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Mr. CRITZ. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Trade is critical to the growth of small business. A quarter of a million U.S. companies export to foreign markets, the large majority of them small and medium-sized enterprises that employ 500 or fewer workers. In fact, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 230,000 small and medium enterprises now account for nearly 30 percent of U.S. merchandise exports. The number of such companies exporting has more than doubled since 1992 and, according to SBA, 96 percent of the world's customers live outside the U.S., representing two-thirds of the world's purchasing power.
Given this critical role, we need to make sure trade agreements assist small businesses. Trade agreements should help reduce redtape and increase transparency, but too often small businesses lack the resources and foreign business partners available to large companies to navigate through opaque customs and legal systems to reach their customers.
Numerous fees and other nontariff barriers that can be no more than a nuisance to large multinationals can be deal-breakers for small companies. Trade agreements must streamline rules, reduce nontariff barriers, and provide arbitration procedures so that even small U.S. exporters can successfully participate in foreign markets.
Trade agreements must also open up opportunities for small U.S. exporters to compete for foreign government contracts. U.S. companies should be given a fair shake at the important government procurement market in these foreign countries. Such agreements can help to lower the threshold at which contracts must be put out for competitive bid ensuring that even small U.S. companies can be part of the process. Some of those contracts for roads, schools, clinics, distance learning, and medical equipment, for example, can be ideally suited to smaller U.S. companies.
My amendment makes sure that small businesses are not forgotten when trade agreements are implemented. It requires that agencies' regulatory flexibility analyses assess the cumulative impact of any rule stemming from the implementation of a free trade agreement. Doing so will make certain that small firms' voices are part of the process in these important deliberations.
Being part of the process will enable small firms to benefit from trade agreements and use them as a means to access foreign markets and customers. I urge Members to vote ``yes'' on this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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