Put Small Business in the Game Coach, errr Congress
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Today’s announcement that the United States has reached an agreement with Colombia on labor and judicial reforms that will open the door for Congressional approval of the long-pending U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is being embraced by U.S. small- and mid-size businesses trying gain additional customers.
One such company is Quality Float Works (QFW), headquartered in the suburbs of Chicago. It manufacturers hollow float metal balls and float valves used to level liquid controls in a wide variety of industries including gas, plumbing, oil and agricultural applications. In 2001, exported goods accounted for only 3% of their total sales. Last year, exports accounted for one third of the company’s total sales.
For Quality Float Works and hundreds of thousands of other American small and mid-sized companies already doing business beyond our borders and for those thinking about dipping their toes in the waters of international trade, passage of pending trade agreements with South Korea (where QFW faces an 8% tariff), Colombia, and Panama will expand opportunities to sell in these markets by making their goods and services more competitive.
Jason Speer, Vice President of Quality Float Works (QFW), testified on Capitol Hill today and strongly made the case for approval of all three pending trade agreements as a way to both grow the U.S. economy and create jobs for Americans. As he points out,
"The three pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama will reduce barriers to U.S. exports far more than any concessions made by the United States. U.S. tariff rates are considerably lower than those of almost any other nation, and we are open to foreign investment, so any free trade agreement we sign benefits American exporters to a far greater degree than those that export to the United States. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates these three completed agreements would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion. This growth will drive U.S. employment and economic growth as past agreements have demonstrated the ability of new market access to transform U.S. export revenues."
But for Speer and the entire QFW family, the story isn’t only about the macroeconomic picture; it’s personal. Their ability to grow their business and sustain that growth has resulted from increased international sales.
"While our domestic sales felt the effects of the recession, international sales have continued to flourish… These foreign customers have found that it is often more cost-effective to purchase Quality Float Works’ products and ship them overseas than to buy from local competitors. In this vein, the benefits of free trade have been fundamental to the growth of our company and our ability to provide quality jobs to American workers" (emphasis added).
Yes, emphasis added because Speer’s testimonial on the benefits of trade is critical. To repeat, the ability of QFW to grow and provide quality jobs here at home is greatly enhanced by trade. And the core of Speer’s message is that passage of the pending trade agreements will level the playing field for businesses like his, making QFW more competitive and giving QFW an opportunity to boost exports even more.
Americans hear a lot of political rhetoric about wanting to help small businesses. Well, here’s a real opportunity. As Speer said, “American businesses can not afford to sit on the sidelines while our competitors increase their competitive advantage.” Come on coach, errr Congress, put U.S. small businesses in the game… pass the pending FTAs and let them do what they do best – compete.