Last week, Deputy Assistant USTR for Small Business and Market Access Christina Sevilla spoke on the “Exporting for Small Business” panel at the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Units (OSDBU) Annual Conference. The OSDBU Procurement Conference is a national conference fostering business partnerships between the Federal Government and small, minority-owned, veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone, and women-owned businesses. Now in its 22nd year, the OSDBU Directors Conference is a premier event for small business throughout the United States.
According to organizers, this was the first time that the OSBDU conference -- primarily focused on Federal Government contracting opportunities for small business --- also included a panel on Small Business exporting with interagency participation, given the National Export Initiative’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and priority attention to small businesses who are new to exporting. And according to the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, minority-owned firms are more likely to export compared to non-minority-owned firms, regardless of firm size. For example, minority-owned firms in wholesale trade; professional, scientific and technical services; and finance and insurance were more likely to export compared to non-minority firms in those same industries. Among firms generating 50% to 100% of their annual $1 million plus sales through exports, minority-owned firms were four times (4.2%) as likely to export compared to non-minority firms (1%). Minority firms are also five times more likely to conduct business in a language other than English compared to non-minority owned firms.
Deputy Assistant USTR Christina Sevilla, second from right, participates in "Exporting for Small Business" panel
Foreign language capability can be a huge advantage for U.S. minority and diaspora entrepreneurs seeking to make export sales to U.S. trade agreement partners in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Sevilla spoke about the benefits to small businesses of U.S. trade agreements, such as the new agreements with Colombia and Korea. Trade agreement partners can be easier markets for small firms to access due to the reduction and elimination of tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers, and speedier customs procedures to get products to market under the agreements. Reducing tariff costs and cutting red tape can make a big difference to a small company seeking to export for the first time or to enter a new market.
She also highlighted new opportunities for small business suppliers to access foreign government procurement markets under the revised WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) that will be available when it enters into force, possibly as early as 2013. For example, the revised agreement will give U.S. suppliers access to more than 150 additional central government entities in European Union Member States, including Bulgaria, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Sweden. U.S. suppliers will also gain access to a number of additional central government entities in other GPA Parties, including in Aruba, Hong Kong, Israel, Liechtenstein, Korea, and Switzerland.
Small and minority-owned and women-owned firms which have successfully competed for U.S. government contracts may now consider foreign government contracts a promising new opportunity opened up by U.S. trade negotiations.