WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, this week sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke with her recommendations to assist the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) in the development and implementation of the National Export Initiative (NEI) plan.

“Like you, I hope that the NEI will serve as much needed economic catalyst for our nearly 29 million small businesses as they seek to expand their businesses into new markets,” said Senator Landrieu in the letter. “The overwhelming majority of identified exporters, approximately 97 percent, are considered to be small businesses…These figures suggest foreign markets possess tremendous business development and expansion opportunities for our small businesses...”

In the letter, Senator Landrieu requested the TPCC consider the following initiatives:

• Increase Outreach and Marketing Efforts to Small Business: More outreach needs to be done within the small business community to raise awareness of the NEI and to market exporting as a business development opportunity. In addition to conducting outreach to both new-to-market and new-to-exporting firms, the NEI should also incorporate initiatives to raise awareness of Federal export assistance programs among underserved and socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.

• Update Existing Federal Export Assistance Programs: While the majority of existing export assistance programs represent effective and sound investments of taxpayer dollars, there are a number of programs that serve small businesses that are in need of modernization and improvement. Specifically, SBA export financing and business counseling programs should be improved and expanded to better serve the small business community.

• Improve Coordination among Federal Agencies: Poor coordination among Federal agencies involved in export promotion has been a longstanding issue for small businesses. Improvements to coordination efforts, particularly among the core TPCC agencies, are urgently needed.

• Stronger Advocacy for Small Business: Greater advocacy for the issues and concerns of small exporters are needed at the highest levels of the Federal government. This is especially critical during the development of international trade and export promotion policy, as well as during the negotiation of free trade agreements to ensure that these policies and agreements work for small business.

• Increase Resources in Support of Small Business Exporting Programs: More resources should to be devoted to Federal export promotion programs that benefit small business, particularly those that have a demonstrated track record of success.

“Above all else, the NEI must present small businesses with exporting opportunities that are both user-friendly and economically beneficial…Even a modest increase in exports by our small businesses will help to reduce trade deficit, create new jobs, and transform our economy in ways that will allow our small businesses to remain competitive with their foreign counterparts for years to come.”

On March 11, 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order 13534 to enhance and coordinate Federal efforts to facilitate the creation of jobs in the United States through the promotion of exports, and to ensure the effective use of Federal resources in support of these goals. The TPCC requested public comments from interested parties, and Senator Landrieu submitted her recommendations this week on behalf of small businesses. The TPCC should release the report no later than mid-September.

To view a copy of the letter, please click here.