May is World Trade Month in the United States and is an opportunity to recognize the importance of exporting to the U.S. economy and encourage U.S. businesses to begin or expand their export efforts.

U.S. exports of goods and services totaled $2.5 trillion in 2018 supporting 11.5 million U.S. jobs and accounting for nearly 13% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Of that, 97% of the nearly 300,000 U.S. companies that export are small- or medium-sized businesses, which the U.S. Census Bureau defines as having 500 or fewer employees.

Companies that export grow revenue and profits faster, are less likely to go out of business, and pay their workers more than companies that don’t. With 95% of the world’s consumers located outside the U.S., exports can help grow companies’ overall sales and profits, reduce their dependence on a single market, and extend the life of existing product lines.

World Trade Month was first celebrated as World Trade Week in 1927 by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. According to the Chamber, “This occurred during a time of isolationism and under the conditions prevailing during the heyday of the restrictive Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.”

In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made World Trade Week a national observance to be celebrated during the third week of May each year. Roosevelt made this proclamation after he won passage of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in 1934, which, according to William E. Leuchtenburg, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina, “allowed him to grant ‘most favored nation’ trade status to countries with which the United States worked out trade agreements.”

Since 1938 World Trade Week has been celebrated during the entire month of May by a number of federal agencies, state trade offices, area chambers of commerce, World Trade Centers, trade associations, and other public and private organizations. These celebrations include award ceremonies and educational programs throughout the country. is a directory of these events allowing individuals and organizations interested in learning more about exporting to be notified of export-related events in their area as well as virtual seminars, classes and celebrations hosted online.