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An international trade center facilitates world trade through collaborative and educational activities. These centers typically exist to give practical help to business interests, and to encourage vigorous trading relationships between nations. Centers may provide assistance at a local, national, or international level. An international trade center also offers assistance by creating a venue for business professionals and government officials to network. Advising local and national governments on how best to facilitate world trade is another aspect of the work of an international trade center.
Throughout the world, there exists a complex web of interactions between various business entities. Acting alone, a single business, even if it is a large corporation, may experience roadblocks and other barriers when attempting to ship or receive goods internationally. The staff at an international trade center may offer advice and practical assistance to businesses seeking to trade internationally. For example, a U.S. business in Washington State may seek to increase exports of wood products to Japan, but the business owner might have insufficient knowledge of trading customs and legal requirements that may be involved.
These trade centers offer businesses training in forming relationships with trading partners in other countries. Training may include an understanding of customs in the business practices of another country. For example, in the U.S. it is often considered impolite to take up a large amount of time socializing before business negotiations begin. In many Middle-Eastern countries, however, it may be considered rude to jump into trade discussions until certain social cordialities occur, which may take hours or even days to complete.
A local international trade center is often situated near a national border, but not always. The world’s major ports frequently have these centers, as agents for exporters and importers may have offices nearby. These organizations may also be located in cities with international airports.
Facilities at an international trade center often include rooms for business trade professionals to meet so that they can network with one another. Those who have already achieved some experience in trading relationships can share with novices, forging collaborative partnerships. Information shared could include referrals to freight forwarding companies, or lawyers who specialize in crafting legal agreements for trading partners. Due to the scale and expense of establishing trade relationships with other nations, it is often helpful for individual businesses from a country to become members of a trade delegation.
Staff working for an international trade center may also educate and advise policy makers on how best to increase productive trading relationships. An innocent yet embarrassing faux pas may harm a productive trading partnership. If a politician utters the faux pas, the damage could be significant.