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Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai reached an agreement last week on a plan to aid exporters over the shekel's rise against the dollar. The plan budgets an additional NIS 110 million spread over two years, and calls for expanding existing programs plus starting new ones.

Under the plan, the fund for aiding individual exporters will be increased to total of half a billion shekels for state-guaranteed loans.

New measures include providing advice on hedging foreign currency risks for small and medium-sized exporters, and allowing Israeli economic delegations around the world to hire more local employees. The Export Institute and International Cooperation Institute will formulate a plan to encourage exports, including funding for international exhibitions for small and medium-sized exporters, as well as improving official Israeli booths at such fairs. Seminars and training will be established for small exporters on international marketing and commerce.

Other ideas include sponsoring an Israel Week at stores and chains around North and South America, aid for professional services exporters, and help with business intelligence.

The plan must receive approval before the budget is transferred.

"Israeli exports are the main growth engine of the economy, and an important tool for strengthening it," said Bar-On. The plan will provide exporters with new sources of finance at preferential terms, and expand the list of countries targeted for export, he added.