By Senator Shaheen
We must do more to grow our economy and create the jobs we need to compete in the 21st century marketplace. We should start by focusing on reforming trade policies and boosting exports, particularly for small businesses, because exports are critical to future economic growth and prosperity. If we make it easier for small businesses to export, everyone wins.
While 95 percent of the world's customers live outside of the United States, only 1 percent of our small- and medium-sized businesses export. We are missing opportunities for economic growth.
Last year New Hampshire exported nearly $3.5 billion worth of goods overseas. This year, as of March, we are seeing a nearly 14 percent increase in exports.
These are encouraging statistics, but if we are going to maintain growth and continue creating jobs in our state, we will need to do more.
That means helping our businesses -- and especially our small businesses -- look abroad for new and expanded markets to sell their goods.
One way we can help is by reforming regulations for defense-related exports, also known as "export controls."
Used correctly, export controls can be important for keeping sensitive technologies out of the hands of our enemies or competiors.
However, the current export control system has grown into an antiquated and restrictive set of regulations designed during the Cold War that often gets in the way of trade opportunities, especially for small businesses.
Our complex and time-consuming export licensing process deters businesses looking overseas -- especially small businesses that don't have the resources to hire export regulation experts.
As I speak to businesses around New Hampshire, export regulations and licensing issues remain some of the biggest complaints I hear. Elbit Systems of America-Kollsman in Merrimack is a perfect example.
It manufactures a number of commercial aviation products and systems. And while it has licenses to sell entire systems abroad, the licenses often do not apply to spare parts.
That means when clients around the world need parts repaired -- regardless of how small or insignificant -- a new license can be required to ship a replacement.
Kollsman can expect a delay of six to eight weeks to license and send that part to the company overseas.
You can imagine how difficult it is to compete in the aviation business when you cannot guarantee repairs for six to eight weeks.
I've hosted numerous export forums over the past four years, and today I will be partnering with Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller for an event in Concord discussing the export control reform effort.
At each event I've held, I heard loud and clear that New Hampshire businesses want a common-sense 21st-century export control system that cuts through unnecessary red tape, keeps Americans safe and helps our businesses remain competitive in this rapidly globalizing economy.
Reform can bring significant benefits to the businesses in our state. Promoting exports will allow small businesses to tap into new markets overseas, in turn helping them boost revenue, expand and create more jobs here at home.
We should do everything in our power to help these small businesses achieve this goal.
(Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire's senior U.S. senator.)