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Uniting to sell abroad

The crucial trade bill signed into law by President Reagan last week is a long overdue recognition that the US must be more vigorous in selling its products abroad. The measure, called the Export Trading Company Act, encourages formation of US joint trading companies by granting firms that link up for overseas trade protection from domestic antitrust laws. Only the actual overseas trading activities would be clear of antitrust requirements. The act also allows bank holding companies - with their sizeable financial clout - to take out an equity (stock) interest in trading ventures.

Currently, few US firms participate in overseas trade. The reasons are varied: cost; unfamiliarity with such trade; and, perhaps most important, the fact that many firms don't have the scale of operations to compete against the large trading firms of Japan and Europe. Only 100 firms or so account for roughly one-half of all US manufactured exports.

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It is expected that the legislation will eventually add several hundred thousand new jobs to the economy, a step in the right direction considering the current 10.1 percent unemployment rate. Most important, the act takes into account the fact that the economy of the future (if not in fact the economy of the present) is a global economy, and that if US firms are to prosper and survive they must sell their products abroad.

The challenge for US firms now will be to use the law - and boldly step out into the larger world of commerce and enterprise.

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