President Obama Holds a Roundtable on Small Business Exports

The President: Well, as I said
in the State of the Union address earlier this year, my
top priority is to make sure that we continue the economic
momentum that’s been established, continue to grow
businesses, create jobs, and make sure that we’ve got
the kind of prosperity that is broad-based and allows people
not just to get into the middle class, but ultimately to
start their own businesses, start their own
industries, in some cases, climb out of difficult
circumstances and live out the American Dream. And one of the major components
to do that is to make sure that outstanding goods and services
made right here in the United States of America have
access to global markets. Ninety-five percent of the
customers of the world are outside our borders, and we’ve
got to make sure that we’re able to sell to them. And when we do, our
companies thrive. This is one of the reasons why
I am pursuing the kind of trade authority that allows me,
working with members of Congress, to pry open these
markets and make sure there’s a level playing field that’s good
for American businesses and American workers. We already have one of the most
open markets in the world. People are already
selling to us. But oftentimes,
it’s not reciprocal. And what I want to do is make
sure that those markets are as open to us, our businesses,
American workers, American products, as our
markets are open to them. And one of the reasons that I
brought this group together is because the perception
sometimes is, is that the trade agenda is only
important for big companies, big corporations, big Fortune
500 or 100 companies. Well, the group that’s sitting
around here is made up of small business people or medium-sized
business people who are seeing their businesses directly
benefit from exports — as well as a couple mayors — Mayor
Nutter and Mayor Buckhorn, Philadelphia and
Tampa, respectively, who can account for hundreds of
thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars of sales
coming out of their region as a consequence of exports. So among the companies here
we’ve got companies that range from four employees to a
couple hundred employees. Some are selling as much as 20
percent of their products and goods outside the United States;
some are just getting started and they’re selling 7, 8, 10
percent of their goods outside the United States. In each case, what they
know is that if the U.S. government is
getting their back, making sure that there’s a level
playing field, they can compete. So I — just to tell
one quick story. Jeff Hohman from Northwest
Door, makes big garage doors. And what he’s finding is that
when you have that stamp, “Made in America” on it,
customers like that, they value it, and there’s
a ready market out there. And because he’s been able to
sell in places like Saudi Arabia and Australia, he’s been able to
hire more workers — because his sales, traditionally, had gone
down during the wintertime when people aren’t thinking about
buying a new garage door, they want to keep the
one they got closed. (laughter) And so those
seasonal business cycles — well, it turns out when it’s
winter here it’s summer in Australia, and he’s able to
keep more folks on the job and, in fact, hire more people
because of those sales and those opportunities. Steve Basta with AlterG, has
created — or has a company that’s created new technologies
for medical rehabilitation. He’s able to sell his
products overseas, but what he’s finding is in some
countries you’ve got tariffs that make his products more
expensive and that means fewer sales. And so this is not just the
Boeings and the General Electrics that benefit —
although they do benefit, and they’ve got a lot of
suppliers up and down the chain, so small and medium-sized
businesses benefit when the big companies are selling because
they’re sourcing here in the United States. But it’s also small businesses
and medium-sized businesses directly benefit. And I want to make sure
that that story gets told, because we’re going to make a
big push to level the playing field. And I know that sometimes
there’s controversy around trade agenda. Trade deals have not always been
good for American manufacturing. There have been times where
because the trade deal was one way, American workers didn’t
benefit and somebody else did. Well, we intend to change that. We’re not going to sit and
settle for the status quo. And that’s why we’re going to
make sure that the trade deals of the future reflect
the labor protections, the environment protections,
the protection of property — intellectual property that’s so
important to our businesses. But we’re going to pry
those markets open. I’m not going to settle for the
status quo because we think we can grow enormously. And what we know is
that people who export, their workers tend
to get higher wages. Those businesses do better. And we want to make sure that
“Made in America” is showing up in every country
around the world. That’s our goal. And I appreciate very much
the mayors who are here who, as Michael Nutter said, he
doesn’t have time for a lot of abstract, ideological debates. What they know is they want to
make sure their businesses are able to access these markets. You’ve got — Mayor Buckhorn
has got the port in Tampa, which is the gateway for the
entire southern part of our hemisphere. They know we’ve got
to get this done. And so do these
businesses as well. So thank you very
much, everybody. Appreciate it.

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