Today marks the beginning of National Small Business Week, a time to reflect on the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to the American economy. Recognizing the vital role of small businesses in the United States, the Obama Administration has taken steps to ensure that American small businesses will be able to grow and create jobs for hardworking Americans. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is working to expand exports by U.S. small businesses and support American job creation and economic growth.
One of the most ambitious steps the Administration has taken to help small businesses succeed in the 21st century global economy is the National Export Initiative. Under this initiative, USTR is working more closely than ever with our partner agencies to provide American companies of all sizes with the export opportunities and the resources they need to succeed in the global market place.
Among the major achievements in opening global markets was the entry into force on March 15, 2012 of the historic United States-Korea Trade Agreement, giving American businesses, farmers, ranchers, and service providers unprecedented access to South Korea’s $1 trillion economy. The Agreement eliminates tariffs on 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods, making it substantially easier for small businesses to export their products to Korea and grow their companies. The Agreement also opens South Korea’s $580 billion services market, including areas where U.S. small businesses are particularly competitive, such as information and communications technology services. The Agreement also removes barriers especially difficult for small businesses, such as removing the requirement to establish an office in South Korea before conducting trade. To see testimonials from American small business on the benefits of the trade agreement, click here.
On May 15, 2012, just two months after the United States- Korea Trade Agreement entered into force, the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement did the same. Colombia is the third largest economy in Latin America, and this the new Agreement will make it easier and less expensive for U.S. small businesses to start or expand their exports into this important Latin American market.
Colombia is already a significant export market for U.S. small businesses. In 2010, almost 13,000 U.S. SMEs exported $4.0 billion in merchandise to Colombia, accounting for approximately one-third of U.S. merchandise exports to Colombia. Upon entry into force of this agreement, 80 percent of American consumer and industrial products will become duty-free. The elimination of tariffs will remove the tax on U.S. goods, which should increase demand for U.S. products and help increase export opportunities to Colombia.
The Colombia Trade Agreement calls for a greater amount of transparency regarding foreign laws and regulations, important, because many times, small businesses lack the resources to successfully navigate the web of foreign laws and regulations. This Agreement creates a more transparent process and removes a significant barrier for small businesses trying to export their products to Colombia.
The entry into force of United States-Korea and United States.-Colombia trade agreements are significant achievements in the Obama Administration’s effort to make American small businesses more competitive in the global economy, and create more quality jobs for Americans.
Work to implement the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement is also underway. Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 10.6 percent in 2011, with annual growth forecast ranging between 5% and 8% through 2017. The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement will support American jobs, expand markets, and enhance U.S. competitiveness by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports and expanding trade between our two countries – including trade by U.S. small businesses, who employ so many Americans and contribute so greatly to our economy today.