Last week, 45 small business owners met for a briefing at The White House on TPP and TPA. After in-depth discussions, they agreed that small business owners need to take action to show their support for TPP.
Ambassador Michael Froman, who is responsible for the TPP negotiations made three key points:
- TPP is anything but "fast." Congress will have a full month -- a long time in political world-- to review the agreement.
- Ambassador Froman is inviting input into the negotiations. A congressional committee regularly gets to review key pieces of the agreement. The public is regularly invited to give input -- and Ambassador Froman is being proactive about inviting critics to voice their concerns, and is responding to those concerns in an ethical and balanced way.
- TPA is essential to getting multilateral negotiations done, and has been granted to every past president regardless of political party. It would be impossible to negotiate a multi-lateral agreement if our negotiating counterparts knew that Congress would be able to pick apart and change the agreement after the fact.
Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, stressed the importance of U.S. businesses having a level playing field in the global markets. Currently, the U.S. levies tariffs of just 1.9% on average for imports, whereas U.S. companies exporting to other countries pay much higher tariffs, sometimes in the 100's of percent.
U.S. businesses need to maintain their access to the growing Asian middle class, currently around 300 million and expected to reach 3 billion by 2030. If we don't create a level playing field and take the lead in stewardship (e.g. environmental regulations), then China is likely to take the lead. Also, U.S. competitors are not slowing down to wait for the U.S. and have negotiated hundreds of one-off trade deals with each other already, that have the potential to further shut U.S. businesses out of their markets.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasized that the U.S. is in the fortunate position of producing more food than we consume. This not only allows more of us to obtain jobs in the knowledge and innovation economy (200 years ago, most of us would be spending our free time farming simply to keep food on the table), but creates valuable opportunities for small businesses to export food products. Charles Chocolates, a Bay Area chocolatier, is one example of a branded food company that is seeing growth in exports. That said, Chuck Seigel, the company's founder, noted that they need help navigating the barriers to exports, from strict regulations governing food products, to temperature control exporting to equatorial Asian countries.
Hello!Lucky co-founder and Share Trade founder Sabrina Moyle spoke to the fact that TPP and TPP are but one piece of the puzzle when reducing barriers to small businesses getting into the export game. We also need lower shipping rates and increased transparency of information, including a "killer app" that makes it easy for small business to identify new overseas markets and navigate regulations and logistics; currently this data resides on multiple government and non-profit websites and is quickly outdated.
Overall, the attendees all agreed about how hard it is to get small business owners organized. According to Secretary Vilsack, the typical member of congress gets 12,000 emails daily from people opposed to TPP, and only 2 from those who support it. That is because it's much harder to get passionate about something as complex as a trade agreement, and small business owners are simply to busy to engage.
Everyone agreed that a simple social media campaign, such as the Small Business Export badge campaign, an idea generated during the briefings, would be a possible and highly visible way to mobilize small business owner support. We hope you'll join us!