International Business Information: Tips, Tools, and Techniques

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ALA Annual Meeting, New Orleans
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Loews Louisiana I


BRASS Discussion Group Notes

Approximate attendance: 65

Recorders: Louise Feldman, Colorado State University; Janice S. Lewis, East Carolina University; and Sylvia Ortiz, New Mexico State University.

Peter McKay, chair of the Discussion Group, welcomed the audience and explained the format for the discussion. He then introduced the moderator, Jeanie M. Welch, Business Librarian at University of North Carolina – Charlotte. Jeanie developed and maintains the VIBES – Virtual International Business & Economic Sources website (URL: http://library.uncc.edu/vibes/). The first question was how she kept the site updated. Jeanie indicated that she spends an hour a day making sure links still work and that information is still current and free. It takes her six months to update the entire site. Jeanie noted that VIBES covers English and bilingual sites, while Michigan State University’s GlobalEDGE ( http://globaledge.msu.edu/) database also covers non-English sites.

Discussion questions and suggested sources included:

How do I find business contacts in China? Principal International Businesses and Kompass.com ( http://www.kompass.com) are good sources.

Does Buy USA replace the Foreign Traders Index (FTI)? No. Buy USA ( http://www.buyusa.gov) does list some foreign companies looking for partners in the US, but users have often been disappointed by it. GLOBUS (part of STAT-USA) can be useful. [Note: The FTI is a list of foreign firms that have approached a U.S. embassy or consulate to request assistance in obtaining information on American services firms. The firms are listed in the Index by identifying characteristics such as country in which the firm is located or the service sought.] Mintel has a new subscription database that includes images of consumer products that are sold in various countries. Other good sources include Exporters' Encyclopaedia and Alibaba.com ( http://www.alibaba.com).

How does one find information about importing into the US? Strategis ( http://strategis.ic.gc.ca) has wonderful statistical tables. After 9/11, the US government stopped providing much information about importing into the US. However, this site from Industry Canada "provides the ability to generate customized reports on Canada's and U.S. trade in goods with over 200 countries." The USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb provides international trade statistics and U.S. tariff data to the public free of charge ( http://dataweb.usitc.gov/). U.S. import statistics, U.S. export statistics, U.S. tariffs, U.S. future tariffs and U.S. tariff preference information are available. International trade data are available for years 1989- present on a monthly, quarterly, annual, or year-to-date basis and can be retrieved in a number of classification systems, including the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC), or the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Pre-defined reports on international trade statistics are also available by geographic region and partner country. Current U.S. tariffs can be accessed via the USITC DataWeb. Many other sites charge for this information.

Does anyone have a subscription to Kompass.com? No. The free site provides the names of businesses. Members of the audience indicated that they thought that the subscription provides fuller, more detailed information.

Who has the print Country Commerce series from EIU? No one indicated that they had this set. Some of the reports are in Business Source Premier (BSP), with a six-month embargo. BSP describes the reports as "comprehensive guides to business, regulatory and trade framework... includes key economic indicators, foreign investment, guidance on obtaining proper permits & complying with local tax laws--including e-commerce rules." An audience member reminded the group that Plunkett's pulled its content from BSP because people cancelled their subscriptions to Plunkett's.

Political Risk Yearbook is also in BSP. An audience member indicated that 2006 data had recently been uploaded. [I checked 5 countries on July 3, and 2005 was the most recent available.] An audience member asked which was better, EIU’s Country Commerce series or Political Risk Yearbook. Several people noted that it was difficult to compare them since they looked at the issues from different perspectives. EIU focuses on issues facing individual companies in a foreign country, while Political Risk Yearbook looks at more general factors. Bobray Bordelon offered to share his handout on political risk on the BRASS-L list. It can be found at http://firestone.princeton.edu/econlib/tuesday/risk.htm.

What do people think of Bureau van Dijk? It has directories for countries around the world. There is a feeling that it is trying to get Mergent's US market. It does not guarantee archiving. OSIRIS covers large companies around the world. While the coverage is broader than what is in WorldScope, it still just covers companies with large market caps. It was pointed out that OSIRIS costs about 10K compared to 30K for Mergent (approximate depending on institution’s subscription/license agreement). AMADEUS only covers Europe, but it includes smaller companies. From the OSIRIS website: OSIRIS covers more than 125 countries and contains information on more than 43,000 companies. AMADEUS is a comprehensive, pan-European database containing financial information on approximately 8 million public and private companies in 38 European countries.

What are some good sources for information about developing countries? Economatica ( http://www.economatica.com) is one good source, as is Standard & Poor’s Emerging Markets Indices. ISI Emerging Markets is another option, although it seems to leave out some good free documents and doesn't do a very good job with aggregating information, making it expensive and not very comprehensive. One person thought that Simmons covers Latin America, but she had not seen the database.

How can I find roof shingle manufacturers in Mexico? Try using the Spanish version of Google. Also suggested was to go to the official Mexican government statistics site, find out which state has the most roof shingle manufacturers, then contact that state for recommendations. Or perhaps call the American commercial officer stationed in Mexico and ask.

Who is supporting a curriculum in Spanish? Patrick Sullivan at San Diego State University was suggested as a good resource person. Someone suggested talking to your existing vendors to see if they offer a search interface in Spanish. HAPI ( http://hapi.ucla.edu/) was mentioned, but the feeling was that this database is geared more towards US students majoring in Latin American studies and is stronger in the areas of society and culture than for MBA support.

What’s going on with Government Finance Statistics? The IMF used to produce one CD with all the years of data on it. Now the years 2003 onward are on a separate CD and have a different interface. Please lobby the IMF to put all the data back on one CD or DVD.

