Jun 10, 2016 - 10:00am

Small Businesses Carry TPP Message to Washington

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

America’s small business owners are often hailed as heroes of free enterprise, not least because they generate two-thirds all new American jobs. But it’s often overlooked in the trade debate that 98% of the nearly 300,000 American companies that export are small and medium-sized businesses.

In other words, trade is the engine that drives many small businesses. These firms account for one-third of U.S. merchandise exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The number of small and midsized firms that export has risen about threefold over the past two decades.

So as hundreds of small businesses from across the United States travel to Washington to take part in the Chamber’s annual America’s Small Business Summit next week, it’s no surprise that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be at the fore. Participants also will visit Capitol Hill to make their voices heard in this year’s raucous trade debate.

Given the importance of securing better access to growing Asia-Pacific markets, many small businesses see the TPP’s approval as a top priority. The TPP will help companies cut costs, save time, and provide certainty. It will:

  • Require foreign governments to make 18,000 tax cuts — that is, eliminate the tariffs that too often shut out American exports ranging from agricultural to industrial to technology goods.
  • Cut red tape and make customs procedures in foreign ports more efficient and transparent.
  • Require fair and transparent regulatory procedures for the development of product and technical standards, thus ending many of the “nontariff barriers” that too often shut out U.S.-made products.
  • Allow products tested in the United States to be imported into any TPP country, thus saving companies the money they would otherwise be obliged to spend on duplicative testing and certification.
  • Boost the potential of e-commerce to allow thousands of smaller firms to easily reach foreign customers through portals such as eBay.
  • Promote paperless trading by allowing electronic authentication and signatures.
  • Make it easier for businesses to search, register, and protect intellectual property.
  • Criminalize bribery and the theft of trade secrets while ensuring transparency in bids for foreign bidding for government contracts.

In fact, trade agreements such as the TPP are even more important to smaller companies than to multinational corporations. Tariffs, testing costs, licensing fees and other burdens that may be minor irritants to a large firm can be show-stoppers for smaller companies.

The TPP also includes a specific chapter on small businesses to provide for enhanced coordination, information-sharing, and capacity-building to help these firms take advantage of the agreement to the fullest extent possible.

Tearing down foreign trade barriers can provide a significant boost for American small businesses, as the track record of past trade agreements proves. The TPP is our best chance to build bridges to Asia to spur growth and jobs, and small businesses coming to Washington for America’s Small Business Summit intend to make sure their elected representatives know it.

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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.