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"Make It Easy, Make It Safe" - WIPP Writes the Lead Negotiator on Trade Agreements

posted Jan 6, 2014, 6:00 AM by Ann Sullivan   [ updated Jan 6, 2014, 6:01 AM ]

December 18, 2013
By John Stanford

Earlier this month, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) sent a letter to the US Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael Froman. The reason? To make sure the USTR, our lead negotiator on trade agreements with other countries, understands that women-owned businesses care about how the rules of trade are made.

The letter asked Ambassador Froman to focus his efforts on making exporting easier for smaller businesses while ensuring these agreements protect the innovation of American Entrepreneurs. This message comes at the exact time when our trade negotiator needs to hear it. The negotiations of two major trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), are underway with TPP nearing completion.

These mega-trade-agreements would remove trade barriers like tariffs, excess taxation, and regulatory burdens, with more than 40 countries in the Pacific region and in the European Union. While T-TIP negotiations only began this year, TPP could be completed in early 2014; for that reason, TPP has been the focus of trade news.

Why does TPP matter? Three reasons: frst, the scale of the agreement, second, the exporting opportunities it could generate, and third, the level of protections it could provide for American goods and services. (For more, we recommend detailed TPP summary from the Washington Post.) 

1) TPP is big: 12 countries representing 40% of all US exports. The TPP agreement isn't with one country, it is with 11(possibly 12 if South Korea joins). In the past, free trade agreements were typically conducted bilaterally - that is with one country and the US. The size of this agreement is unprecedented.

2) Women-owned businesses will have access to more markets. One of the top reasons companies that have never exported refrain from starting is the lengthy and tiresome process to get started. Trade agreements minimize such burdens.        

3) The agreement contains an entire chapter devoted to "Intellectual Property" (IP). IP, the legal protections for Innovation, is at the heart of many businesses. Protecting it beyond our borders is important to many employers considering exporting as a growth opportunity.

Trade agreements encompass many vested interests, but WIPP is focusing its advocacy efforts on the elements that impact our members most-an easier export process and strong protections of IP.

Do we think the USTR will listen? We hope so. Small-and-medium-size enterprises (SMEs) account for 97% of all companies exporting to the TPP countries and nearly 20% of the dollars. Women-owned businesses are a large and growing part of that. Export loans to business women are at an all-time high, and those companies are reaping benefits of more than 100 times the total annual receipts of women-owned businesses only operating domestically. With that kind of impact, our voice trade agreements and export policy deserves to be heard.

WIPP's involvement in trade policy is nothing new. Since President Obama made doubling exports a priority in his Administration, WIPP positioned itself to support the millions of businesswomen who want to expand to international markets. That is why, in 2012, WIPP launched ExportNOW, a program designed to educate women entrepreneurs about the vast growth potential in the international market. WIPP partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) as a 2012 Commitment to Action, aiming to open the doors to exporting for over 5,000 women entrepreneurs.

The Conclusion of the TPP agreement, the ongoing T-TIP agreement, and an upcoming trade debate in Congress are all happening in 2014. It will be a busy year, and WIPP will be there advocating for women-owned businesses every step of the way.

Learn more about WIPP here and about WIPP's exporting outreach and education program ExportNOW here. Interested in learning more about trade in 2014, be sure to register for our upcoming webinars.