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EXIM Financing Tips: What is USTDA?
March 03, 2016 Kathy Yao, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Group
Tagged: Exporting Tips

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is an independent U.S. Government foreign assistance agency that is funded by the U.S. Congress. USTDA helps American companies create jobs through the export of goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies (check out our blog "Look South: Expand Your International Sales to Colombia"). 

USTDA links American businesses to export opportunities by providing grants for project planning activities, pilot projects and reverse trade missions, while creating sustainable infrastructure and economic growth in partner countries.

What sectors offer the best prospects for USTDA support?

USTDA carries out its mission by providing grants directly to overseas project sponsors who, in turn, select U.S. companies to perform the USTDA-funded activities. While USTDA projects span a wide variety of sectors, many focus on energy, with a particular focus on clean energy, transportation, telecommunications, and environmental services.

One of the main focuses of USTDA is the Power Africa program. USTDA places a high priority on sub-Saharan Africa, working with qualified project sponsors to facilitate the implementation of priority infrastructure and development projects. Click here for a list of current Sub-Saharan Africa contract opportunities.

What is the typical size of the USTDA grant?

USTDA grant funding for feasibility studies, technical assistance, and pilot projects is intended to provide overseas project sponsors with critical early-stage project development support to facilitate the attainment of implementation financing. The size of USTDA grant funding varies, although the grants are typically around $500,000, and rarely exceed $1 million.

How do I apply for a grant?

Using the support of USTDA grant funding, overseas project sponsors select U.S. firms to perform USTDA-funded work in one of two ways. The first method is through a competitive proposal process via an announcement posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The second method is through "sole-source" grants, in which the overseas project sponsor has already identified a U.S. firm as a partner or preferred supplier on the project. U.S. firms that are selected by overseas project sponsors to perform work under sole-source USTDA grants are expected to submit a separate, detailed project proposal to USTDA, and typically share the cost of the work with the Agency.

What are some criteria to qualify for USTDA grants?

USTDA evaluates projects primarily based on:

  • Their priority to the project sponsor, the countries where they are located, and their likelihood of receiving implementation financing ("Finance Capital Intensive Exports Using Medium-term Credit Insurance"
  • Whether they offer mutual economic benefit for the host country and the United States, including opportunities for U.S. firms to export goods and services into those projects.

USTDA also considers a project’s potential adverse environmental and labor implications and makes recommendations to avoid and/or mitigate both prior to a funding commitment.

How does USTDA work with Small Businesses?

USTDA, through its unique foreign assistance program, is proud to support U.S. small businesses by helping them expand into emerging economies. In carrying out its mission, USTDA relies upon the technical expertise of small consulting and engineering firms to perform due diligence activities that help define projects, provide sector specific guidance, and evaluate technical and economic impacts for every project USTDA considers for funding. In addition to these contract opportunities, small businesses successfully compete for larger USTDA-funded projects, such as feasibility studies, training, and technical assistance activities. In fact, small businesses are awarded over 40% of these larger international contracts that range from $100,000 to $1 million. For small businesses, one of the key benefits of working with USTDA is gaining access to international markets that are difficult and often cumbersome to navigate. As a result, many small businesses have been able to grow via the international contacts they have made while working with USTDA.

Need Help Getting Started?

To learn more about federal export programs, visit  Have immediate questions? Reach out to your local USTDA representative or visit to learn more about the various programs and activities that USTDA supports.

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EXIM’s Blog postings are intended to highlight various facets of exporting, but the postings are not legal advice, and are not intended to summarize all legal requirements associated with exporting.