Small and Medium-Sized Companies in the Focus of Exporting News

Small and medium-sized exporting companies had several reasons for good spirit in the last couple of weeks – especially Trans-Pacific Partnership and Export-Import Bank supporters.

The final agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) got a substantial coverage across the news, as it is the largest regional trade accord in history. As covered a few weeks ago, it encompasses USA together with 11 Pacific Rim nations and addresses many complex issues – from reducing tariffs and quotas, to imposing rigorous environmental, labor and intellectual property standards on partners, easing cross-border data flows, establishing an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, to free trade in services, and imposing competitive neutrality on state-operated businesses.

There is one particularly important area, which deserves a separate attention – focus of TPP on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Last week, National Small Business Association hosted a webinar where Andrew Quin, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, among other described new chapter of the TPP deal focused on SMEs. The chapter aims to tide together all different elements that benefit SMEs and he highlighted 2 major areas:

  1. Creation of dedicated website for SME exporters by every member country. The websites should pull out all provisions which are particularly relevant to SMEs such as customs, taxation or intellectual property protection topics to make it better understandable and easier to follow in day-to-day exporting trade deals.
  1. Creation of SME committee to continue consultations with SMEs and collect feedback on what works, if benefits are being generated, and on how to continue maximizing benefits to SMEs. The committee will consist of government representatives, however promises to take inputs from SMEs on private sector provisions.

All of the above claims to suggest that TPP is more beneficial to SMEs than any previous trade agreement. Mr. Quin also reassured that TPP will not have any impact on Minority-Owned Small Businesses set aside programs (including the one WOSB program for women).

Another topic that came out after few weeks is the reauthorization of Export-Import Bank (EXIM). As Mr. Quin stated, it is a separate initiative but important piece to allow a full benefit of TPP. EXIM is providing loans, guarantees, and insurance to U.S. exporters and has made SMEs exports the top category supported last year (source) when $10.7 billion of total $27.5 billion worth of U.S. exports went to U.S. small businesses.

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Many SMEs publicly supported EXIM reauthorization, and they all have now a hope that it might be successful after all. A rare procedural move brought EXIM to the House floor and got a surprising support in the 313-118 vote to renew, including from 127 Republicans.

However, now the supporters will have to secure passage in the Senate but they seem to have a chance through its attachment to another vehicle, such as legislation to renew highway funding (source).

Overall, current news seem to suggest that it is a good time to be an exporter and according to the latest annual report Profile of U.S. Importing and Exporting Companies released by Census Bureau, many SMEs have already realized that as they accounted for 98 percent of the number of U.S. exporters in 2013 and $471 billion in known value of goods exports.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal

TPPOctober 5, 2015 will be remembered as a day when the United States and other 11 Pacific Rim nations reached final agreement on the largest regional trade accord in history – the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP.) The countries form a group with an annual gross domestic product of nearly $28 trillion that represents roughly 40 percent of global G.D.P. and one-third of world trade, which reflects enormity of the deal.

TPP addresses many complex issues from reducing tariffs and quotas, to imposing rigorous Environmental, Labor and Intellectual Property Standards on partners, easing cross-border data flows, establishing an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, to free trade in services, and imposing competitive neutrality on state-operated businesses.

Together with the U.S. members are Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, and New Zealand. Geography would suggest for China to be member as well but though it has expressed interest in talks, it is not among founding countries (causing different speculations and interpretations).

The deal now needs the approval of lawmakers in member countries, including the U.S. Congress where it is expected to be under thorough scrutiny. Public debate is also weighting all pros and cons. Supporters say it will unlock opportunities for exporters but opponents see the partnership as a continuous way of sending manufacturing jobs to low-wage nations.

Similarly to congressional battle in 1993 for NAFTA partnership passage (234 to 200 votes in the House, and 61 to 38 in the Senate), president Obama is expected to face challenges while making it one of his final goals in the office. Similar difficulties are expected in Canada while the process should be straightforward in Japan or Singapore.

TPP is written to ease adoption by additional Asian nations (South Korea is already pressing for swift acceptance), and to provide a potential template to other initiatives underway, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (source NY Times).

