Many people believe the United States is 40 years behind the rest of the world in exporting. Others believe the gap is only 20 years.

Two speakers at Westminster College's Bill and Vieve Gore Business School conference on Utah and the Global Market admitted there is a gap, but in the past 10 years the gap is closing quickly.The speakers were Jon Huntsman Jr., deputy assistant secretary for east Asia and the Pacific in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and J. Andrew Johnson, managing director of Tradex, an international marketing and consulting firm and former director of the Utah International Business Development Office.

Huntsman said that because of the shrinking world, American business owners need to ponder if they are being competitive in the world marketplace. He said American companies are several years behind in the exporting business but in the past 10 years have learned the hard way how to break into some closed markets.

The information revolution, featuring fax machines, the telephone and computers, has shrunk the world and eroded borders, making exporting a viable alternative for Utah businesses. Huntsman said Utah businesses export $2 billion worth of goods and services annually with the most going to Japan and surprisingly to Thailand in second place.

In March, the latest U.S. Department of Commerce figures show, U.S. companies exported $34 billion worth of goods to foreign countries and imported $38 billion, the $4 billion difference being the lowest monthly total in 10 years. "We are moving in the right direction," Huntsman said.

"One of our best exports can be our way of life," Huntsman said, citing the recent erosion of hard-line communism in several countries. "Now the specter of democracy hangs over many countries," Huntsman said.

Johnson agreed with Huntsman that America is quickly catching up in the export business, but companies need to develop an "exploratory attitude." He said almost any company that is successful can find markets abroad.

Providing a few tips on how to export, Johnson said a fax machine is a necessity, a permanent office and address are needed and businesspeople must be prepared to spend three or four times the normal amount of time and money to develop a market in a foreign country.

He suggested using government agencies to learn where potential markets are located, but when it comes to completing the work, the business owner must do it. He said it often takes four trips to a country to complete a deal, and the most important thing is to develop friendship and trust with customers.

Other speakers during the conference were Frederick W. Volcansek, deputy assistant secretary for basic industries in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and John J. Harris, director of InterCon sales for Novell Inc.