WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, made the following comments in response to United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ronald Kirk’s announcement this morning of new initiatives to help increase small businesses’ access to exporting:

“Our Committee has heard testimony that as small businesses find their domestic market increasingly tapped out because of the recession, exporting has become a practical solution for small firms looking to survive and grow,” Senator Landrieu said. “I appreciate that Ambassador Kirk is taking this issue seriously. These two new initiatives are a step in the right direction. With more advocacy and better coordination among agencies, small businesses can create new and higher-paying jobs, lessen the trade deficit and make our nation better able to compete in the global marketplace. In addition to these changes, I would like Ambassador Kirk to consider our request for an Assistant USTR exclusively for small business. This will ensure that there is an advocate for small businesses in the room during trade negotiations.”

“I applaud today’s announcement by United States Trade Representative Kirk that will help ensure small businesses are adequately considered in America’s trade policy – and particularly that the Small Business Administration will be included in that process,” said Ranking Member Snowe. “I specifically called on the USTR to work closely with the SBA in small business exporting legislation I introduced earlier this year, and I appreciate Ambassador Kirk acting quickly on these ideas. At the same time, it is my hope that the Administration will soon appoint an Assistant USTR for Small Business to demonstrate that small companies are a priority in trade agreements and trade remedies. This is a critical measure that I have long called for, and it is a worthy goal that I will continue to pursue.”

While small businesses represent about 97 percent of all exporters, merely one percent of small firms are currently exporting. This tiny fraction makes up only one quarter of the country’s export volume, demonstrating that trade remains dominated by larger businesses.

Senators Landrieu, Snowe and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in March requested Ambassador Kirk to add an assistant USTR for small business. Additionally, Senator Landrieu introduced in June a bill to help increase small business trade opportunities – “S.1196: The Small Business International Trade Enhancements Act of 2009” – and held a field hearing on the topic in New Orleans at which Ambassador Kirk and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Karen Mills testified. Senator Snowe also introduced a trade bill: “S. 1208: The Small Business Export Opportunity Development Act of 2009.” The two senators are preparing to release a bipartisan bill in the coming weeks.

More details on Ambassador Kirk’s new initiatives are available by clicking here.

Senator Landrieu’s small business trade activities – including her bill – can be found by clicking here.

Senator Landrieu’s statement and witness testimony from the June 30th field hearing she chaired in New Orleans can be found by clicking here.

Senator Snowe’s trade activities can be found by clicking here.