Across America, small and medium-sized exporters thrive, selling products to customers abroad, capturing market share, and creating jobs.
“The market that exists outside of the U.S. is huge. Any company in the Midwest or U.S. can minimize risk by having as wide a customer base as possible,” says the St. Louis, Missouri-based company. says Tom Dustman, director of international sales at manufacturer Sunen. “In today’s world, you can fly it to Chicago, or you can rail it to a port on either coast and then load it onto a ship.”
As America celebrates World Trade Week, it’s worth asking local business leaders what they think about trade. And it soon becomes clear that they all support America’s bold trade policy.
“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, you’re going to lose your job.’ You’re going to lose the business. You’re going to lose this. I don’t think so,” said Jonathan Zooks, president of Advanced Superabrasives, Inc., based in Mars Hill, North Carolina. “What sets American products and services apart is our creativity, ingenuity, and our ability to produce them efficiently and effectively. I welcome the competition.”
Szucs added that every day he sees small businesses in his neighborhood in the mountains of western North Carolina selling kayaks, mountain bikes, and outdoor gear all over the world.
Many people imagine that large companies are most involved in international trade, but the opposite is true. SMEs account for 97% of all exporters and 33% of known export value ($413.3 billion). For example, Szucs estimates that about 20% of the company’s annual revenue comes from international customers.
Another supporter of the trade opportunity is Bill Palmer, compliance officer at Rosenbauer America, which makes fire trucks and similar vehicles in South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Palmer said his company would be subject to a 6.5% tariff on all trucks it ships to Canada without the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which takes effect in 2020. Their vehicles ranged in price from about $250,000 to $2 million, and the tariffs would have made their export to Canada virtually impossible.
“At that 6.5%, we are completely out of competition with Canadian manufacturers,” says Palmer.
The impact of the USMCA on other small and medium-sized exporters is similar. After passing USMCA, Szucs said his company achieved more exports in his one year (2021) than the previous 15 years combined. As a result of this success, his company opened new sales offices in both Canada and Mexico to grow its business abroad.
“USMCA has lowered a lot of barriers.In Canada, our revenue has increased by about 25% since the introduction of USMCA,” says Szucs.
Palmer says small exporters based anywhere in the United States can benefit from exports, but they’re missing out if they’re not looking for overseas customers.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the US, especially with today’s technology. Anyone In America,” Palmer says.
One thing Shuks hopes Washington policy makers are more aware of is the importance of a properly funded and staffed U.S. Commerce Department.
“I want Congress to understand that the US Department of Commerce is an extension of our sales team,” Shuks said. “Without our commercial services group and international trade specialists, we would not have become such a large exporter.”
About 45% of the company’s total revenue comes from international customers, Dustman said, with continued demand for “Made in America” products around the world.
“The reliability and quality of American-made products is generally demanded by the international market,” says Dustman. “International trade and free trade are critical to the strength of the U.S. economy, the jobs of our people, and the interests of global markets.”
About the author
Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor on the Strategic Communications team at the US Chamber of Commerce.