Selected Core Resources

Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee

International Business

Maintained by
Adele Barsh
University of California, San Diego

See the BRASS Best of the Best Business Web Sites page on International Business for quick links to selected, highly-useful resources on this topic.

Scope | Important Terms | Frequently Asked Questions


International business is a term that covers a vast array of topics including international accounting, international marketing, importing and exporting, global company and industry information, international finance, and many others. As such, it is one of the largest of our categories, and the most difficult to define. One person seeking information on international business may wish to find the address of a company in Brazil, while another may be looking for accounting standards in Austria. One patron may need to know how to find a foreign company’s annual report, and yet another may want to explore marketing his company's product to Saudi Arabia. This source will admittedly have somewhat of a United States orientation, since it is produced under the auspices of a committee of a United States-based professional association, but in it you will find many of the core sources to help you answer a variety of reference questions on international business.

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The following definitions are taken with permission from globalEDGE TM, a “global business knowledge web-portal." globalEDGE TM is a registered trademark and service mark of CIBER/Michigan State University ( Copyright © 2001-2003 Michigan State University. All rights reserved.

Allocation-of-income rules - In the U.S. tax code, these rules define how income and deductions are to be allocated between domestic-source and foreign-source income.

Andean Pact - A regional trade pact that includes Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

Anti-dumping laws - Laws that are enacted to prevent dumping - offering prices in the overseas market that is lower than that at which a product is sold in its home domestic market.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Pact (APEC) - A loose economic affiliation of Southeast Asian and Far Eastern nations. The most prominent members are China, Japan, and Korea.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - A loose economic and geopolitical affiliation that includes Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia,Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Future members are likely to include Burma, Laos, and Cambodia.

Balance of payments - The International Monetary Fund’s accounting system that tracks the flow of goods, services, and capital in and out of each country.

Balance of trade - The difference between a country’s total imports and exports.

Bonded warehouse - a warehouse authorized for storage of good on which payment of duty is deferred until the goods are removed from the warehouse.

Bretton Woods conference - An international conference held in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Certificate of product origin - A document required by certain foreign countries for tariff purpose, certifying the country of origin of specified goods.

Correspondent bank - A bank that, in its own country, handles the business of a foreign bank.

Currency (foreign exchange) risk - The risk of unexpected changes in foreign currency exchange rates.

Customhouse broker - A person or firm obtains the license from the treasury department of its Country when required, and help clients (importers) to enter and declare goods through customs.

Devaluation - The official lowering of the value of one country's currency in terms of one or more foreign currencies.

Direct exporting - Marketer takes direct responsibility for its products abroad by selling them directly to foreign customers or through local representatives in foreign markets.

Duty - A tax imposed on imports by the customs authority of a country.

Economic exposure - Change in the value of a corporation’s assets or liabilities as a result of changes in currency values.

Economic union - A group that combines the economic characteristics of a common market with some degree of harmonization of monetary and fiscal policies.

European currency unit (ECU) - A trade-weighted basket of currencies in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of the European Union.

Exchange rate - The price of one currency in terms of another.

Export broker - An individual or firm that helps to locate and introduce buyers and seller in international business for a commission but does not take part in actual sales transaction.

Export License - A general export license covers the exportation of goods not restricted under the terms of a validated export license. No formal application or written authorization is needed to ship exports under a general export license.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) - The act of building productive capacity directly in a foreign country.

Foreign tax credit (FTC) - In the U.S. tax code, a credit against domestic U.S. income taxes up to the amount of foreign taxes paid on foreign-source income.

Free trade zone - An area to which goods may be imported for processing and subsequent export on duty-free basis.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) - A worldwide trade agreement designed to reduce tariffs, protect intellectual property, and set up a dispute resolution system. The agreement is overseen by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Import Licenses - Licenses required by some countries to bring in a foreign-made good. In many cases, import licenses are also used by the issuing country to control the quantity of imported items.

Indirect exporting - Export products to foreign markets by using an intermediary, usually export trading company based in the exporter’s country.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - Also called the World Bank, an international organization created at Breton Woods in 1944 to help in the reconstruction and development of its member nations.

