Federal Shutdown Could Cause Bump in the Road for International Buyer Program

TSE STAFF
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Oceanside CA – A successful federal program that pairs international buyers with trade show exhibitors seeking to increase their exports is an administrative victim of the budget impasse that caused a shutdown of many government services as of October 1, the first day of the new budget year.

The International Buyers Program, operated by the U.S. Commercial Service of the Commerce Department, works with 75 countries to court buyers to attend leading U.S. trade shows. It generated $900 million in exports during 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available. This was a 10% increase over 2010. In 2011, the program recruited nearly 13,500 prospective buyers from international markets to participate in U.S. trade events to meet U.S. exporters.

But on October 1, the group’s web site carried a banner saying that “due to the lapse in government funding, the information on this website may not be up to date, the transactions submitted via the web site may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.” A similar message was provided via phone recording and an email query to program director Gary Rand generated an automated reply that said in part, “I am currently unavailable to take e-mails due to the lapse in FY14 appropriations. If you leave a message, I will be unable to respond until an appropriations bill has passed and operations are resumed.”

The National Association of Theater Owners was set to meet in Washington, DC October 1-3, with legislative meetings scheduled on Capitol Hill for October 1. The group was uncertain whether any of those meetings would take place as planned the morning after the shutdown.

Five trade shows that are part of the International Buyer Program for 2013 are set to take place in October. The first, GridWeek 2013, was scheduled to start October 1 in Washington, DC. GridWeek show organizer Anto Budiardjo of Clasma Events declined to comment about the effect of the shutdown on this show.

The International Baking Industry Exposition also is set to open in Las Vegas next weekend. The show’s website touted benefits of the International Buyer Program, including assistance in arranging one-on-one meetings with exhibitors and export trade counseling from the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Specialists.

The IFAI Specialty Fabrics Expo Americas and SGIA Expo Advanced Textiles 2013 shows are set to take place in Orlando Oct. 23-25. Marketing director Bonnie Hanson said that pre-planning is nearly complete and organizers are hopeful that the shutdown will end before the show begins. “We could potentially run into some challenges with staffing and providing accurate information and assistance to delegations if our IBP program partners are unable to attend due to the shutdown,” she said.

The Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference said in an email that essential Commerce (Department) staff will be in attendance as scheduled for this Chicago event that begins October 5.

The Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition 2013 is also set for October 22-24 in Lafayette, LA. Organizers could not be reached for comment.

What are the consequences if the IBP staff is not able to participate at their usual level?  David Huether, senior vice president of research and economics at the U.S. Travel Association, said that the travel industry has generated 32% of the overall increase in U.S. exports this year, increasing 8.9% over the first seven months of 2013 compared to the same time frame in 2012. And the Global Business Travel Association reported that each inbound international business trip increases U.S. merchandise exports to the visiting country by $36,000 per year and each overseas traveler spends about $5,000 during their visit to the U.S.

Reach Anto Budiardjo at (817) 946-3162; Bonnie Hanson at (651) 222-2508 or bjhanson@ifai.com; Nic Christy, WEFTEC Director of International Business Development at nchristy@weftec.org; Michael McCormick, COO of GBTA, at (702) 236-1129 or mmccormick@gbta.org; David Huether at (202) 408-2190 or dhuether@ustravel.org

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