Tune to our special webinar with International Trade Administration on December 17 to find out more about the TPP and how it is targeting small businesses.

For additional information on TPP, continue here.

Want Global Economic Growth? Hire a Woman

By Jennifer Bisceglie, WIPP Board Member & WIPP International President

According to the World Bank, the past four years have seen tepid economic growth, with global GDP growing at under 3% annually. While 2.5% growth is far better than the rate of -2.1% that was seen at the low point of the 2009 recession, it doesn’t begin to meet the rates of over 4% that was seen during the mid 1990s and 2000s. Economists have been saying for some time that we are looking at the new economic “normal”. But does that have to be the last word?

IMG_6573[1]Few weeks ago I traveled to São Paulo, Brazil and Ankara, Turkey where I had the opportunity to represent WIPP and WIPP International and our members in critical discussions about global economic development. At both events, leaders from governments, NGOs and the business world took the stage to reiterate the need for gender inclusive growth policies.

In São Paulo, the International Trade Center’s (ITC) Women and Trade Programme hosted the annual Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum (WVEF), which seeks to increase the participation of women owned businesses in global supply chains. According to the ITC, women globally own almost 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which account for almost 80% of jobs around the world. It is well known that supporting an environment that encourages entrepreneurship spurs job growth.

At the event, ITC Executive Director Arancha González called on world leaders, governments, and the business community to develop economic and procurement policies that will create one million more women entrepreneurs by 2020. The call to action will impact local and global markets by stimulating job creation at record levels.

In Ankara, the G20 launched the Women-20 (W20), an engagement group focused on promoting gender-inclusive economic growth. The group’s mandate is to advance recent G20 commitments on: women’s full economic and social participation (Los Cabos Leaders’ Declaration, 2012); women’s financial inclusion and education (St Petersburg Leaders’ Declaration, 2013); and gap reduction in participation rates between men and women in G20 countries by 25 percent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances (Brisbane Leaders’ Declaration, 2014).

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made an impassioned speech about the potential of the W20 to positively impact the global economy. Today, in the G20, male economic participation is 86%, but only 56% for women. He added that for every 1% rise in female participation, it is estimated the global economy will grow an additional $80 billion and a 10% rise would increase the global GDP by an amount equivalent to Turkey’s annual GDP today.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde highlighted that data compiled by the World Bank indicates 90% of countries still have laws that discriminate against women. She admitted that the IMF in the past has not had a strong focus on women, but the impact to women and the potential of women in the economy is now considered in every IMF country visit. She added that words are important, but to echo Prime Minister Davutoğlu, it is what gets implemented and the outcomes that are achieved, which really matter.

The important takeaway from these meetings is not that gender inclusive growth policies are the moral or right thing to do, but that they are the smart economic thing to do. Increasing women’s participation in the global economy has the potential to add to the global GDP the economic equivalent of a new China or India. In a time when no one is quite happy with the “new normal” economy, isn’t this the smart thing to do for everyone, both men and women?

From The Hill: Dodd-Frank’s Impact on Small Business Lending

By Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

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Women entrepreneurs face unintended consequences of wall-street reform. According to a House Committee hearing yesterday, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, introduced in an effort to prevent another financial crisis, is contributing to small businesses’ inability to access capital from banks.

WIPP’s Access to Capital Platform has cited some of Dodd-Frank’s regulations as a contributing factor to the decrease in small businesses lending. Capital access is a lifeline for small businesses. It is essential for entrepreneurs to have access to sufficient capital to found and grow businesses.

DF picThe House Committee on Small Business convened lenders and experts to discuss how Dodd-Frank has affected the ability to provide entrepreneurs with critical capital. Access to private capital, including bank loans is a primary concern to women entrepreneurs as women-owned small businesses receive only 4% of private sector lending dollars. Additional regulatory burdens could be exacerbating this problem.

The hearing touched on many of the difficulties WIPP members have experienced when trying to access to capital. The Committee cited increased administrative burdens as a significant cost for small and community banks, a primary lender to small businesses. These regulations have increased the cost of making loans and therefore made it more difficult for banks and borrowers. The result is less capital for entrepreneurs.