International Chamber of Commerce - International non-governmental body concerned with promotion of trade and harmonization of trading practice. Responsible for drafting and publishing.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) - An international organization that compiles statistics on cross-border transactions and publishes a monthly summary of each country’s balance of payments.

International monetary system - The global network of governmental and commercial institutions within which currency exchange rates are determined.

Letter of credit (L/C) - A letter issued by an importer’s bank guaranteeing payment upon presentation of specified trade documents (invoice, bill of lading, inspection and insurance certificates, etc.).

Mercosur - The "common market of the South," which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in a regional trade pact that reduces tariffs on intrapact trade by up to 90 percent.

Multinational corporation - A corporation with operations in more than one country.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - A regional trade pact among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Pegged exchange rate system - The International Monetary Fund’s name for a fixed exchange rate system.

Protectionism - Protection of local industries through tariffs, quotas, and regulations that discriminate against foreign businesses.

Quota - The quantity of goods of a specific kind that a country permits to be imported without restriction or imposition of additional duties.

Trading desk (dealing desk) - The desk at an international bank that trades spot and forward foreign exchange.

Value-added tax (VAT) - A sales tax collected at each stage of production in proportion to the value added during that stage.

World Bank - See International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

World Trade Organization (WTO) - Created in 1994 by 121 nations at the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is responsible for implementation and administration of the trade agreement.

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    Where should I start? What’s a good general source to use for different types of information on international business and trade?

International Business Information: How to Find it, How to Use it.
Ruth Pagell and Michael Halperin, Oryx Press, 1998.

One of the best sources out there, with not only sources and their descriptions, but explanations of the subject areas to help the reader utilize research sources effectively. Divided into 5 basic areas: general sources, company information, marketing, industry and economic information, and international finance and trade, this source has numerous “exhibits,” which is what it terms excerpted pages or sections of the sources it is describing, and tables of information.

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    I'm considering doing business overseas; where can I get a basic introduction to other countries?

Europa World Year Book. Europa Publications, annual.

Excellent historical and political overviews, with country contacts and statistical tables at the end of each country article. There are also regional yearbooks with somewhat more detail on each country: The Far East and Australasia; Africa, South of the Sahara, etc.

World Factbook (CIA World Factbook)

Provides basic information about most countries, including geography, the people, government, economic conditions transportation and communication data, and the military.

Country Studies/ Area Handbook Series - Library of Congress

Pay attention to the "Research completed" dates on the title pages of these now-searchable on-line versions of handbooks formerly published by the Library of Congress's Research Division. They constitute "description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world ...."

Background Notes

These notes are updated by reports from regional bureaus of the U.S. Department of State, and this site also refers viewers to Country Information sections of the State web site for more in-depth information, including maps, on broader geographical regions.

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    What about official national government websites?

Foreign Government Resources on the Web

This University of Michigan Documents Center provides access to foreign government websites via region or, using the left-hand frame, by country name, with many other access points for governmental information.

International Documents

This Northwestern University site provides links to the official government websites of countries throughout the world, with the intent of providing access to government documents.

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    What cultural customs should I be aware of when doing business in a foreign country?

Craighead's International Business, Travel, and Relocation Guide to 84 Countries. Gale Group, 2001.

Provides practical information about living in, doing business in, or relocating to 84 different countries. Each country profile contains these sections: orientation, relocation information, business practices, social customs, finding a home, and country resources.

Dun & Bradstreet's Guide to Doing Business Around the World. Prentice Hall, 2001.

Covering 40 countries, this source is useful for travelers as well as businesspeople – also for those who work with diverse populations. It is divided into sections such as time (perceptions of punctuality), holidays, religious and social influences, intellectual property rights, etc. The section entitled “5 Cultural Tips” is particularly valuable. Appendixes include sample documents used in international trade and a bribe payers perception index.

Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries. Adams Media Corp., 1994

This book has overviews of cultural customs and business practices unique to the countries covered. It is a bit out-of-date, but still valuable, especially for smaller libraries that can't afford the 4 volumes of Craighead, or want more than the 40 countries covered in Dun & Bradstreet's book.

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    Where should I go to get more business-related information regarding a specific country?

International encyclopedia of business and management. Routledge, 2002.

Useful information regarding business customs in foreign countries can be obtained from the management chapters on individual countries in this invaluable encyclopedia.

