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USTR Continues Focusing on Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses

This week, USTR policy offices continued efforts to examine how trade policy can be more responsive to small- and medium-sized businesses - to help them increase their exports to the world and hire more workers here at home.

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Multilateral Affairs Office joined the Small Business, Market Access, and Industrial Competitiveness Office and the Trade and Development Office today in meeting with association/company reps in three key industrial goods sectors - chemicals, electrical/electronics, med devices - in light of the relatively large role of small- and medium-sized businesses in these sectors and active USTR market access negotiations/initiatives in these sectors (e.g., DDA, APEC dialogues, GSP, etc). They discussed how various initiatives can assist smaller exporters as they tackle foreign markets. Initiatives of the WTO and Multilateral Affairs Office include, for example, efforts at the WTO to reduce trade barriers and improve transparency abroad through negotiation with countries wishing to accede to the WTO; efforts in the WTO Doha Round negotiations to reduce non-tariff barriers; efforts in the WTO committee responsible for standards and technical regulations to facilitate small- and medium-sized businesses participation in setting standards; and trade facilitation efforts at the WTO and in bilateral and regional negotiations to streamline and improve the transparency of the customs regimes of our trading partners, in order to reduce the costs of border delays and to help simplify the requirements smaller exporters face.

  • Also today, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for African Affairs Florie Liser chaired a roundtable discussion on trade opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses in Africa. The roundtable was hosted by the Prince George's County, Maryland Africa Trade Office (ATO) and was part of USTR's week of events on improving trade policy for America's small- and medium-sized businesses. The roundtable was attended by small- and medium-sized businesses that are either already doing business in Africa or that are interested in doing business in Africa, so that they could discuss their issues, concerns, success and challenges. She informed the group about USTR's efforts to boost small- and medium-sized businesses trade and sought their input in developing new ways that USTR can support SMEs in strengthening their trade and investment with Africa. Watch for information on a podcast from this event.

  • The Office of China Affairs met with representatives of the U.S. China Business Council on January 20 to discuss the experiences of small- and medium-sized enterprises in exporting to and investing in China and what USTR can extrapolate from their successes and challenges to promote trade for similar companies in the future. On January 21, the Office of China Affairs met with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Asia Department and TradeRoots, the national trade education program dedicated to raising public awareness about international trade. They discussed existing programs that support small- and medium-sized enterprises in exporting to China and explored possible areas of greater coordination as USTR looks to expand its trade promotion efforts in support of these crucial drivers of economic growth in the U.S. economy.

  • USTR's Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation hosted a lunch today on international copyright issues facing small- and medium-sized businesses. At the lunch, negotiators from various offices at USTR heard from representatives of labor unions and trade associations belonging to the Copyright Alliance. They described international copyright issues affecting small business persons such as photographers, musicians, special effects artists, and designers of software apps for mobile devices. The discussion that followed highlighted the international opportunities and challenges associated with new technologies and the Internet, the challenges of measuring the contributions by IP-intensive SMEs to international trade, and how the U.S. trade agenda can advance SME interests in the copyright field.

  • The Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Environment and Natural Resources Mark Linscott and Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Jennifer Prescott led a roundtable discussion today on "Green trade, SMEs and Supply Chains," hosted by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC). Both large and small companies and associations were represented. Tim Richards of General Electric (GE) described GE as an "aggregator of technology" as well as an innovator in its own right. GE relies on thousands of SMEs as both direct and indirect suppliers to its wind and gas turbine businesses, in particular. Mr. Richards urged USTR and other U.S. government agencies to streamline its advocacy and finance programs for clean energy and small- and medium-sized businesses. He also advocated strongly in favor of an agreement to free trade in environmental goods and services, even if such an agreement had to be built incrementally, starting with climate-friendly goods and expanding its product scope and member participation over time.

    Dawn Kristoff Champney of the Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) talked about the importance of strong environmental regulatory regimes, IPR protection, financing and incentives, and free trade to the waste water treatment industry, which is dominated by small- and medium-sized businesses. She also emphasized that the United States must lead by example to show how open markets drive innovation and create jobs here at home, and made reference to her members' experience in Chile, which is their largest growth market in Latin America since the implementation of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement. Several participants noted that SMEs do business in markets that are easiest to navigate, and in this regard, several companies - ranging from large multinational like GE to small companies like Syngest - spoke of growing concern about protectionist policies emerging in China. They urged USTR and other agencies to continue to press for removal of barriers to the Chinese market in bilateral and multilateral fora. This marked the first in a series of discussions to help USTR better understand and integrate SME-related interests into our trade and environment policy initiatives.

Keep watching the USTR blog for more events to boost American job creation by helping small- and medium-sized enterprises sell their goods and services to the world.