Northeastern trade directors meet to discuss regional trade development

October 31, 2022

The Eastern Trade Council held its first meetings in 1999, resulting in a joint report on regional exports that helped state leaders make the case for investment in export development.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, the board is still serving as a catalyst for northeastern state export leaders to collaborate, communicate with federal trade officials, and navigate an increasingly turbulent global marketplace.

The council, also called the ETC, is an affiliate organization of CSG East and is the only organization bringing trade directors together on a regional level.


Men and women in business attire pose for a photo in front of a 22nd floor window looking out over the city of Boston

[Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office]

Eastern Trade Council board members Mark Sullivan (MA), Adam Boltik (NH), Tim Tierney (VT), Jennifer Black (PA), Zeynep Turk (ME), and Andrew Gelfuso (RI) pose for a photo with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

ETC regional trade development projects are guided by a board made up primarily of the state trade directors working in states from Delaware to Maine. These leaders – usually serving under cabinet secretaries or appointees – work to develop trade partnerships around the world, attract new businesses, increase foreign investment, and create jobs.

It is important work for small businesses around the region. Nearly 96% of consumers live outside the U.S., and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries.

Through regional cooperation, states can target important markets that may have been cost prohibitive for an individual state to explore and improve return on investment. ETC member states also share many of the same industries, making cooperation feasible as well as desirable.

Looking ahead to 2023

Board members gathered for their annual meeting in Boston in late October with a full slate of issues to discuss.

In addition to conversations on recent trade missions, upcoming trade shows, and economic recovery topics that usually dominate these meetings, the board also discussed the surging value of the U.S. dollar abroad, the impacts of the war in Ukraine, and the administration of State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants, a federal program that provides grants to U.S. states and territories working to cover costs for small businesses entering and expanding into international markets.

Board members met virtually with Gabriel Esparza, associate administrator of international trade for the Small Business Administration (SBA), highlighting the need for streamlined reporting and tracking of quarterly distributed grants.

The board is also planning a report on regional export value and its impact on local economies in the region. Old reports and metrics, they said, don’t fully reflect today’s service-based economy.

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Esparza explained that “Most people associate the typical U.S. export with big business…. But that story is evolving, and the role of small business exporters is starting to impact the marketplace in ways previously unseen.”

Working in partnership with the CSG Center of Innovation, ETC members plan to publish their report in 2023.

You might also be interested in