Small businesses that want a bigger voice in trade policy may soon get a break.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says he will consider hiring an assistant U.S. trade representative to focus exclusively on small business export issues, a step urged by key members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
"Less than 1 percent of our nation's small businesses, 240,000 small firms, are involved in exporting," the senators said in a letter to Kirk. "These 240,000 enterprises comprise 97 percent of all exporting firms in our country; however, they account for just 29 percent of all U.S. exporting volume."
Encouraging more small businesses to seek out overseas markets could help reduce the burgeoning trade deficit, they point out.
Wait a minute — aren't there other federal agencies championing entrepreneurs, namely the Small Business Administration? Well, yes, but the senators argue that "a small business export in the highest realms of trade policy is necessary to ensure the needs and concerns of small businesses are addressed. A high-ranking advocate for small business is vital to removing trade barriers and ensure that small businesses are given systematic consideration in trade policy."
Ensuring that small businesses — and the majority of American companies are small businesses — get "systematic consideration" in trade policy is a worthy goal, whether Kirk appoints an assistant USTR to handle that task or not.
Kirk says much is being done to ensure small business has a seat at the trade table. "USTR’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison is already stepping up USTR’s efforts to reach out to small businesses to hear their issues and concerns," Kirk said in his response.
That may not be enough for senators such as Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who insists an assistant U.S. trade representative dedicated to small business concerns "is the most effective way of ensuring that small firms receiving adequate assistance in American trade discussions.”
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