk officer or regional business center, call (202) 482ñ3022.
Country desk officers at the Department of State maintain regular contact with overseas diplomatic missions and can provide country-specific economic and political analysis for U.S. companies.
For a specific State Department country desk officer, call (202) 647ñ4000.
The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, can also provide current data on the security situation to interested persons planning trips abroad. American business representatives desiring this information should contact the Overseas Security Advisory Council at (202) 663ñ0533.
Department of State Coordinator for Business Affairs
The Coordinator for Business Affairs coordinates the Department's advocacy for U.S. companies overseas competing in international bids; problem-solving assistance to U.S. companies; dialogue with the U.S. private sector to ensure that business concerns are appropriately factored into foreign policy; and programs and practices to improve the Department's support for business. You should consider the Coordinator for Business Affairs your principal point of contact for business concerns within the Department of State. Tel. (202) 647ñ1942; FAX (202) 647ñ5713.
Trade Information Center
For general information about U.S. Government export
promotion programs, you should contact the Trade Information Center.
It provides information on Federal programs and activities that
support U.S. exports, information on overseas markets and industry
trends, and a computerized calendar of U.S Government-sponsored
domestic and overseas trade events. The center's nationwide toll-free
number is: 1-800-USA-TRADE (1-800-872-8723).
A special line is available for those who are deaf or hearing-impaired: TDD 1-800-833-8723.
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