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This overview outlines the export activities of U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Data presented here are generated from the U.S. Commerce Department's Exporter Database (EDB). Additional information on the EDB can be obtained by viewing the U.S. Census Bureau's Profile of U.S. Exporting Companies, 2003-2004.
For a more detailed explanation of the EDB please see the technical notes.
The Commerce Department's Exporter Data Base (EDB) reveals that in 2004 the total number of U.S. firms exporting goods stood at 231,736. The EDB captures companies exporting merchandise, but not firms that export only services.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (companies with fewer than 500 workers) would be among the major beneficiaries of U.S. initiatives to reduce foreign barriers to U.S. exports. A total of 225,139 SMEs exported from the United States in 2004, accounting for 97 percent of all U.S. exporters.
SMEs accounted for almost 99 percent of the 1992-2004 growth in the exporter population. The number of SMEs that export merchandise more than doubled in this period, soaring from 108,026 in 1992 to 225,139 in 2004.
The known export revenue of SMEs rose from $102.8 billion in 1992 to $203.0 billion in 2004. SMEs were responsible for 28.6 percent of goods exports in 2004.
Non-manufacturing companies dominate exporting by SMEs. In 2004, wholesalers
and other non-manufacturing firms made up 68 percent of all SME exporters
and generated 63 percent of total SME exports.
Evidence shows that many SMEs could sharply boost exports by entering new markets. In 2004, 59 percent of all SME exporters-nearly three-fifths-posted sales to only one foreign market. On the other hand, more than half-53 percent-of large firms that exported recorded sales to five or more foreign markets in 2004.
All exporters-both large and small companies-benefit from efforts by the U.S. Government to lower foreign barriers to U.S. products. With the implementation of NAFTA, exports to Canada and Mexico by SMEs and large firms rose significantly relative to the rest of the world. The share of SME exports going to Canada and Mexico increased from 24 percent of total U.S. exports in 1992 to 29 percent in 2004. Similarly, the share of large firms' exports going to those two countries rose from 26 percent in 1992 to 36 percent in 2004.
Compared with large firms, SMEs are especially dependent on U.S. Government initiatives to open foreign markets. This is because, unlike big companies, most SMEs do not possess offshore business affiliates that can be used to circumvent trade barriers and gain market access. Over 90 percent of all SME exporters do business from a single U.S. location, and only 15 percent of SME exports go to affiliates (related parties) abroad. In contrast, 11 percent of large firms that export are single-location companies and 40 percent of the exports from large firms go to foreign affiliates.
Canada is by far the most popular export destination for SMEs. In 2004, some 78,779 SME exporting companies registered sales to Canada. Mexico ranked second, receiving merchandise exports from 39,258 U.S. SMEs. Other popular markets for SME exporters that year were the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.
Together, the NAFTA countries accounted for 29 percent of U.S. merchandise
exports from SMEs in 2004. Canada alone purchased $30 billion in merchandise
exports from SMEs, followed by Mexico with $28 billion. Other top markets
for SMEs in 2004 were Japan ($15 billion), China ($11 billion), the
United Kingdom ($10 billion), South Korea ($8 billion), and Germany
A total of 21,360 U.S. firms are known to have exported merchandise to China in 2004 - the last year for which data are available. The 2004 total of exporting firms is more than five times the number in 1992, when 4,092 firms exported to China.
The number of known small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that exported to China in 2004 totaled 19,201 - up from 3,143 SMEs in 1992.
Ninety percent of all U.S. exporters to China in 2004 were SMEs. This is up from 1992, when 77 percent of exporters to the China market were SMEs.
The number of SMEs exporting to China has been rising much faster than
the number of large companies. From 1992 to 2004 the number of SMEs
exporting to China surged by 511 percent, compared to 128 percent for
SMEs are known to have exported goods to China worth $11.4 billion in 2004 (i.e. exports to China that can be linked to individual companies using information on U.S. export declarations). China was the fourth largest market for U.S. merchandise exports from SMEs.
SMEs are responsible for a significant share of U.S. exports to China. In 2004, SMEs generated 35.1 percent - over one-third - of all known U.S. merchandise exports to China. This is higher than the SME share of overall U.S. merchandise exports of 28.6 percent.