The hearing also cited the direct impacts on borrowers. Many that would have qualified pre-recession are no longer able to obtain loans from banks due to tighter lending standards. WIPP’s platform advocates for modernized credit scoring that would level the playing field for women business owners.

Until Dodd-Frank is fully implemented, its complete impact will remain unclear. WIPP continues to review ongoing regulations as well as work with Congress to scale back unnecessary barriers to capital access for women entrepreneurs.

What We Can Learn from High Growth Women Owned Firms

By Annie Wilson, Intern

Last year Susan Coleman D.P.S. and Alicia Robb Ph. D published research prepared for the National Women’s Business Council examining the factors affecting access to capital for high-growth women-owned businesses. In their research, Coleman and Robb found that currently in the business community 30% of businesses were owned by women, however they are mostly small:

  • only 12% of women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) employ anyone other than the business owner;
  • 2% have 10 or more employees; and
  • only 2% have revenues in excess of $1 million.

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This new data shows the need to engage and educate women owned businesses on growth strategies that can expand their businesses.

This report delves deeper into the issues relating to capital accessibility specifically for growth oriented firms, which comparative studies have yet to research thoroughly due to a lack of data.

According to the study, access to capital may be more challenging for women-owned firms than for men for a multitude of reasons:

  • In terms of financial capital, there are considerable gender gaps in the amounts of financing across firms. Men start firms with nearly double the amount of capital that women do and, of high growth firms, men use more than double of what women use. Men also indicated to have used six times the amount of financing that women do.
  • For startup capital, women were found to be more reliant on owner equity and insider financing as opposed to men who used outsider equity predominantly. For women owned firms, a very small fraction of startup capital came from outsider equity regardless of where the firm was on the size spectrum.
  • In terms of credit market experiences, women indicated to have similar loan application rates as men even though there are more unmet credit needs among women. Women were more likely to not apply for the necessary credit due to a fear of a denied loan application. Also, credit scores are generally lower for women.
  • While men and women are on par in terms of education levels, men exceed women in degrees in the STEM fields, which is the industry that experiences more growth.
  • By means of industry experience, as women tend to have lower levels of startup experience, team ownership and hours worked compared to men.
  • Women have higher rates of owning businesses that are home-based due to family commitments and research has indicated that being home based is negatively related to growth.

However, when comparing the top ranking female businesses by employment and growth potential, there are some considerable differentiations that set them aside.

  • They had a higher rate of employment from their startup year onwards.
  • They are more likely to be in tech industries.
  • They were more likely to offer services as opposed to products.
  • They were less likely to be based from the owner’s home.
  • They were more likely to be incorporated and as a result yield higher credit scores.

For leadership traits, women business owners of high growth firms also had some unique characteristics:

  • They were likely to have more years of industry experience and more likely to have more startup experience.
  • They started their businesses with much more capital (even more than the male owned firms overall.)
  • They used more outsider equity for startup capital. However, this was typically still less than their male counterparts.

Learning from these success measures, it is clear that increased capital for women entrepreneurs, specifically in the startup phase of their business, has an important correlation to the trajectory of women owned businesses. In order to foster a more successful environment for women, there must be changes in the business environment to give women the support and resources they need to turn this trend around.

It is clear that the financing gap between men and women business owners is a considerable detriment to the vitality of women-owned firms. In order to ensure stronger female entrepreneurship and make strides towards closing this gap, efforts must be made to strengthen the financial capabilities of women entrepreneurs and encourage accessibility to bank and equity financing. Also, providing more visibility and accessibility to successful female industry professionals and providing more opportunity for women to attain industry experience could help bolster the entrepreneurial confidence that women need to compete with their male competitors. Another important step forward would be an increased use of family-friendly policies, which could give women the flexibility to work outside of their homes and in an environment more conducive to entrepreneurial growth.

Take a look at WIPP’s recently launched Access to Capital platform to address funding gaps and the crisis of capital faced by women entrepreneurs.

To read the full report, click here.