Hearing: Small business exporters face challenges

Kelly Sloan
Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

The sales of counterfeit products on the Internet, protectionist policies and dumping are among the challenges facing U.S. exporters, federal lawmakers were told during a hearing in Washington, D.C.

The House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade conducted the hearing to examine how unfair trade practices affect small businesses.

“A lot of our focus in the subcommittee is on jobs, both in protecting the ones we have and creating opportunities to create more. We heard a lot of testimony about the challenges facing our job creators in regards to exports,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Colorado who serves as chairman of the subcommittee.

Export issues are important for many sectors of the Western Colorado economy, agriculture in particular, said Tipton, whose 3rd Congressional District covers the region. “Some of our wines are exported, and certainly our cattle and sheep industries are impacted by trade policy.”

Among the witnesses testifying at the hearing were Peter Jhones, legal adviser to Spyderco, a specialty knife manufacturer based in Golden, and Don Shawcroft, an Alamosa rancher and president of the Colorado Farm Bureau.

Jhones said Spyderco faces competition from the Internet sales of low-quality overseas counterfeits of the company’s high-end knives.

Shawcroft said agricultural producers in Colorado have struggled to get into markets in Northern Mexico that have remained closed due to what they said was protectionist policies imposed by the Mexico government, many in violation of trade agreements.

Tipton said other trade issues also arose during the hearing. “One thing that our businesses are fighting is government-subsidized industries overseas dumping into U.S. markets and essentially performing an end-run around our laws.”

Still another issue examined by the subcommittee was that of  red tape, Tipton said. He said the subcommittee has been looking at ways to streamline processes and simplify forms related to exporting products. “We heard about the need to make the rules less confusing and make it easier on our small businesses.”

Tipton said he believes legislation will come out of the subcommittee to address some of the problems, although the specifics of that legislation will depend largely on comments from businesses.

“That is the value of testimony like we received on Thursday and at a roundtable I attended with other businesses earlier, to find out what the problems are and what would help to alleviate them, what we should be adding or eliminating,” he said. “More often than not, we hear we need more elimination of government than adding on.”

Tipton said one possibility could be legislation intended to help curtail the sales of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet.