THE BLOG

International Trade: The New Frontier for Hispanic Business

03/06/2015 03:24 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2015

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America is home to more than 53 million Hispanics, and we play a critical role in supporting our nation's economy and way of life. To ensure the continued prosperity of our families and businesses, we must explore new frontiers for growth. One of those frontiers is the administration's bipartisan trade agenda.

Today, there are 3.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses in America, that contribute more than $486 billion to our economy each year. Hispanic businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the small-business sector, with a start-up rate three times the national average. This should not come as a surprise--our cultural ties, language skills, and agility give us a competitive edge in today's globalized economy. These qualities uniquely position Hispanic-owned businesses to take the international stage, where 95 of the consumer market lives.

President Obama's trade agenda has the support of both parties, and will ensure that our businesses, most of which are small and medium sized enterprises, are on a level playing field with their counterparts in other countries as they explore expansion opportunities. While many assume that exporting is limited to big businesses, the reality is that 98 percent of our 300,000 exporters are small businesses. Of these, minority firms are more likely than non-minority firms to have businesses generating 100 percent of all their sales in exports.

At the same time, less than 5 percent of all U.S. businesses export, and more than half of those exporters sell only to one market abroad. Clearly, there is untapped potential.

This is the very potential that this trade agenda will bring into reach. At the forefront of this ambitious agenda is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a multi-lateral agreement which aims to boost trade between the US and other countries including Mexico, Chile, and Peru, along with eight other countries in the Asia-Pacific. This landmark agreement will be the first to include a chapter dedicated to small and medium sized businesses.

TPP will lower tariffs to make sure that our small businesses do not face unfair barriers in foreign markets. For example, it will cut red tape that our businesses face; and make it easier to sell goods on the Internet. All of these factors will make small- and medium-sized businesses more competitive, improve our customers' happiness and loyalty, and create opportunities for us to expand operations at home as well.

By giving companies, both big and small, the access and tools they need to expand and grow, TPP and other free trade agreements will create or support hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs--of special interest to Hispanic Americans, who are suffering from higher unemployment than the national average. Every $1 billion of U.S. exports supports over 5,000 jobs. And it's not just the number of jobs that matters. What matters is creating more jobs that Americans want: jobs that pay better and last longer. Those are exactly the types of jobs that trade supports. Export-related jobs pay up to 18 percent more than non export-related jobs, and they are less affected by economic downturns.

As President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am committed to helping American businesses make the most of these opportunities. I want our companies to have the resources they need to thrive, and even better, encourage Hispanic entrepreneurs to further contribute to our nation's economic renewal.

We call on Congress to enact Trade Promotion Authority, and support the administration's proposed free trade agreements. Together, our nation's business leaders and elected officials can usher in the next chapter of international trade. With the right policies and proper skills in place, our business men and women will ensure that America continues to out-compete, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world. All we need is Congress and the administration to act.