Administration highlights exports in new report

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, April 9, 2015 - The Obama administration released a report today highlighting the importance of trade exports in all 50 states, an effort to drive home the impacts of trade on the middle class as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) talks heat up on Capitol Hill.

Jointly released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce, the report - United States of Trade - features a small or medium sized business in all 50 states to demonstrate how exports can play a role in the bottom line of operations of all sizes. The underlying intention of the report is clear as trade talks intensify, specifically with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among Pacific Rim countries.

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TPA would give USTR officials the ability to negotiate a trade deal and send it back to Congress for an “up-or-down” vote free of amendments. USTR Ambassador Michael Froman said President Barack Obama has made trade a priority, and the administration hopes Congress will act soon on TPA.

“This report is a powerful reminder that the opportunity is there, it's beckoning to us and what we need to do is lead on trade to bring those benefits home,” Froman told reporters on a conference call. “As (Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker) said, the first step in that process is Trade Promotion Authority.”

The report offers a state-by-state breakdown of important export data such as value of goods exported, jobs supported by exports, and key agricultural and manufacturing exports. An interactive map displays key trade information for each state as well as a spotlight on one particular business showing the wide variety of businesses that can use exports to increase sales.

While the report details the many American businesses that are leveraging exports, Froman said many others still aren't able to take advantage of the expanded customer base offered by international sales.

“Even though more small businesses are exporting more than ever before, the vast majority of small and medium sized businesses aren't exporting at all, and those that are exporting tend to export just to one other country,” Froman said. “That means that the vast majority of our businesses are missing out on the 95 percent of the world's customers who live outside the United States.”

Froman said if TPP and other trade negotiations were able to “level the playing field,” it would be a benefit to other small to medium sized businesses looking to increase exports.

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Numerous officials both in the administration and in Congress have said that TPA will be necessary to see a trade deal of any kind through to completion. Negotiations between Senate Finance Committee leadership on the contents of a potential TPA bill have been ongoing. On a call with reporters, Pritzker said she was “anxiously awaiting to see the language” of the bill.

In an email to Agri-Pulse, Keith Chu, a spokesman for Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said there was “not an agreement on TPA” but the staffs of Wyden, committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., were continuing to work on a bill. Chu added that “speculation about when a bill would be introduced is premature before there is a deal."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in March that he wanted to see a TPA bill come out of the committee “very quickly after we come back” from Easter recess. House and Senate members will return to Washington Monday after taking a two-week hiatus for the holiday.

Philip Brasher contributed to this report

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