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Trade Disputes Have US Exporters Shifting Their Strategies

A new survey from American Express suggests small and mid-sized exporters (SMBs) based in the U.S. are shifting their business strategies in response to trade tensions and regulatory uncertainty.

American Express announced its 2018 Grow Global Survey on Wednesday (Sept. 5), revealing in its survey of 500 U.S.-based SMB exporters that 90 percent see international markets as a major growth opportunity. Optimism is high, with 75 percent of exporters expecting revenues to increase in the coming year. Nearly one-third say revenues will increase by more than 50 percent over the next five years, up from just 18 percent last year.

Yet, those exporters are facing uncertainties and other market challenges. Seventy-one percent said the shifting global economies are a hurdle, and nearly 40 percent report feeling uncertain about changes in global trade agreements and U.S. trade policies.

“Over the last 12 months, many exporters changed their exporting strategy due to trade agreements and policies (32 percent), as well as political instability (28 percent),” American Express said in its announcement.

Despite these issues, investments in growing internationally remains strong.

“Exporting is often seen as a challenging path to growth, but our research finds that small and mid-sized companies that begin exporting generally see the strategy quickly become a substantial part of their business, and provide secondary benefits in recruitment and domestic operations,” said Brendan Walsh, American Express executive vice president of U.S. Global Corporate Payments, in the statement.

He added that exporters remain optimistic, but that firms should do “their due diligence about the potential range of opportunities.”

The survey was released the same day as reports that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating American Express for unfair foreign exchange pricing practices for corporate customers that make international payments. Unnamed sources told The Wall Street Journal that the FBI’s probe launched last month, and American Express confirmed in July it is conducting its own internal investigation into the matter.

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