Livingston International provides insights on key findings of small business exporting survey

CHICAGO – There is a wide knowledge gap among small and mid-sized businesses in their understanding of how current and future free trade agreements (FTAs) can open markets and opportunities for them to grow their business, according to the National Small Business Association’s (NSBA) 2016 Small Business Exporting Survey conducted in partnership with Livingston International.

More than half of small and mid-sized exporters say they would enter new markets if there were an FTA in place, according to the comprehensive survey covering topics such as free trade and export finance. However, while survey results show exporters understand the benefits they receive from FTAs – including access to new foreign markets and opportunities to expand existing export operations– just over 37 percent of non-exporters said their main barrier to selling to foreign markets is that they don’t know enough about it and don’t know where to start.

“Trade presents one of the best avenues for growth for businesses of all sizes,” said Steve Preston, CEO at Livingston International. “While the process can seem daunting, there are many resources available to educate small businesses on trade. They can also hand off much of the work to third-party experts who will navigate the process for them.”

While there are dozens of government programs aimed at helping businesses understand and take advantage of FTAs, survey results indicate that the majority of respondents have not used their services. And nearly half of exporters surveyed report they are unsure or unaware of current agreements under consideration such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). One in four doesn’t know what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is.

“Today, more small-business owners handle the bulk of their exporting activities than at any point in the last six years,” stated NSBA President and CEO Todd McCracken. “We encourage these small-business exporters to utilize the multitude of resources available to them, including learning more about how they stand to benefit from FTAs. Exporting can be difficult, but it doesn’t always have to be.”

Survey results also indicate that when asked what type of federal government support would be most beneficial to their company, the number one answer among small-business respondents was “establish export tax incentives.” Enhanced technical assistance and a competitive U.S. dollar exchange also rated very highly among small and medium sized exporters.

Nearly half of small business owners handle all export activities themselves, without the help of external resources that could help verify information; ensure compliance with various international rules and regulations; and take full advantage of free trade agreements, identified partners or new markets.

The 2016 Small Business Exporting Survey was conducted on-line Feb. 22 – March 14, 2016 among 530 U.S. small-business owners. To learn more about resources aimed at helping small and mid-sized businesses export, visit Livingston’s webpages about Importing and Exporting and Small Business Services.