A Victory for Small Business in the U.S. Trade Office

Ambassador Ron Kirk, head of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office, announced this week that he will be designating a high-level position in his office to focus on promoting the trade-related interests of America’s 29 million small businesses. Long a key issue for the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA)—NSBA’s exporting council—this announcement is a welcome change that will improve small-businesses access to exporting.

“Exporting is opportunity for significant growth for many U.S. small businesses, but international market policies can hamper access to a level playing field,” said SBEA Board Chair Susan Corrales-Diaz, president of California-based Systems Integrated. “Creating this new position is a significant step in aiding small-business exporters.”

The economic difficulties over the past two years, coupled with ongoing outsourcing, have put small businesses at a distinct disadvantage in the global economy.  SBEA and NSBA has been urging for years—decades, even—that more must be done to emphasize the needs of small business within the scope of U.S. trade.

The announcement came during a conference on Thursday, Jan. 21 that was focused solely on enhancing the role of small business exporters.  The Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (AUSTR) for Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness will now become the AUSTR for Small Business, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness, thereby broadening the position’s purview. 

Last month, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, introduced legislation supported by SBEA and NSBA to create such a position within the USTR office. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, also has expressed his support for such a proposal. All three Senators expressed their support of Ambassador Kirk’s announcement and applauded his commitment to ensure small businesses have the support they need to export as a means to sustain their business in this tough economy.

SBEA and NSBA welcome current AUSTR Jim Sanford, who will be taking on the new small-business role. Currently, fewer than one percent of all small businesses engage in exporting, and small-business exports accounted for only 30 percent of total U.S. exports in 2007—just slightly higher than a decade earlier, according to a report from the International Trade Commission. SBEA is hopeful that this new elevated priority of assisting small businesses dealing with international policies will work toward enhancing the ability of small businesses to engage in the global market.

“As the U.S. economy faces a jobless recovery and consumer spending continues to lag, exporting may be one of the few areas where small businesses can grow right now,” stated Todd McCracken, president and CEO of NSBA.

Since 1937, NSBA has advocated on behalf of America’s entrepreneurs, and is proud to partner with SBEA, the nation’s chief advocate on all issues affecting small U.S. exporters. For more than 20 years, SBEA has been working to raise the profile and level the playing field for small-business exporters. Collectively, NSBA and SBEA reach more than 150,000 small businesses nationwide. Two staunchly nonpartisan organizations, our members are as diverse as the economy they fuel. To learn more, please visit SBEA and NSBA.