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Request for GAO Study on Trade Policies to Help Small Firms

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Gene Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), was asked last Monday for a study on the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee’s (TPCC) progress in implementing an effective government-wide strategy to promote exporting for small businesses. The request came from Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, and Small Business Committee members Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

The Senators highlighted that the 19 agencies involved in trade promotion are not currently successfully coordinating their programs despite signs of some improvement over the years. Lending through a key Small Business Administration trade assistance loan program has dropped by more than 63 percent since 2003, and the number of financial specialists located in U.S. Export Assistance centers throughout the country has also declined

It is estimated that every $1 billion of exports creates more than 14,000 high-paying American jobs. Yet, less than one percent of all U.S. small businesses export, despite the fact that more than 95 percent of the world’s customers live abroad.

Specifically, the senators asked the GAO to look into:
•    Steps being taken to improve interagency coordination, training and outreach to small businesses;
•    The allocation of SBA resources to export promotion efforts as compared to other TPCC member agencies that serve small businesses;
•    The National Export Strategy in relation to small business export promotion; and
•    The Department of Commerce’s management and control of the TPCC’s activities and whether its control impacts the effectiveness of trade promotion within other agencies.


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