What’s going on with the OECD? OECD policy is to put 10% of its data on its website for free. The SourceOECD website is going to be redesigned. The Beta for one statistical database will be available later this year. There was general agreement that the current database is very hard to search and that one has to be familiar with the print in order to effectively use the online version.

What is Comtrade? Audience discussion is supplemented with information from the website ( http://unstats.un.org/unsd/comtrade/). The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade) contains detailed imports and exports statistics reported by statistical authorities of close to 200 countries or areas. It has annual trade data from 1962 to the most recent year. UN Comtrade is considered the most comprehensive trade database available with more than 1 billion records. A typical record is – for instance – the exports of cars from Germany to the United States in 2004 in terms of value (US dollars), weight and supplementary quantity (number of cars). The free version has all the data, but you have to subscribe in order to download data. WITS (World Integrated Trade Solutions) ( http://wits.worldbank.org/witsweb/) is software developed by the World Bank, in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). WITS provides access to Comtrade and TRAINS ( http://r0.unctad.org/trains), which contains information on imports, tariffs, para-tariffs and non-tariff measures for 119 countries. The WTO also has a good free website with import/export data. From the website ( http://wits.worldbank.org/witsweb/Present/default.aspx): "The World Trade Organization (WTO) Integrated Data Base (IDB) contains Imports by Commodity and Partner Country and MFN Applied Tariffs for over 80 countries at the most detailed commodity level of the national tariffs; the Consolidated Tariff Schedule Data Base (CTS) that contains WTO Bound Tariffs, Initial Negotiating Rights (INR) and other indicators. The CTS is the official source for bound tariffs which are the concessions made by countries during a negotiation (e.g., the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations). The data are recorded according to two internationally recognized trade and tariff classifications."

Where can I find treaties? The UN Treaty Collection: http://untreaty.un.org/

What is the US Custom House Guide? Great source for importing information. See: http://www.customhouseguide.com/default.asp

How can I find out about regional trade groups? Check Exporters' Encyclopaedia. Check the group’s website (i.e., Asian Development Bank, SubSaharan Africa). Many are in English.

Where can I find advertising restrictions by country? These are generally available free on the web.

Other good sources:

Don’t forget the CIA World Factbook. It’s a great quick and free source that includes a list of international organizations in which each country participates.

World Development Indicators is now available from the World Bank online as well as on CD-ROM. The concern is that the web version is not a reliable archive. This resource was called "crucial but so expensive."

NationMaster.com ( http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php) is a compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD. It is free.

Center for International Securities & Derivatives Markets ( http://cisdm.som.umass.edu/) is a free source for information about hedge funds.

Where can I find historical economic data? Global Financial Data is a source for historical stock market, financial, and economic data. The GFD Database includes over 20,000 current and historical data series covering over 200 countries that have been collected from original sources. Many series extend back more than two centuries. GFD used to be just an index but now has data, including interest rates, GDP, GNP, exchange rates, etc. Information can be downloaded to Excel. This is a subscription database useful to history majors as well as business and economics researchers. For free sources, try EH.Net and the National Bureau of Economic Research ( http://www.nber.org/data/).

How can I get state export data? Try the WISERTrade database, part of MISER, from the Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research. This is a subscription database. More info at: http://www.wisertrade.org/home/index.jsp.

Does anyone know of a good grants database? SPIN, Community of Science and Foundation Center

Announcements:

The next BRASS Publishers’ Forum will be on international trade.

Gary White (Chair, BRASS Development Committee) thanked BRASS’s sponsors, including Standard & Poor’s, Dun & Bradstreet, Thomson Gale, and Emerald. He mentioned that the BRASS bookmarks are still available.

Todd Hines (Program Committee) announced Monday’s event on Public Finance with breakfast provided by S&P.

Jennifer Boettcher (BRASS Chair) announced that Ryan Womack is the incoming Chair. Judith Faust, who is now the Chair-Elect, will be assigning members to committees. She reminded members to be sure to come to BRASS events including new member receptions. Also, two $5000 research grants for business librarianship are now available. Speak with Gary White for more information.

Celia Ross announced that there will be a Business 101 pre-conference on the Friday prior to the Seattle ALA Midwinter Meeting. Please see the RUSA article about BRASS Core Competencies. Also, a reminder about RUSA sponsored online professional development. Business Reference 101 is a 4 week WebCT own-pace course that is "part therapy, part resources" and will be offered at least 4 or 5 times over next year.

Goizueta Library has an opening for a Business Librarian with 3-5 years experience who will primarily liaison with marketing department. Goizueta’s undergraduate program has been ranked #5 by Business Week.

Bobray Bordelon of the Professional Development Committee asked for members to approach him with any ideas for classes. Also, remember the dinner Monday night at Crescent City Diner.

Priscilla Geahigan announced that Purdue has an opening for Coordinator of Reference Services.

Other discussion:

Mediamark - Bad contract several said because of privacy issues and irresponsible monitoring.

Center for International Securities and Derivatives ( http://cisdm.som.umass.edu/) - need to register, but free

Follow up:

The following were provided by Bobray Bordelon

  1. Price to Book ratios are included in the Emerging Markets database.
  2. The handout for Economic and Political Risk can be found at http://firestone.princeton.edu/econlib/tuesday/risk.htm

bulletInternational Business Information: Tips, Tools, and Techniques
Business Reference Services Discussion Group, ALA Annual Conference, June 25, 2006

  • Notes from the discussion


Disclaimer : This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 11 September 2006.