U.S. small- and medium-sized firms face many barriers to exporting including insufficient access to finance, complex regulations and rising transportation costs, according to a new study of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The report was commissioned by the U.S. Trade Representative to find out why U.S. small and medium-sized firms account for a smaller share of U.S. manufactured exports compared to counterpart firms in the European Union.

The commission is an independent, nonpartisan, fact-finding federal agency and compiled the report following public hearings held in St. Louis; Portland, Ore., and Washington.

Among the other problems faced by the firms, the research detected, were tariff and non-tariff barriers, time consuming foreign customs procedures, language and cultural differences and a lack of knowledge of foreign markets.

The firms, however, did identify factors helping them export including free trade and other trading agreements such a mutual recognition agreements, bilateral investment treaties, trade and investment framework agreements and World Trade Organization agreements.

The agreements helped the firms with reduced tariffs and non-tariff barriers, better market access, easier interaction with foreign customs operations, intellectual property protection, a more efficient and transparent regulatory environment and strong dispute resolution mechanisms.

According to the report, U.S. firms have developed a number of strategies to overcome some of the domestic and foreign barriers to exporting including combining resources with other firms in the same industry, working with larger companies, brokers or agents and taking advantage of U.S federal and state government support programs.

The 314-page report is available at http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4169.pdf

A CD-ROM of the report may be requested by e-mailing pubrequest@usitc.gov or calling (202) 205-2000.