By: Ryan Coleman
We here at Foreign Trade(FTD) receive a lot of questions from people in the trade community regarding our online data products and services. The Commodity Analysis Branch receives requests to verify specific numbers in the published data. The Regulations, Outreach and Education Branch often gets questions regarding methods and rules influencing how exporters ship internationally. The Automated Export Systems Branch receives questions from exporters about using the electronic system for reporting their exports. The Special Projects Branch, my branch, receives questions regarding the Profile of U.S. Exporting Companies, State and Sub-state data, and Related Party trade.
In addition, we also receive requests for data that may not be currently released. In some cases we have previously produced the type of data being requested, or at least something very similar to it. If this is the case then the data can sometimes be created for a reproduction cost. Other times the request is for something entirely new. For example: a request that I received just recently involved a tabulation of small and medium sized exporters broken down by a variable we don’t currently use. This type of tabulation is not currently in production but if there is enough demand for the data then the request will be investigated to see if that type of data product can be created with our resources.
After investigating a data request we will let the interested party know if the data being requested can feasibly be produced and if there are any issues with disclosing confidential information. We will also let them know specific details such as an estimate of the cost and duration to produce the data product. Special Projects produces additional data products for several repeat customers on an annual basis, which began with an initial one-time request for a new piece of data. Prior to my employment here with FTD I was not aware of how easy it can be to request a piece of data or a related service from a branch of the Department of Commerce, such as Foreign Trade. I am sure that there are plenty of other people out there who are also not fully aware of this. So in the future, ask and ye shall…quite possibly…receive. Just remember: it’s confidentiality first!