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Wall Street Journal: Trade Pacts Urged for Export Growth

Washington, Jul 28 -

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Trade Pacts Urged for Export Growth
By Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal
July 28, 2011

With a target of doubling exports by 2015, the Obama Administration needs to push through pending free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to level the playing field for smaller U.S. exporters, House lawmakers said Wednesday.

“Until the administration and Congress act on these agreements, American small businesses will be at a competitive disadvantage with foreign firms,” Rep. Sam Grave (R., Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said at a hearing on barriers to small-business exports.

Together, the three trade pacts are expected to boost U.S. exports by $13 billion, creating more than 250,000 jobs, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Among other benefits for small exporters, the pacts would reduce tariffs and improve transparency in foreign markets, according to Suresh Kumar, assistant secretary for trade promotion and director general of the U.S. and foreign commercial service.

Kumar said the three trade agreements were a “priority for the Obama Administration,” with the Korea trade pact alone estimated to grow U.S. exports by $10 billion and support 70,000 American jobs.

Yet since the recession, Americans have grown more hostile to free trade agreements, possibly clouding the prospects for congressional approval.

In October, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 53% of 1,000 Americans surveyed said free-trade pacts have hurt the U.S., up from 46% in a similar poll three years ago and 32% in 1999.

More than 97% of all U.S. exporters are small businesses, accounting for nearly $500 billion in annual sales, according to the Small Business Administration. At the same time, small firms represent only 30% of export revenues, with most small exporters shipping to only one country outside the U.S., the agency says.

This year, the administration launched a national campaign to promote small-business exports, including panel discussions led by federal trade and small-business officials at events in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and New Orleans, among other cities.

Beyond trade agreements, lawmakers on Wednesday also cited the need to reduce domestic red tape faced by small exporters, including paperwork and procedures tied to more than 20 federal agencies.

“Small firms have long voiced that navigating these agencies may be as difficult as navigating the export market itself,” Graves said.

 Read the article online HERE