TRADE: Central and Eastern Europe

Trading Regionally and Developing Expertise (TRADE) is a pilot program designed to stimulate economic development in Central and Eastern Europe by increasing the competitiveness of local SMEs to participate in cross-border and international trade opportunities. The program is funded by USAID and is a joint initiative of two leading U.S. private volunteer organizations, CDC and IESC.

The goal of the TRADE program is to build the capacity of local consulting companies (BSPs), as well as assist SMEs in their regions in identifying new business partners, obtaining appropriate certifications to meet international standards, identifying trade opportunities and establishing regional and international trade links. The program accomplishes this goal by establishing regional networks of BSPs that work with each other and similar networks in other countries. In addition, the network allows the BSPs to collaborate on trade projects, share trade-related information using a variety of communications tools and offer complimentary import/export services to their SME clients. The program also recruits VAs and experts from the U.S. business community to provide one-on-one technical assistance and training to the BSPs and their SME clients. These VAs work with the BSPs and their clients to establish international trade links and prepare them to work with Western companies.

The approach of the program is three-fold: first, the TRADE program improves the operational capacity of selected BSPs to more effectively manage their day-to-day operations by providing them with opportunities to receive training from long-term private sector volunteers, short-term industry experts, IT experts and volunteer MBA graduates. In addition, some of the BSPs have the opportunity to compete for grants in order to establish innovative projects and training programs.

Second, the TRADE program helps BSPs address strategic issues by providing specific technical assistance and training to upgrade the quality of their services to their members and clients. Specifically, the program prepares BSPs to participate in global markets by providing training on a variety of pertinent business skills, such as industry standards, procurement procedures and information technology. The program also assists participants in designing products and services to aid their SME clients in overcoming the hurdles of expanding their businesses and exporting their goods and services.

Third, the TRADE program assists BSPs in creating a network to promote cross-border and regional trade; the BSPs also make crucial contacts through special events, technical assistance and the TRADE program website. The program also recruits network members from more established consulting companies in the USAID graduate Central European countries, such as Hungary, these members act as mentors providing technical assistance to other consulting companies.

Business and Trade Development Program--Bulgaria (BTD)

The primary goal of this program is to strengthen the capacity of business support organizations (BSOs) so that they, in turn, can more effectively and sustainably serve small and medium-sized enterprises in Bulgaria. This project is funded by USAID and was awarded to Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), a leading consortium of non-profit private sector groups and development organizations. As partners of VEGA, CDC and International Executive Service Corps (IESC) will be the lead implementers of the BTD project.

CDC, IESC and the Financial Services Volunteer Corps will provide a broad portfolio of volunteer-based business and trade support services to increase the competitiveness of local business support organizations (BSOs). These services will also allow BSOs to deepen and diversify their industry-specific technical and managerial services to support the long-term growth of SMEs in Bulgaria.

Specifically, the implementing partners of the BTD Program will provide assistance through:

  • Volunteer-based technical assistance projects
  • MBA-Enterprise Corps Advisors
  • Sector awareness events
  • Small grants

Assistance to BSOs will target the following areas:

  • Apparel
  • Financial Services
  • Food Processing
  • Information Technology
  • Tourism 


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