Small businesses will have more support to grow through exports because of provisions that Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, championed in the trade bill that President Obama signed into law today. The President signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which includes two Larsen-led measures to help small businesses increase their exports and two of his provisions to improve trade enforcement.

Helping Small Businesses

Larsen has long led efforts to fund the State Trade and Export Promotion program, which helps small businesses start exporting or increase their export capacity through funding for foreign trade missions, foreign sales trips, technical assistance and other cost-of-business expenses related to exporting. More than 450 small businesses in Washington state have made use of STEP to bring in $220 million in sales, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce, which administers the program. The new law also includes Larsen’s provision to require more coordinated, efficient assistance from the federal government to streamline trade resources for small businesses.

“Today is a great day for small businesses in Northwest Washington and around the country that need a little extra help to get their products into the hands of consumers worldwide. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses have generated the majority of net new jobs over the past decade, but less than one percent of them export—significantly fewer than other developed countries.

“I have worked for years to invest in STEP, because when we help our small businesses sell their goods overseas, we create jobs here at home. STEP has a proven record of success, helping hundreds of small businesses in Washington state, like Warm Industrial Nonwovens in Lynnwood, generate millions of dollars in sales,” Larsen said.

STEP grants have enabled Warm Industrial Nonwovens to attend international trade shows and get its products in front of major aerospace manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and others, resulting in new sales, said company owner Jim Chumbley and sales director Steve Bagwell. “A big part of going to the shows is making connections with the corporate decision makers to then be able to sell to major manufacturers,” they said.

The law:

  • Authorizes the STEP program to receive $30 million annually for FY2016 – FY2020. The program received $17.4 million in FY2015, with Larsen’s urging.
  • Streamlines the federal agencies that play a role in trade promotion to provide more efficient, effective assistance to small businesses seeking to start exporting or grow their exports.

Strong Enforcement

Larsen championed a new trust fund to pay for enforcement actions against other countries that break trade rules. He also supported a provision to require quick action against countries engaging in unfair trading practices, as well as an office dedicated to ensuring other countries play by the rules or face consequences.

“If other countries want to trade with us, they must play by the rules or face the consequences. This new law creates for the first time a trust fund dedicated to enforcing trade deals. This fund is not just words on paper. It is real money, up to $30 million, to make sure our trading partners play fairly.

“I am also pleased that the new law makes permanent an office dedicated specifically to enforcing trade agreements. The office has a strong track record since its inception in 2012, helping bring cases to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against countries like Argentina, China and India for unfair trade practices. Since 2009, the U.S. has brought 20 complaints to the WTO, more than any WTO member, and has won every case that has been decided so far.

“With the new trust fund and more trade cops on the beat, the U.S. will be better equipped to track down and put a stop to countries that are creating an unfair playing field for our workers,” Larsen said.

The law:

  • Establishes a trust fund to pay for the enforcement of trade agreements and requires the U.S. Treasury to transfer $15 million each year to the fund, which may have a balance of up to $30 million;
  • Permanently establishes the Interagency Center on Trade Implementation, Monitoring and Enforcement in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to increase investigations and enforcement actions; and
  • Establishes new requirements for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to initiate investigations within 15 days of receiving a petition about allegations of unfairly traded goods and make a final determination within 210 days.