Opening Remarks by Ambassador Miriam Sapiro at the EU-US SME TEC Workshop

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Miriam Sapiro

The EU-US SME TEC Workshop
Rome, Italy
July 12, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery*

It is a pleasure to be here today to open the Third Workshop on Small and Medium Enterprises organized under the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Economic Council. I want to thank Undersecretary Dassù, European Commission Vice President Tajani , and Confindustria President Squinzi, for hosting this important event, and everyone here for playing a key role in helping small business compete more effectively in the transatlantic marketplace.

I am particularly grateful to the executives and entrepreneurs from our small business community, hailing from California, the Midwest, and the East Coast, for making this trip so they could share their insights and expertise. I know first-hand about the risks, challenges, and opportunities you face in launching and running a small business, which I did for eight years before President Obama and Ambassador Kirk offered me the opportunity to serve in Government again.

We are here today because the EU and the United States share the goal of promoting increased participation in trade by our small businesses. We want to discuss EU and U.S. best practices and to develop additional concrete ways that the United States and EU can collaborate to address these types of barriers and help our SMEs participate more actively in transatlantic trade.

We know that strengthened trade and business partnerships across the Atlantic by companies both small and large will mean more jobs and growth at a time when our economies need it most.

Indeed this is the focus of the EU-U.S. High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, whose efforts hold considerable promise for smaller U.S. and EU firms. Based on its work thus far, the Working Group indicated last month that a comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment agreement, if achievable, would generate substantial benefits for the U.S. and EU economies. I am confident we will be able to take concrete steps to help smaller U.S. and EU firms sell their products and services across the Atlantic and to third countries.

Let me take a brief moment to put our work here in Rome in that context.

U.S.-EU goods and services trade totaled nearly $1 trillion in 2011. But both sides know we have the potential to build this into an even greater partnership, to benefit our small businesses and companies of all sizes. We know that small companies that export grow faster, add jobs faster, and pay higher wages than those that do not. Small and medium sized enterprises collectively not only employ a majority of workers in the United States and the EU, but are also a critical source of innovative processes, products, and services that are key engines of economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness.

We know also that the issue of trade barriers affects businesses of all sizes, but SMEs face particular challenges. We are ready to focus on measures that disproportionately affect SMEs, especially those that impose additional costs, and thereby hamper SME export performance. For example, in the manufacturing sector, SMEs with limited resources often find it difficult to meet foreign standards, testing and certification requirements. In the services sector, insufficient intellectual property protection poses a relatively larger risk to firms with limited resources. Similarly, services SMEs have more difficulty establishing affiliates in foreign markets and preferences for local providers can be more burdensome.

The United States wants to ensure that our SMEs have the tools they need to compete in the transatlantic marketplace and around the world. That’s why President Obama is strongly committed to taking several concrete actions that can make a difference.

Since taking office, the Administration has secured 18 tax cuts for small business. Just yesterday, President Obama announced additional initiatives to reduce paperwork and streamline processes to help more small businesses access the credit they need to invest, hire, and grow. The President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) also puts a special emphasis on finding new ways to enhance SME participation in trade, including by making government programs and resources more accessible through one-stop online platforms such as Export.Gov.

In the United States, small businesses account for nearly 98 percent of all U.S. exporters. The value of exports by U.S. small businesses in 2010 was over $380 billion, an increase of more than 24 percent from 2009, and an estimated 34 percent of the total value of known U.S. goods and services exports. These trends are positive, but I believe we can do better. Which is what brings us here today.

The EU and the United States launched these SME workshops under the auspices of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) in 2011 with clear goals in mind: What can we do together to help small companies trying to overcome the challenges to selling abroad? What can we learn from each other as we each seek to strengthen our programs and policies in this area?