U.S. Trade Representative Seeks to Boost Home-Grown Jobs, Global Exports for America’s Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses
The Office of the United States Trade Representative connected with small- and medium-sized businesses from across the United States today at a conference event entitled "Jobs on Main Street, Customers Around the World: A Positive Trade Agenda for US Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises." The event at the Peterson Institute for International Economics was part of a weeklong effort highlighting the commitment of USTR and partner agencies, such as the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration, to supporting economic recovery through export-oriented growth. USTR, as the nation's lead trade policy agency, is working to make trade policy work better for America's small- and medium-sized businesses - America's biggest job creators and a wellspring of export potential.
"In this kind of a market, America cannot afford to leave jobs on the table," said Kirk. "We need to do everything we can to grow jobs domestically."
Today's event was opened by Peterson Institute Director C. Fred Bergsten. Administrator Karen G. Mills of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) gave opening remarks at the conference, emphasizing the need to identify, train, and support potential small business exporters.
"Expanding into foreign markets provides businesses significant opportunities to grow and create jobs," said Mills. "The SBA is focused on helping small businesses meet this untapped potential to compete on global level while creating good-paying jobs here at home."
In a keynote speech, Ambassador Kirk also announced the designation of an Assistant United States Trade Representative (AUSTR) for Small Business, Market Access, and Industrial Competitiveness. Kirk noted strong congressional advocacy for this move in recent years, particularly from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Small Business Committee leaders Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). In this new role, USTR's Jim Sanford will help to ensure that USTR's trade policy efforts address the challenges facing smaller exporters and promotes the global export opportunities these businesses need to create jobs here at home.
The conference's first roundtable discussion featured success stories from some of America's small- and medium-sized exporters, and examined key trade policy barriers to smaller companies wishing to sell their goods and services around the world.
"The more transparent the process is [to export], the more clear we can be that our product arrives when it is supposed to and our customers can use that product," said Peter Carnes of Traffax, Inc,, a transportation monitoring equipment startup in College Park, Maryland.
"Every [market] requires a slightly different twist and slightly different certification for us," said Chuck Wetherington of BTE Technologies, a Maryland company that sells and supports health-related products and services in 36 countries worldwide. "We need reciprocity for some of the regulations we have [here in the United States]."
The first roundtable of the day also featured a presentation by Tim Herbert of CompTIA - a trade association for IT companies - on a new survey of small- and medium-sized enterprises' impressions of trade barriers and opportunities. In that study, 86 percent of American small- and medium-sized businesses surveyed said that their export sales are growing faster than domestic sales.
As agencies across the government work to promote American exports around the world, a second roundtable was led by Rochelle Lipsitz, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Promotion and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. Participants discussed export promotion issues with particular regard to small- and medium-sized businesses.
"I have never been in a manufacturing plant that could not export their product," said Roy Paulson, CEO of Paulson Manufacturing of Temecula, Calif. His company manufactures protective equipment for fire and rescue, police, military and industrial customers. "Every single one of them can do it. "
"Understanding market access is one of the greatest challenges going in," said Toby Malichi of Malichi Worldwide Group, an international consulting and development firm in Indianapolis, Ind. "So is identifying partners."
"We need to think of export and trade promotion as an investment in our economy and our future," said Steve Holland, director of the Montana Manufacturing Export Center in Bozeman, Mont. - which has helped to create 262 new manufacturing jobs in Montana and to retain another 349 during a period of national decline in manufacturing. "To help companies grow globally, resource providers [across the government] need to collaborate."
The day's closing discussion was led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dennis Hightower, who summed up lessons learned from the morning discussions and looked ahead to action items for agencies working to help small- and medium-sized businesses increase their exports and hire more workers here at home.
"For me the lesson of this conference is two-fold," said Sapiro. "Number one, America's small- and medium-sized businesses have what it takes to succeed anywhere in the world. Number two, in order to turn small exporters' raw potential into real jobs for American workers, we need to continue to break down barriers to trade and make it easier for Main Street American businesses to sell their goods and services around the world."
"Creating jobs is a national priority for the Obama administration, and we know that taking advantage of every opportunity to increase U.S. exports is critical to achieving this goal," Hightower said. "The Department of Commerce is committed to providing the resources that small and medium-sized enterprises need to introduce a new or expand an existing export strategy to their businesses, which will ultimately lead to creating good paying jobs for Americans."
Video of conference speeches and discussions will be available on USTR.gov next week.