Small Businesses Outline Priorities for New U.S. Trade Representative

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Washington, Jun 26, 2013 | comments

The House Small Business Committee, led by Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), today heard testimony from a diverse panel of small business leaders on their recommendations for the new United States Trade Representative (USTR) on how to promote exports by small companies and create American jobs.

Last week, the United States launched trade negotiations with the European Union that could shape the future for small businesses in world markets, and Michael Froman was sworn in as the new USTR to advance American trade goals. The Committee looks forward to hearing from the USTR in the coming months for his insight on foreign market conditions for small firms.

Today’s hearing is another step in the Committee’s focus on its Export Principles for the 113th Congress to remove barriers and help small firms export. Through new legislation, hearings and oversight, the Committee is advancing an aggressive trade strategy to help small companies gain access to new markets and simplify the trade process. As we heard today from small business leaders in the fields of agriculture, manufacturing and the service industry, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that allow small firms to readily access foreign markets are essential to realizing the enormous trade potential among our nation’s 27 million small businesses.

Even in slow economic conditions, there has been an uptick in small business participation in international trade. If conditions and market access improve for small businesses, they are poised for tremendous growth into the 95 percent of the world’s markets that are outside the U.S. Yet, just one percent of America’s small companies are involved in these international markets because of unfair foreign trade practices and a confusing array of U.S. federal government requirements.

“Small businesses will boldly take their products and services to world markets, but we have to make sure they have an open door,” said Chairman Graves. “Free Trade Agreements must streamline access to foreign markets so that small businesses have the resources to make that investment. We heard the message for the U.S. Trade Representative today that small business goods and services can compete, but too often they face unfair trade conditions. We’ve introduced common sense legislation to provide small firms with the information and cooperation they need to get started, and the administration must negotiate the access to new markets. Now is the time to pave the way for small business trade growth that will create jobs for Americans.”

This week, the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade is moving forward with small business trade proposals that were introduced by House Small Business Committee Members. This legislation is focused on easing the confusing process that small businesses face when dealing with the numerous government agencies involved in trade. Legislation being considered in the Foreign Relations Committee includes provisions of Chairman Graves’ bill, the Export Coordination Act (H.R. 1909), which would establish stronger congressional oversight and coordination of trade assistance across 20 agencies. Graves’ bill is being offered as part of an amendment in the nature of a substitute to Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Engel’s Export Promotion Reform Act (H.R. 1409). The State Trade Coordination Act (HR 1926), sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) – also a Subcommittee Chairman in the Foreign Relations Committee – establishes a framework so that federal and state trade agencies work in unison to assist exporters, and is also scheduled to be marked up by the Subcommittee.

Materials for the hearing are posted on the House Small Business Committee’s website HERE.

Notable Quotes:

Pamela Johnson, President, National Corn Growers, Floyd, IA, testifying on behalf of The National Corn Growers Association, said, “It is critical that U.S. negotiators have an appreciation for how increasing exports translates into benefits for family farmers. The U.S. economy will not benefit from agriculture issues being placed on a “to-do” list. Now is the perfect time to eliminate long-standing barriers to agricultural exports and promote policies that bring economic opportunity back to rural America.”

Brooke Fishback, International Sales Manager, Health Enterprises, Inc., North Attleboro, MA, said, “…similar to SMEs throughout the U.S., we do not have large legal teams or in-house regulatory departments to navigate complicated international rules for global commerce; instead we rely on the USTR to negotiate beneficial, easy to understand trade agreements, so that we can sell our products to those 95% of consumers that live outside of our domestic market.”

Mariana Huberman, Owner, The UPS Store, Washington, DC, said, “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy, and services are the central nervous system on which small businesses depend. They cannot penetrate foreign markets without an array of services to support them. And those services must have free access to foreign markets and non-discriminatory treatment within those markets.”

Gary Hufbauer, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow, Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC, said,“[Free Trade Agreements] make a significant positive impact on small business exports by lowering the fixed and variable costs of doing business abroad. They do this by eliminating tariffs, cutting red tape at the border, simplifying international payments, and allowing multiple entries on a single business visa.”

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