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U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman Highlights Growing Minnesota Internet Exporter, What President Obama’s Trade Agenda Means for Minnesotans

August 10, 2014

Top U.S. trade official meets with Minnesota small business owner to underline the benefits of historic trade agreements being negotiated by the Obama Administration

Minneapolis, MN – U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman traveled to Minnesota to meet with a small business owner for a conversation about how Made-in-America exports are fostering economic growth, supporting jobs, and unlocking opportunity in Minnesota.
Following President Obama’s meeting with Minnesota resident Rebekah Erler in June, Ambassador Froman, the country’s top trade official, visited Jewelry by Johan, a Minnesota small business founded by entrepreneur Johan Rust that is creating jobs by exporting using the web platform Etsy. According to a recent report, Etsy has 1 million artisans and craftspeople selling $1.3 billion of goods per year.
At Jewelry by Johan’s headquarters, Ambassador Froman and Rust discussed how the Obama Administration is working to strengthen the American middle class by increasing U.S. exports to the world, as well as how the U.S. government can help eliminate barriers that American exporters face in selling to new markets.
Rust began selling Made-in-America jewelry products on Etsy in 2011.  Now, Jewelry by Johan boasts nearly 30 employees and annual sales of $2 million per year, a third of which involve exports to almost 30 other countries.  Many of the company’s employees were hired because of their exporting business, and they plan to hire more due to increased demand from around the world.
“President Obama’s top priority is to expand economic opportunity for all Americans,” said Ambassador Froman. “By helping our businesses and workers sell more Made-in-America exports to the world, United States trade policy can unlock opportunity, support jobs, and strengthen our middle class." 

"This is a great example of the American Dream at work. An immigrant comes to the United States, starts a business, hires nearly 30 young people and now exports his products all over the world. What started as an effort by Johan to turn a hobby into some retirement security is now creating opportunity for dozens of young Minnesotans."

"The Internet has revolutionized the way we do business. Entrepreneurs like Johan Rust who are using the Internet publicize his business and reach customers all over the world and create jobs here in the United States are exactly who we want to partner with in building a better economic future.”

Ambassador Froman also emphasized how Minnesota stands to gain from President Obama’s trade agenda, especially through unprecedented trade deals that are being negotiated with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the European Union: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  These agreements will give the U.S. premium access to nearly two-thirds of the world economy, including in some of Minnesota’s top export markets such as Japan and the European Union. Japan has tariffs of up to 10 percent on jewelry. When those tariffs are removed through TPP, businesses like Johan's will directly benefit.
The TPP will include groundbreaking provisions concerning the digital economy and focused on keeping the Internet open and free, which is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs like Johan who are using the internet in innovative ways to sell Made-in-America exports overseas. The TPP will also cover multiple countries that Jewelry by Johan sells exports to, including Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and others.
Ambassador Froman’s meeting with Rust follows President Obama’s meeting with Minnesota resident Rebekah Erler, and is part of continued Obama Administration engagement with Americans outside Washington, D.C.
To view a fact sheet about Minnesota, the economic benefits of exporting, and President Obama’s trade agenda, click here.