Doing Business in ..... Price Waterhouse (different countries have different update currency)

This Price Waterhouse series is a valuable introduction to many aspects of doing business in over a hundred countries. It includes general information on countries in individual volumes, as well as such topics as foreign investment incentives, restrictions on foreign investments and investors, the regulatory environment, banking and finance, labor relations and social security, accounting principles, the tax system, taxation of corporations and individuals, and more.

Other "Doing Business" series:

There are several other "doing business" type series - EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit - ), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - ) and Ernst & Young ( all provide excellent volumes and/or databases on individual countries, as do other publishers.

Country Commercial Guides

These guides are "prepared annually by U.S. embassies with the assistance of several U.S. government agencies. These reports present a comprehensive look at countries' commercial environments, using economic, political and market analysis." They are also available via STAT-USA.

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    How can I find out about the comparative costs of products in foreign countries?

World Cost of Living Survey. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999

Price data for goods and services throughout the world.

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    How can I find basic information for a company in another country - contact information, is it a subsidiary or parent company, etc.?

Hoover’s Handbook of World Business. Reference Press, annual.

A good first stop for the 300 top international companies, Hoover's Handbook of World Business follows the same pattern as for its other handbooks, with somewhat less financial information.

D & B Principal International Businesses. Dun & Bradstreet, annual.

This is a major international business directory with the usual contact information for over 50,000 business enterprises throughout the world. There are three sections where businesses are arranged first, geographically, then by product classification, and then alphabetically. There is an index of both numeric and alphabetic SIC codes, a list of direct dialing codes, and international statistics, including U.S. imports from and exports to other countries, as well as GDP figures for all countries represented in dollars.

Mergent International Manual Mergent FIS, Inc., annual (not available in print after 2002).

Formerly known as Moody's International Manual, this is also available as one of the Mergent Online (formerly FIS Online) databases.

Directory of Corporate Affiliations - International Volume. National Register Publishing, annual.

This international directory provides lists of parent companies and subsidiaries and some information on subsidiaries.

Europages, the European Business Directory

A multilingual directory site of companies in 30 European countries searchable by product or services, company name or business sector. Some company catalogs are included, with links also to other European web sites.


The most basic of directory information can be obtained free on 1.8 million companies worldwide, but to get the full value of Kompass’s databases, you must subscribe.

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    Where can I get information about a specific industry in another country - who are the major players, what the industry environment is, statistics, etc.?

Encyclopedia of Global Industries. Gale, 2003.

Covers industry sectors globally, with 125 articles on industry topics. Each article gives at least some of the following: industry snapshot, origin and structure, background and development, current conditions, research and technology, industry leaders, work force, and major countries in the industry.

Corporate Information

A wealth of information awaits you here – take particular notice of the “Research a Country’s Industry” segment.

International Yearbook of Industrial Statistics. Edward Elgar, annual.

This source, produced by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, provides statistical indicators for international comparison in many sectors in part I. An example: share of females in total employment by branch (or industry sector) in various countries. Part II gives country tables on manufacturing production and employment which are arranged by 3 and 4 digit SITC number.

Encyclopedia of Associations, International Organizations. Gale, annual.

Industry associations, found by keyword here and in the online subscription database Associations Unlimited, also from Gale, can provide invaluable information on an industry. Research on smaller segments of industries, especially, can benefit from industry association contacts.

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    How can I find a foreign company’s annual report?

Reports for European companies

Free registration is required to use these parts of the CAROL (Company Annual Reports On-Line) – company annual reports are located by company name or by industry.

Reports for Asian companies

Carol used to cover annual reports of Asian companies, but now only has very limited coverage. Currently, there is no comprehensive service by another freely available source. For Asian companies, try the Investor Relations section of the company's website, or try going to the web page for the relevant foreign stock exchange, and look for links to company filing information. For a comprehensive list of stock exchanges, see the World Federation of Exchanges site at

Company Homepages

Most famous foreign companies provide English versions of their annual reports.

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    What is the current exchange rate in a particular foreign country?

OANDA Currency Converter

This currency converter has been around and dependable for a long time

Currencies - CNN Money

Another stable currency converter.

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    I want to see how the foreign stock markets are doing – where do I go?

