If you manufacturer goods, do you know what ROOs are? If you share your written work via a blog or other online source for easy access to many around the world, can you tell me about TRIPS? Your business is a part of the food industry, but do you know what SPS measures are?
This is not a quiz. However, if your answers are no, then you should really pay attention to what you are missing out on by not knowing. I mean, after all, if you are a business owner, you want to thrive, not just survive, regardless of the state of the domestic economy, right?
One way to continue to thrive is for businesses to become a part of the global market.
Why Many Businesses Remain Solely On Domestic Shores
The United States is currently negotiating two large free trade agreements simultaneously with Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union. A number of agreements have already been signed and implemented with countries such as Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, South Korea and Morocco. Thus, U.S. business owners have special access to these countries vis-à-vis trade agreements. Yet, the majority of U.S. businesses fail to take advantage of this special market access.
In fact, less than 1% of all of U.S. companies export to foreign markets. Therefore, 99% of U.S. companies are missing out on the opportunities provided by free trade agreements.
Many small business owners expressed three different sentiments to me to explain why they have not gone global: 1) Not sure why they should care, 2) Just too confusing, and 3) Too much time required to understand all of the processes, rules and regulations.
The RTSs of Technical Regulations That Impact Your Business
Rules of Origin (ROOs). Refer to the rules stating that a product must consist of material that originates in a specific country or
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Many trade agreements set rules to protect the intellectual property of inventors, researchers and others who produce or publish creative content.
Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Standards (SPS). Standards that foods must meet before entering into another market. SPS regulations are designed to ensure that food that is imported and exported is safe for human consumption.
Even within free trade deals to promote global economic integration, regulations are put in place to protect businesses and/or give them a competitive advantage as they trade with other markets.
Spread Your Business Around the World
Taking advantage of free trade agreements allows businesses to do the following:
- Identify alternative markets
- Expand their customer base
- Gain additional profits
- Save costs (e.g. duties on goods imported by another country)
- Become more competitive both at home and internationally
Resources to Help Businesses Enter the Global Market
I have listed a couple of useful resources here that can provide guidance and help to simplify all of the technical rules and regulations:
- U.S. Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration (www.trade.gov)
- Small Business Administration – Office of International Trade (www.sba.gov)
There are a number of state and local resources that also work with companies to help them export. Check with the commerce department in your state and local chambers of commerce.
While all of the technical terms of free trade agreements may be daunting, the process itself does not have to be. Businesses can benefit greatly from diversifying their market base and reaching consumers in different parts of the world. Free trade agreements present an opportunity for businesses to do just that without facing tariff and regulatory barriers to trade and investment.