At an early age, I saw how important small -- and medium -- sized businesses are to the fabric of the Latino community.
I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida's historic Ybor City neighborhood, well-known for
being a beacon for immigrants here in the United States. My uncle owned a little grocery store
in the community. So for as long as I can remember:
• I've seen how businesses employ people, providing both a paycheck and a source of pride for workers;
• I have valued the impact that a business's products and services can have for families and
• I've believed that strong businesses are an essential ingredient for strong communities.
These are lessons that I carry with me to this day. Latino businesses -- like all American
businesses -- have so much to offer. All they need is a fair opportunity to succeed. As
President Obama's Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, I work every day to
give them this chance through exporting.
Why exporting? Because the world economy has changed. The competition facing a business is
no longer just across the street or across town: it's across borders and overseas. Technology has made the world more connected than ever before, so American businesses must be ready to think and operate globally.
Too many people think of this change as something to be frightened of -- it's not. Instead,
businesses should look at the new global economy as an opportunity to reach more markets and more customers.
Fact: 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States.
Fact: Approximately 85 percent of economic growth through 2015 is taking place outside our borders, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Fact: Roughly 80 percent of the world's purchasing power is -- you guessed it -- outside of
So, if businesses want to reach more customers, be a part of incredible growth, and have access
to enormous buying power, they should export.
Bottom line: Exporting is a key to the United States's economic growth and future. That's
why President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010, with the goal of
doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. Significant progress has been made already. In 2011,
alone, U.S. exports reached $2.1 trillion in total value, an all-time record. This is important because every time a sale is made abroad, it benefits a business back home. It strengthens bottom lines and enhances revenues, which can positively impact jobs. In fact, last year, exports supported nearly 10 million jobs at a time when putting people to work is a top national priority.
Clearly, exporting is having a great impact; as Under Secretary for International Trade, I am
committed to sustaining this momentum, and strongly believe that Latino businesses are well-
positioned to help lead this effort.
According to the Minority Business Development Agency, minority-firms are more likely
to export compared to non-minority-owned firms. It makes sense: the Latino community, for
example, has deep cultural ties with markets across Latin America.
Latino businesses know these markets. They know the needs. So, they should be natural leaders
in selling U.S. goods and services in this region -- which is ripe with opportunities.
The Western Hemisphere is already the destination for over 40 percent of all U.S. exports, and
opportunities in the region continue to grow because the U.S. - Colombia Trade Promotion
Agreement is now in effect.
As a result, 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to the country are
now duty-free; American businesses now have new access to the third largest economy in South
America. This circle of opportunity will expand even more when the Panama trade agreement
takes effect later this year.
We at the Department of Commerce want to help Latino businesses make the most of these
opportunities. We have staff located in more than 100 U.S. cities and 70 countries throughout
the world who are ready to help.
Exports are already working for Latino businesses. Let's join together to keep this positive work