U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk is leading a broad effort to expand export opportunities for U.S. small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), promoting trade and export opportunities at a January 21 conference in Washington, DC.

USTR Kirk emphasized the importance of small business to jobs growth, both in the manufacturing and service sectors of the U.S. economy. "One great way to get America back to work is to get small businesses exporting," Kirk said during his keynote address. "We need to be able to make stuff, and we want to be able to sell stuff. In this kind of a market, America cannot afford to leave jobs on the table."

There are approximately 30 million small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States, and they have great potential to expand U.S. exports. Currently, small- and medium-sized enterprises account for about 30% of U.S. exports, with electrical products, machinery and chemicals among the top export categories by SMEs. However, only 1% of U.S. SMEs export to other countries at all, and about 60% of those that export do so to only one country (usually Canada or Mexico).

SMEs that are interested in exporting face an array of trade barriers, including customs restrictions, licensing and certification requirements, and many other non-tariff barriers.

The conference, titled "Jobs on Main Street, Customers Around the World: A Positive Trade Agenda for U.S. Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses," examined how the U.S. Government can remove trade barriers that limit small-business export and trade opportunities. Key officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Commerce Department, and more than 12 different small businesses also spoke at the conference.

At the conference, USTR Kirk announced that Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Jim Sanford will be designated to head USTR's efforts to focus on the needs of small businesses.

Coverage of the conference is available at: http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/blog/2010/january/us-trade-representative-seeks-boost-home-grown-jobs-global-e

In addition, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released on January 19 the first of three reports focusing on SMEs. The report examines the largest and fastest-growing categories of U.S. goods and services exports for SMEs, as well as the principal types of exports and export markets for these companies.

The 90-page ITC report is titled, "Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Overview of Participation in U.S. Exports," and is available at: http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub4125.pdf.

The ITC will be holding three public hearings nationwide on trade and exports by small business, with the first hearing in Washington on February 9, 2010. Interested companies can request to appear at the hearing and submit statements for the record