One of the first places to go to look for trade leads is the USENET. A number of newsgroups are available to the international trade community and accept postings for equipment and services. These groups are very busy and have a large number of postings. Unfortunately, they also tend to get a lot of off-topic postings as well as the get-rich-quick and Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) postings. You'll need newsgroup reader software, which is included with all the major browsers. The main groups are: alt.business.import-export, alt.business.import-export.computer, alt.business.import-export.consumables, alt.business.import-export.food, alt.business.import-export.only, alt.business.import-export.raw-material, alt.business.import-export.services (), and alt.business.offshore.
An excellent method of garnering trade leads is via mailing lists. You can have the leads sent directly to your email box and then sort through them at your leisure. Be prepared though—you will receive thousands of leads. I use two email addresses and email software with filters to sort and organize the trade leads I receive from six or seven different sources. Please visit the Web sites to subscribe to the lists.
Two of the better lists are Tradewinds and TradeNet. They are heavily utilized by the trade community and both offer an archive of past leads at their Web sites. One of the major sources of leads today is the United Nations Trade Point Development Center. They have the Electronic Trade Opportunities Mailing List which gathers leads via 120 Trade Points (with 40 more being organized) in more than 70 countries around the globe. They claim to have served more than 1 billion (yes, billion) Electronic Trade Opportunities (ETOs) since 1992. If you are interested in doing business with Central and Eastern Europe, I recommend the EEurope-Business Digest list administered by The North American Association For Exports To Eastern Europe (N.A.A.F.E.T.E.E.). Trading House has Global Marketplace Online, which offers free subscriptions to several mailing lists, including the Global- Marketplace-Digest (provides trade leads every business day). The Trading House also has the Asian- Business and Euro-Business mailing lists for information on doing business in those two regions of the world. Tradelink is another mailing list of trade leads. It has more than 625 categories of products and services, and allows you to sign up for only the categories you want to receive. To subscribe, send email to email@example.com with the subject line "TRDLNK- SUBSCRIBE," or to receive more information, put "TRDLNK-INFO" in the subject line.
These Web sites offer online postings of buy and sell ads and links to other trade lead sites. The Import Export Bulletin Board has Offers to Buy, Offers to Sell, and Opportunities. Leads are kept available for only 14 days. They just recently implemented a mailing list. If you don't want to flood your mailbox with leads from the United Nations, World Trade Markets () allows online searching of the United Nations Electronic Trade Opportunities by date, product or country.
Free Market on the Web is based in Japan and has both For Sale and Want ads. They offer an open forum which means the leads are not limited to Japan and Asia. Trade Leads Argentina () has buy and sell opportunities. It also provides resources for those seeking to represent products or those seeking representation in Argentina and other Mercosur countries (Brazil and Chile). The International Trade Network offers leads by category and region. Make sure to visit Rexco's Global Trade leads. It has an extensive listing of links to a multitude of leads resources, including government tenders, other leads sources and directories.
The following sites either charge a fee for accessing the leads and information available on their sites. I've also included a number of links to non-electronic sources of leads. I mentioned STAT-USA in the last column, but it also offers a large selection of leads, both agricultural and commercial, collected by U.S. government commercial offices located overseas. The subscription is US$150.00 per year, but a large number of other international trade sites (please see WWWiz, October 1996) include access to STAT-USA in their subscription fees.
The Trading Floor (http://trading.wmw.com/) offers realtime online trading via scheduled trading sessions as well as private member rooms. You can actually conduct face-to-face negotiations online. Both Smartseek and Eyedeal Trading Agency offer trade leads, but a subscription is required.
The Journal of Commerce is a well-respected international commerce newspaper that has been in publication since 1827. It is a daily source of trade leads, as well as other international trade news. Export Leads is a monthly subscription-based newspaper with hundreds of leads from importers and buyers.
World Trade Service offers a variety of importer, exporter and country trade directories. The Interdata Regional Buyer Directories provide detailed contact information on more than 150,000 buyers (organized regionally) around the globe . The Interdata Product Buyer Directories, on the other hand, are organized in 44 product categories. A.R. Vogue Corporation has a directory of Asian/Middle East Buyers.
The Internet offers a wide selection of resources to help locate overseas buyers and suppliers. However, finding the leads and companies is just the first step in conducting business overseas. It is much more difficult to actually secure the deal and then get paid. Stay tuned as I investigate resources to help you locate information on potential business partners, as well as resources for getting the contract and, most importantly, receiving payment.