International Trade

Eastern Trade Council

The Eastern Trade Council (ETC) was formed in 1999 to facilitate cooperation among the ten northeastern states in export development.

While every state offers a variety of export assistance programs to help companies enter or expand into overseas markets, there are opportunities for states to work together and achieve economies of scale in their export promotion efforts.

By organizing regional trade missions, jointly promoting regional products at trade shows, and sharing trade development information, the state trade offices in the Northeast can assist more firms to enter global markets and create jobs at home, strengthening the Northeast’s economic competitiveness.


ships with containers near cranes in port

Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash

Why Collaborate?


The United States trades with more than 200 countries. As a result, every state, regardless of the size of its trade promotion budget, has to choose which export markets they are going to target when it comes to recruiting firms to participate in trade missions or trade shows, opening overseas trade offices, or conducting other trade promotion activities.

Through regional cooperation, states can target important markets that may have been cost prohibitive for an individual state to explore. By working together, state trade officials in the Northeast are stretching their individual state’s trade promotion dollar.

ETC member states also share many of the same industries making cooperation feasible as well as desirable. Industrial machinery, electric machinery, transportation equipment, optic, photo, medical or surgical devices are strong export sectors for most of the Northeastern states. Multi-state export promotion efforts targeted at these, and other sectors, can produce greater overall increases in exports.

Developing Export Potential


Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. However, most small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for almost 97 percent of total U.S. exporters, need assistance in finding the right buyers or distributors for their products.

According to the U.S. Commercial Service, two-thirds of these SMEs currently sell to only one market. Helping these companies expand into even one new market has the potential to greatly increase overall exports.

Broadening a company’s customer base also enables that firm to better weather domestic economic downturns.

In September SBA announced a total of $19 million in grant awards to fund 46 state international trade agencies in the program’s ninth grant cycle.

Organization and Membership


The Eastern Trade Council is an affiliate organization of the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference. ETC regional trade development projects are guided by a 10-member board of directors including the state trade directors or their designees from: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  To see the current list of ETC Board member please click here.

ETC Services


Trade missions offer comprehensive support for companies from all sectors in ETC member states that are looking to increase sales internationally. As a mission member, delegates join a high profile group with the flexibility to pursue individual business objectives, as well as participate in group events, at significant cost savings.

Advice and customized-research is available at an early stage to allow delegates to arrange appointments in the market.

Delegates also benefit from the publicity and targeted contacts created through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service network as part of the trade mission. Full on-ground support in the market is provided by the ETC.

Trade shows allow the ETC to offer participating companies the opportunity to join booth space at major shows at a significant discount giving participants a cost-effective means for Northeast companies to exhibit their products in overseas markets.

Participation for small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly for large shows, can be cost prohibitive. Through the ETC, and with the assistance of state trade office personnel who staff the ETC booth, participating companies are able to maximize their trade show experience.

stacked shipping containers of different colors

distelAPPArath on Pixabay

State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)


Trade represents nearly 58 percent of the world’s $80 trillion economy — and 95 percent of the world’s consumers are located outside the United States, presenting an enormous opportunity for U.S. small business.

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was designed to assist states with increasing the number of small businesses that export—as well as the value of those exports, an important way for U.S. small businesses to grow revenue and boost local economies.

The principal goals of STEP include increasing the number of small businesses that explore significant new trade opportunities and that export, as well as the value of those exports.

STEP grants are used to assist small businesses with the information and tools they need to succeed in export-related activities, including participation in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips and export promotion services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC).

The grants also support the design of international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops, and more. Improving the outreach and impact of the grant’s reach remains a primary objective for the ETC board; therefore, ETC continues to work with the SBA, USDOC, and the State International Development Organization to improve the grant’s parameters to maximize access of small business exporters to potential export opportunities.