Bourse and Stock Exchanges - The Internationalist

This site connects to the stock exchange home pages of over 50 countries.

World Markets - CNN Money

Go here for a quick overview of daily stock market indices changes.

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    What banking services are available to my company in a foreign country?

Country Finance. Business International Corporation. Annual, with semi-annual updates.

Reference guide to financing techniques and banking services available to foreign firms in 47 countries.

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    Where do I find information on exporting/importing?

A basic guide to Exporting. U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Unz & Co. 1998.

Exporting is naturally supported more vigorously by the U.S. government than importing, hence this title, dated 1998, is provided online, whereas the Basic Guide to Importing you can compare below in print dated 1995. It offers help in creating export strategies and market plans, as well as how to make contacts with potential partners, international legalities, payment options, shipping, financing, etc.

A Basic Guide to Importing. NTC Business Books, 1995

Compiled by the U.S. Customs Service, this volume outlines procedures for importing into the U.S. It covers such topics as ports of entry, invoices, assessing duty, foreign trade zones, special requirements, etc.

Country Commercial Guides

These guides are "prepared annually by U.S. embassies with the assistance of several U.S. government agencies. These reports present a comprehensive look at countries' commercial environments, using economic, political and market analysis." Current issues are also available via STAT-USA.

Trade Information Center. International Trade Administration.

One of the best places to go for exporting information, this site offers FAQs on exporting, a guide to U.S. exporting programs, helps calculate tarriffs and taxes on U.S. exports, has a directory of U.S. and foreign trade offices, and much more.

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    Where do I find actual trade data?

U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Trade Database (requires free registration)

Covers 1989 to two months from the present. This database provides specific U.S. export and import information on commodities throughout the world.

Trade Data Online, Strategis

This free database from Canada also provides specific U.S. export and import information on commodities throughout the world, but not at as detailed a level as the ITC Trade Database. However, there are some unique search options, and data can be viewed as tables and graphs.

Globus & NTDB

Part of the STAT-USA database. Provides access to the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB), Global Business Opportunities (GLOBUS), and the International Trade Library. Gives access to international trade statistics, exchange rates, and international trade and business leads. Market research reports are available for most countries and provide extensive economic, social, and governmental information. By subscription.

USA Trade Online

Formerly part of STAT-USA's stable, this subscription database offers specific U.S. export and import information on commodities throughout the world. By subscription.

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    How about laws, business regulations in other countries, etc.?

Exporter's Encyclopaedia. Dun & Bradstreet International (annual).

This standard has a wealth of both general and very specific information about exporting from the United States. It begins with a section on making the decision to export, then moves to the largest section on export markets, where each country covered has a 5 – 15 page article covering such topics as communications (telephone, internet, postal), key contacts, trade regulations, documentation, marketing data, transportation, business travel (including business etiquette), etc. Then come sections on export know-how, and general information on some of the same topics addressed in individual country articles; i.e., transportation, communication, etc.

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    Where can I find marketing statistics for foreign countries?

European Marketing Data and Statistics. Euromonitor (annual).

Consumer statistics for the countries of Europe; covers areas of consumer spending patterns, market sizes, advertising patterns, health and living standards, literacy, travel and tourism. Statistics are general: how many cars are sold in Japan, but not what brands they are.

International Marketing Data and Statistics. Euromonitor (annual).

Compare to European Marketing Data and Statistics in both style and content. Covers more than 150 non-European countries. (Euromonitor's World Marketing Data and Statistics online database covers both of these print titles.)

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    How can I determine market share or company rankings from an international perspective?

World Market Share Reporter. Gale Group (biennial).

Like the U.S.-focused Market Share Reporter, this source derives its information from previously published data from newspapers, magazines, and trade journals, so its data is not consistent from section to section. Be aware of which "market" is being discussed: country, region, economic union? It is arranged by the U.S. SIC industry code, but is also indexed by source, place name, products & services, company, brands, ISIC, and Harmonized Code. For more updated market share information, albeit with a more U.S.-oriented approach, search periodical databases such as ABI/INFORM, Dow Jones Interactive, and InfoTrac's General BusinessFile.

Fortune Global 500. Fortune Magazine (annual in issue of magazine, also on web:

Fortune publishes this international ranking of the largest 500 companies in the world that report financial information to a government agency.

