Why Trade is a Big Deal for Small Business

Apr 03, 2014 - 12:45pm

Former Director, International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing today with U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman on the Administration's trade agenda. The agenda will likely focus on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), among other issues.

Expanding trade opportunities is a big deal for companies of all sizes, but especially for small business. More than 300,000 U.S. companies are exporters. Of this total, 98% are small and mid-sized companies. These smaller businesses exported more than $440 billion in 2011, up 42 percent from 2009 and one-third of all U.S. merchandise exports.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what some U.S. Chamber small business members have said about it:

  • Elena Stegemann, Director of International Business at Michigan-based NuStep, explains that “our international sales are continuing to grow in all parts of the world, and today we do business in more than 25 countries. Asia is currently our largest export market. For NuStep, we are excited that the TPP could eventually make it easier for us to comply with regulatory requirements in important markets as Australia, Canada, Japan, and Singapore. Anything our government can do to help remove export barriers for U.S. manufacturers would be of great benefit for a small company. The EU is also a major market for NuStep, and succeeding in these countries is particularly rewarding because entering the European Union was not easy. The TTIP is an opportunity to streamline regulatory compliance for U.S. exporters.”
     
  • Ludlum Measurements, Inc. (LMI) in Sweetwater, Texas, has been designing, manufacturing and supplying radiation detection and measurement equipment since 1962. According to Vice President Mick Truitt, “a pro-jobs trade agenda that includes more market-opening agreements should be a focal point for a Congress concerned about the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, economic growth and job creation. While I am not a trade specialist, I know enough to recognize that first the president needs the authority to negotiate such agreements—Trade Promotion Authority.”
     
  • Based in Boulder, Colorado, Lightning Eliminators & Consultants (LEC) today ships its products to 80 countries, including many in Asia and Africa. Of the 11 countries in negotiations with the United States for the TPP, LEC does business in 10, in some cases through a foreign partner. The firm’s President, Avram Suanders, explains: “The biggest challenge to exporting is that each country has different rules. The lack of consistency raises all sorts of issues from pricing on shipping, to pricing our products because of taxes and tariffs, to restrictions on content. This creates a fair amount more work to make sure that each deal works for us and for the client. The more trade agreements with clear, consistent, and reasonable terms, the better.”
     
  • NOW International, based in Bloomingdale, IL, manufactures dietary supplements and offers more than 1,500 products ranging from vitamins and sports nutrition to natural foods. Philip Pittsford, the firm’s International Sales Manager, says that “agreements like the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership will help to reduce ‘behind the border’ obstacles to trade. They will also strengthen IP protection and lower tariffs. NAFTA has helped remarkably with our Canadian business.”

For small companies on the hunt for new customers and opportunities to grow, the trade agenda holds great promise.

About the Author

About the Author

Former Director, International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Stefanie Holland is the former Director for International Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.