U.S. small businesses generated roughly a half trillion in economic output and supported more than six million jobs in 2017. However, the sector’s growth potential is being held back by a complex array of foreign trade barriers, including taxes, data localization requirements, privacy rules, tariffs and customs procedures, according to a new report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Google.
The study was released yesterday at an event on Capitol Hill, featuring representatives from the U.S. Chamber and Google; lawmakers and several small business owners.
Based on a national survey of more than 3,800 non-farm small businesses, the study “Growing Small Business Exports: How Technology Strengthens American Trade” examines the current economic contributions, common obstacles faced when exporting, and the role technology can play to expand opportunities for businesses of all sizes to access new markets around the world.
“With 95 percent of consumers residing outside the United States, America’s future economic growth depends on the ability to sell beyond our borders,” said Tim Day, senior vice president, U.S. Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center. “Today’s digital tools and technologies are empowering businesses of all sizes to reach beyond our borders, access new markets, and acquire new customers. The result? Increased sales abroad which translates to more money and more jobs for everyday Americans here at home.”
While more U.S. small businesses are exporting than previously realized—now accounting for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. exports—less than one in ten small businesses currently export either goods or services. Viewed positively, this represents “a tremendous opportunity for future growth,” according to the report, which sets out a number of recommendations to help small companies overcome some of the challenges of exporting.
The study projects that eliminating trade barriers and otherwise improving access to overseas markets would boost small business exports by a 14.2% increase in sales, generating $81 billion in increased economic activity and adding 900,000 new jobs.
To achieve such growth, both the private and public sector must work together to help small businesses overcome their most commons barriers to exporting, the report states, including foreign regulations, tariffs and customs procedures, and payment collection. Digital tools and technologies, along with regulatory relief, can play a critical role in helping small business exporters reach their full potential.
Key suggestions advanced by the report include the following:
- Develop a collaborative initiative between the federal government, state governments, the private sector and other stakeholders to assist U.S. small businesses to use technology for exporting.
- Encourage innovators and technology providers to develop and distribute digital tools that address barriers impacting U.S. small business exporters.
- Develop data-driven strategies to understand and overcome exporting barriers facing U.S. small businesses.
- Building on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), prioritize the negotiation of additional market-opening trade agreements that benefit small business exporters—including rules in areas such as digital trade, de minimis customs rules, and the elimination of nontariff barriers that disproportionately affect smaller businesses.
- Ensure trade finance opportunities are available to prospective U.S. small business exporters.
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