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    What about international statistics – where should I go to get started?

Statistical Abstract of the United States. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (annual) OR

Though its name indicates the U.S. emphasis, there is much international information in this standard which is a first-stop for statistics. There are sections titled "Foreign Commerce & Trade" and "Comparative International Statistics" and one can look under Foreign Countries for business-related sub-headings in the print version's index.

Statistical agencies (international). U.S. Census Bureau, United States Department of Commerce.

Links to web pages of government statistics bureaus for foreign countries.

Global statistics
United Nations

Comprehensive, central source for online statistics on United Nations member countries. Includes links to other international agencies and national statistical bureaus.

Statistical resources on the web : foreign and international economics.
University of Michigan Documents Center.

Extensive list of web resources for foreign and international economics.

Statistical resources on the web : foreign government sources.
University of Michigan Documents Center.

List of foreign governmental statistical sources on the world wide web, list of links to government-produced or -provided statistical data for specific countries.

Statistical resources on the web : foreign trade.
University of Michigan Documents Center.

List of web resources for U.S.-foreign trade data.

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    How can I find out about accounting methods in other countries?

TRANSACC, Transnational Accounting. Palgrave, 2000.

This reference source gives access to information on accounting methods and practices in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A Survey of National Accounting Standards Benchmarked against IAS. IFAD (International Forum on Accountancy Development). Available at:

While not comprehensive, this site gives access to information about accounting methods in a variety of countries, comparing them to international accounting standards.

Doing Business in .... Price Waterhouse (different countries have different update currency)

This Price Waterhouse series is a valuable introduction to many aspects of doing business in a foreign country, including general information as well as such topics as foreign investment incentives, restrictions on foreign investments and investors, the regulatory environment, banking and finance, labor relations and social security, accounting principles, the tax system, taxation of corporations and individuals, and more.

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    I want up-to-date information – how can I find articles that will help me learn more about international business, exporting, marketing, etc.?

InfoTrac’s General BusinessFile and Business & Company Resource Center. Online database. Thomson – Gale.

Business & Company Resource Center (BCRC) was intended to replace General BusinessFile (GBF), but the latter’s superior subject indexing system which was not replicated in BCRC has ensured its survival for the time being. Both sources offer access to a variety of information sources, primarily U.S.-related, but there is some coverage of international business, and the indexing system in GBF provides excellent access to general topics not specifically related to individual companies. By subscription.

Business Source Premier. EBSCO Publishing

This source indexes more than 4,000 U.S. and international business periodicals, with full text for more than 3400 of them. By subscription.

ABI / INFORM Global Online database. Bell+Howell Proquest (updated daily).

Classic index to business periodical literature, including marketing journals and trade journals to give industry approach. Indexes over 1600 periodicals, many full-text. By subscription.

Predicasts Promt. Online database. Gale, Dialog.

Use PROMT to research market size and share, industry and product trends, emerging technologies, and competitive opportunities. It’s international in scope.

Business & Industry database. OCLC FirstSearch, Dialog.

Covers specific markets and industries from around the world.

Factiva Online database. Dow Jones.

Full text articles, documents, and other materials from newspapers, business and trade journals, general interest magazines, and company reports. Includes all the ABI/INFORM journals but without ABI’s well-regarded subject approach. Also gives financial profiles of companies and company to industry comparisons. By subscription.

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Other excellent articles, working papers, technical papers, and discussion reports can be accessed through the search boxes prominent on the home pages of the following important non-governmental agencies (NGOs):

World Bank. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

International Monetary Fund


    I don’t want to/am unable to come in to the library. Where can I go on the Internet to find as much international business information as possible in one place?

Many of the sources cited earlier in this source list are available on the Internet, and their URLs (web addresses) are listed. For overall web sites devoted to International Business, among the best are:

globalEDGE - formerly known as MSU-CIBER's International Business Resources on the WWW, this site is a product of the Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business as a CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research), and probably has more depth (and breadth) than any other international business site on the Web.

VIBES - Virtual International Business & Economic Sources, from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte is another long-time, well-respected international business site.

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Last updated 6/14/05
Originally created by Judith Faust, California State University, Hayward

Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee