As a new Congress settles in, members of both parties have identified trade as a prime area for bipartisan cooperation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (-Ohio), and President Obama—in his State of the Union address last night—have all called for renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives Congress a stronger role in U.S. trade negotiations.
While many think trade is the domain of big business, 98 percent of the 300,000 American companies that export are small and medium-sized businesses. These firms account for one-third of U.S. merchandise exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The number of small and mid-sized companies that export has nearly tripled over the past two decades.
Consider Dallas-based Chem-Crete International. Founded in 1969, it manufactures a permanent, environmentally safe, user-friendly and economical liquid waterproofing material for the concrete industry. Why does trade matter to Chem-Crete or to our country?
“In a word,” said Chem-Crete President and CEO Radi Al-Rashed, “it comes down to jobs.” Chem-Crete has expanded its global reach to the point that it now exports its products to more than 85 countries, and it now employs 20 workers.
However, small businesses often find the playing field for trade isn’t level. While the U.S. market is generally open, exports face foreign tariffs that often soar into double digits as well as a thicket of non-tariff barriers.