Update to Important Commerce Data Tool Helps Businesses Improve their Export Services and Stay Compliant

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Kimberly J.C. Becht is Deputy Director of Web Presence for the International Trade Administration

Staying compliant is an extremely important component to exporting. In 2010, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) accepted the Export Control Reform (ECR) Initiative mandate to create and publish the Consolidated Screening List (CSL). The CSL is a list of names or entities (individuals and organizations) with whom a U.S. company may not be allowed to do business with due to U.S. export regulations, sanctions, or other restrictions. BIS worked with the International Trade Administration (ITA) to create an ECR section on export.gov , where the business community could download the CSL as a text file. Every month, thousands of companies stay compliant by checking the CSL to determine if any of the parties in their overseas transactions are on it.

ITA's CSL application programming interface (API)

Screenshot of ITA’s CSL application programming interface (API)

In 2014, ITA “opened” the CSL data by publishing the CSL application programming interface (API). An API, or data feed, enables any web developer or software engineer to access the data in the CSL and integrate it into their own application. Major e-commerce sites, international shippers, and compliance software companies now use the CSL API every day to improve their services and help their customers stay compliant.

“Fuzzy Name Search” Improves Compliance for U.S. Companies

Based on requests from these companies, from ITA customers, and from export compliance experts, ITA has just released a new version of the CSL API that introduces “Fuzzy Name Search.” Fuzzy Name Search enables a company to search the CSL without knowing the exact spelling of an entity’s name.

This is particularly helpful when searching for names on the CSL that have been transliterated into English from non-Romance languages. Imagine doing business with individuals that have Cyrillic names:  it’s much easier to search the CSL for those names if you are not required to have the spelling exactly right.

Fuzzy Name Search works by including results that exactly match or nearly match the name that is searched and assigning a “score” to those results. Search results are then prioritized by score – the higher the score, the closer the match, so the higher the name appears in the search results. ITA uses Damerau–Levenshtein distance to calculate the score.

Find Entities More Easily With the Current CSL Tools

ITA has also updated the format of the two original text files containing the CSL that companies download from export.gov. If your company downloads these files on an ongoing basis, there are two changes to be aware of that accommodate how the information is now organized.

First, all of the information for an entity is contained in a single row, not multiple rows if the entity has several addresses or alternate names. Second, there are five new fields that provide information found on an entity’s ID such as Nationality and Place of Birth. Please visit the new CSL page on export.gov to get more detailed information.

Finally, to do a quick search for an entity, visit the new CSL search page on export.gov. Search any or all of the lists at once, turn fuzzy name search on or off, and restrict your searches to a particular set of countries.  It’s easy and it’s fast.

ITA continues to open data that helps U.S. companies that are starting to export or looking to expand into new overseas markets. Please provide your feedback on ways we can improve the many APIs we have available.

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