Exporting to the U.S: Let’s Get Serious!


Many of the business plans I review hint at interest in exporting to the U.S. Few outline a definite plan. There is no doubt that turning this elusive opportunity into a definite plan is difficult. Expanding into a new territory is hard enough; expanding into a new territory that is in another country requires even more market research and learning.

You may be wondering if your company, products, and you are export-ready. Here are a few questions to help you assess where you are on the export readiness continuum:


  • How well established is your business in the domestic market?
  • What is the make-up of your current domestic sales? Do you have customers/regular sales throughout western Canada and/or nationally?
  • How do you sell and distribute your products and/or services in your local, regional and national markets?
  • How costly is your product to transport over long distances?
  • Can your product tolerate harsh or widely varying weather/temperature conditions?
  • Has your company received any inquiries from U.S. companies?
  • Do you or any of your management staff have export marketing or sales experience?
  • How quickly could your company fill and distribute orders to a potential export market?
  • Are you and your top managers committed to exporting as a new or expanded area of activity?
  • How price-competitive is your product in the domestic market?
  • Have you considered the payment terms you would be willing to provide?
  • Are you willing to adapt your product and/or packaging to better suit foreign markets?
  • Does your product require assembly, installation, special technical support or after-sale service?
  • How much per year could your company afford to spend on export development?
  • How long are you willing to work at export development before you expect to see sales results?

If, after answering these questions, you are still committed to the potential of exporting, the next challenge is understanding the regulations and document processing requirements. And that is no easy task. Here are the first things you need to know and agencies/programs that you will need to research further for exporting into the U.S.

  • CBP: U.S. Customs and Border Protection -This agency of the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for importation of goods into the U.S. It has two primary responsibilities:  securing U.S. borders and facilitating trade and travel.
  • ACE: Automated Commercial Environment – This is essentially a customized web page that provides a centralized, online access point for CBP communication and information. It provides businesses access to all trade and government agencies, reporting/filing forms, etc. involved in importing and exporting in the U.S.
  • CBP encourages businesses interested in exporting to the U.S. to create an ACE Portal Account (there is no cost to your business for creating this account). Some of the advantages of the ACE system:
  1. You can download more than 125 customizable reports and respond to CBP forms for entry summaries.
  2. Businesses can participate in Periodic Monthly Statement, which allows all eligible shipments released during the month to be paid on the 15th working day in the following month.
  3. The ACE electronic truck manifest capabilities enable the CBP to pre-screen trucks and shipments to ensure the safety and security of incoming cargo. Electronic manifests detailing shipment, conveyance and carrier information are required when crossing any one of the 99 U.S. land border ports.
  4. Truck carriers can self-file e-manifests through the ACE portal or via the CBP-approved data interchange, or they can use third parties (brokers).

CEE: Centers of Excellence and Expertise in the U.S. – The CBP has set up eleven Centers throughout the U.S. Each has a specialized industry focus to deal with the importation of goods into the U.S. Your assigned Center will be based on the primary industry in which your products are categorized, and therefore, when applying, it’s important to know in which industry your goods would be classified. The geographic location of the Center does not affect the Port of Entry that you can use to ship your goods into the U.S.
Still interested in Exporting to the U.S.? Here’s how to get started:

  1. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection websitewww.cbp.gov/trade for Basic Import and Export information.
  2. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website atwww.cbp.gov/ace for information on ACE and to “Apply for an Account”.
  3. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website atwww.cbp.gov/centers-excellence-and-expertise-information
  4. Participate in the Business Information Centre’s (BIC) Fact-finding trip to the U.S. and Canadian Pembina border crossing on April 21, 2016 from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Here’s the link to the bus tour called: Why crossing the line is good for business.
  5. Contact me at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (204-988-1872; nbrommell@wecm.ca ). I can provide you with more specific information and connections depending on where you are in the process. For example, did you know that the federal government has a program under the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) called Business Women in International Trade (BWIT)? BWIT is the only national program that provides targeted products and services to help women entrepreneurs internationalize. I can connect you to this fabulous program and its staff as we are working with them on two upcoming trade missions (more on that in my next blog post). In the meantime, you can learn more about BWIT by visiting their website; here is the link.

Keep in mind that we have yet to discuss how you go about exploring potential markets. We can discuss this in greater detail when we meet (either in person or on the telephone).

I look forward to seeing you on the bus on April 21 and hearing from you!
– Nancy Brommell, Business Advisor at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.

Resources used in the development of this blog post:
Export Readiness Assessment System (ERAS) The Missouri Department of Economic Development
U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and factsheets