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Frequently Asked Questions

1. I export services, not goods. Can I use the Tool?

Unfortunately, at this time, the tool only contains data on goods. Trade data for services is maintained separately from the trade data systems for goods, and, while it is improving, it is not yet as robust and detailed as the trade data for goods. 

However, if there is a good where trade is closely associated with demand for the service you export, you may be able to use that product as a proxy to glean some information on potential demand for services.

2. I am not an exporter yet. Can I use the Tool?

The tool is designed with current exporters in mind, as it uses information on where you are currently exporting to calculate the results. The algorithm does look at whether markets are similar. 

But if you’re not an exporter yet, you could run a search using a market as a proxy for your current export market, probably one of our largest export markets, such as Canada or Mexico. Then, analyze the results closely with that in mind.

You may also want to increase the weighting for indicators like Rule of Law, which would push markets that are generally easier to export to towards the top of the results.

This could give you some initial ideas about potential export markets but should be followed up by additional research.

3. What if I don't know the HS number for my product?

If you don’t know your HS number, the best place to start is with your export paperwork. When you export a shipment valued over $2,500 or the item requires a license, you are required to report the Schedule B number of your product as part of the Electronic

Export Information in the Automated Export System (AES). The U.S. Census Bureau uses this data to track U.S. exports.

The number you need for the tool is the first six digits of the Schedule B number. So if you’ve already exported your product, you can find your Schedule B number in your AES submission or get it from your freight forwarder.

If you can’t find the number there, you can also search for your HS number using the Census Bureau’s Schedule B Search Engine here

This website provides background information on Schedule B and HS Numbers. 

4. What if I am facing retaliatory tariffs in certain markets?

A number of countries and U.S. trading partners have imposed or announced their intent to impose retaliatory tariffs on specific exports from the United States in response to the United States’ Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the United States as well as the United States’ Section 301 tariffs on products from China.

This tool only includes most-favored nation tariffs (if the country is not an FTA partner) or preferential tariffs (if the country is an FTA partner). The tool does not consider tariffs under quotas, anti-dumping or countervailing duties, or retaliatory tariffs. Therefore, if your product is facing a particularly trade-distorting tariff, such as a retaliatory tariff, the results in the tool may not accurately reflect the effect that these tariffs would realistically have on potential exports to that market. 

If you are unsure about whether your product faces retaliatory tariffs in foreign markets, the Department of Commerce’s Industry & Analysis unit has compiled a Retaliation Product Coverage Matrix and retaliation information that can be found here.

5. Why am I getting an error message when I put in my HS Number?

Sometimes HS numbers are written with periods. Make sure you are entering your HS number without periods. For example, enter 841191, not 8411.91.

Also, make sure the number you’re entering is six digits long. You can’t enter the HS number 8411 or the more detailed 84119110.

If that doesn’t work, make sure your number is in the correct nomenclature. The international Harmonized System is administered by the World Customs Organization. The World Customs Organization updates the HS System with a new nomenclature approximately every five years as trade patterns shift and new products are introduced. The last time this was done was in 2017. Check the U.S. tariff schedule at the U.S. International Trade Commission to make sure that the HS number you’re using is current. 

6. Why is the country I'm looking for not in the list of choices?

First, make sure there isn’t an alternate spelling for the country you are looking for. For example, the tool uses Cote d’Ivoire instead of the alternate Ivory Coast. 

If you still can’t find the country you are looking for, this is likely due to data availability issues. For a country to be included in the menu, we need to have enough data for that country to be included in the calculations. If we don’t have tariff data for that country from the World Trade Organization, it may not be included in the list.

7. The country I want to see doesn't appear in the results, why?

There are several reasons why a country you’re looking for might not appear in the results. 

The tool relies on international trade data (data reported by the countries in the tool), rather than U.S. trade data. Not all countries regularly report their trade data to the United Nations. If a country doesn’t have at least 3 years of trade data in the five-year period the tool looks at, then it won’t appear in the results. 

If a country is missing any of the other data needed for the calculations, such as tariff data, it also won’t appear in the results. 

The other reason a country might not appear in the results is if it does not import the product in question at all. If the country has zero imports from the world of the product, it is not included in the calculations.

8. I ran multiple searches for the same product, but the results are different. Why is that?

The tool compares only the countries you want to see in the results. The score it assigns a country is dependent on that country’s standing relative to the other countries in the search results. So if you change the countries, the scores and even the relative ranking will likely change.

Let’s say you run a search only looking at South America. In this search, Brazil gets a score of 75.2. But then you broaden your geographic search to include all of Latin America. Now Brazil has a score of 71. This is because other countries were added to the calculations. Since the countries are measured relative to each other, adding countries that score better or worse than Brazil on certain indicators may push Brazil’s overall score up or down and may change where Brazil ranks.