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This is the second in a four-part series focused on growing your business internationally.
Every day on Main Street across America, small and medium-size businesses are looking beyond Main Street’s customers. Today, many of these businesses are selling goods and services to customers overseas.
In 2007, American enterprises with 500 or fewer employees sold more than $300 billion worth of goods in the global marketplace. And behind every global sale was a local American worker. In fact, as many as 43 million Americans owe their livelihoods, at least in part, to exports.
In these difficult economic times, America cannot afford to leave any jobs on the table. As President Obama has made clear, this country must do everything possible to support job creation here at home.
To that end, President Obama has created a National Export Initiative and appointed an Export Promotion Cabinet to support export-oriented economic growth. The National Export Initiative brings together the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank and other federal agencies to help more Americans succeed through trade.
The President has asked us all to team up and combine our best efforts to meet a national goal: double American exports in the next five years. If we are successful, we can support 2 million additional jobs.
USTR is working hard to help achieve that goal. Our role in the National Export Initiative is clear: We are going to do more of what we do best — tear down barriers to trade and open up new opportunities for American businesses to grow and create jobs through exports.
We are working to lower tariff and non-tariff barriers overseas, to enforce trade agreements, and to protect Americans’ intellectual property rights, among other things. These steps will help to grow the American economy by making it easier to sell “Made in America” goods and services to consumers all around the world. And there are a lot of global consumers out there. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside America. We can help American businesses to succeed in the markets of our nearest neighbors in Canada, Mexico and Latin America; in those of America’s partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and in the fast-growing economies of Asia.
How entrepreneurs are getting engaged
“I have never been in a manufacturing plant that could not export their product. Every single one of them can do it,” says Roy Paulson, CEO of Paulson Manufacturing in Temecula, Calif. Paulson’s company manufactures protective equipment for fire and rescue, police, military and industrial customers.
Paulson, a small-business owner, recently spoke at a USTR-sponsored conference on small and medium-size businesses. The conference convened in January in Washington, D.C., and brought together business leaders, trade policy experts and senior members of the Obama Administration. It was an opportunity for USTR and other officials to engage directly with small-business owners — to hear directly from small businesses around the country about how our government can make trade policy work better for small firms.
Small and medium-size businesses — from multigenerational family operations to brand-new startup companies — are the backbone of the American economy. Today, there are nearly 30 million of these critical enterprises. And during the last two decades, these businesses have generated almost two-thirds of all new employment.
We know from studies by the U.S. International Trade Commission that businesses that export grow faster, add jobs faster and pay higher wages. Private sector studies bear this out. For example, one recent study by CompTIA, a trade association for IT companies, found that 86 percent of American small and medium businesses surveyed said that their export sales are growing faster than domestic sales.
Many small and medium-size businesses have yet to realize their global potential. We can see that potential by looking at the number “one” — and trying to grow from there: today, only one in 100 small businesses exports its products to a global market. And those that do export are likely to sell only one product in only one foreign market. So USTR is working hard to help more small businesses achieve their export potential.
Today, I would like to urge you to take a leap of imagination — imagine how you can grow your business through increased international sales; or imagine expanding your global sales from one market to two or more export markets.
Innovation, government resources help level the playing field
The opportunities for small and medium-size businesses are huge. The digital economy, the enormous expansion of global transportation networks, and the easy availability of express delivery services have vastly increased the trade opportunities for smaller companies. Even if your business will never directly export, you can grow by taking part in global supply chains — producing the parts, products or services that are the raw materials for goods that end up in the global marketplace.
So as a small-business owner or employee, what can you do? I urge you to take three simple steps:
- Go to our Web site, www.ustr.gov, to learn more about how the U.S. trade agenda is opening up markets around the world to our companies, workers and farmers. Learn how we’re enforcing U.S. rights so that trading partners play by the rules. You can even sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter (bottom of the home page) to stay on top of the latest developments. We want to hear from you, and there are many interactive features on our site, including a blog and notices of opportunities to submit comments.
- Go to www.export.gov, a one-stop shop for government resources to help you do market research and start exporting, or expand your targets. Find the Department of Commerce U.S. Export Assistance Center nearest you and learn online about the federal resources available to help you succeed in your export goals.
- Take that leap of imagination! The possibilities in the global marketplace are vast, and America’s exporters and workers have what it takes to succeed anywhere in the world.
Selling more of what America makes to customers abroad will be a key part of this nation’s economic recovery. We here at USTR are using all available tools to make trade work better for America’s businesses and workers on Main Street, in partnership with other agencies across the government. I am excited about our country’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and creative and dynamic employees, and I look forward to working with you on building a better economic future for our country through trade.