House Committee Approves Bills to Improve SME Trade Opportunities

On May 9, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Committee member Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) introduced two pieces of legislation—the Export Promotion Reform Act (H.R. 1409) and the State Trade Coordination Act (H.R. 1926) aimed at reducing some of the key barriers and obstacles faced by small-business exporters. On July 24, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved by a unanimous voice vote these measures and both are now pending floor action.

NSBA and SBEA are pleased with the committee passage of these bills because we have 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 in order to enhance exporting opportunities for small U.S. companies.

The Export Coordination Act would establish stronger Congressional oversight and coordination of the federal export promotion agencies. Currently, there are over 20 federal agencies that provide some, or all, of the steps in the export process, and many small businesses do not know where to go for the information relevant to their needs. Graves’ legislation was merged with Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel’s (D-N.Y.) Export Promotion Reform Act (H.R. 1409) during a subcommittee markup on June 26. Additional provisions of the Graves bill were added during the full committee markup.

This proposal goes hand-in-hand with a key recommendation NSBA and SBEA have been making for years—a one-stop shop for small exporters. Increased coordination between agencies will help more small businesses access the tools they need to export. Especially for small companies that are new to exporting and those with specialty products for exotic markets, there are undeniable fear factors, such as knowing exactly where to go and who to call.

Click here for more on a recent report from the Government Accountability Office on this topic.

Second, the State Trade Coordination Act, sponsored by Rep. Chabot, would establish the framework to ensure that federal and state trade agencies work in unison to assist their local exporters. The bill would direct the president to appoint as least one representative of state trade promotion agencies to the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC). It also calls on the Commerce Secretary to develop a plan to integrate resources and strategies of state trade promotion agencies into the overall federal trade promotion program.

SBEA and NSBA have long stated that enhanced export training and technical assistance are essential to small exporters’ success. Cross-agency outreach guides and learning materials on the intended foreign markets with virtual marketplace and virtual trade missions would make it easier and less expensive for small businesses to reach foreign partners.

By making it easier for small businesses to sell their products overseas, we can create an environment in which small businesses can thrive, grow and expand.  The presence of small business exporter’s in America’s global trade strategy must continue to increase and the government needs to ensure that they facilitate the exporting process, and not hamper it through excessive regulations.