US-Colombia FTA will increase opportunities for American exporters and create American jobs
This summer, the United States Department of Commerce, in conjunction with the State Department, held a webinar that outlined the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and explained what this historical agreement would mean to businesses in the United States.
Over 200 businesses registered for this webinar and had the opportunity to have their questions answered directly by the Ambassador to Colombia Michael McKinley, National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, Alejandra Y. Castillo, and Michael Masserman, Executive Director for Export Policy, Promotion and Strategy at the International Trade Association. To help advance President Obama’s National Export Initiative, the presenters educated export-ready business owners about the potential of the U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement. This Free Trade Agreement has massive potential for American business, as this new agreement could increase U.S. exports by $1.1 billion.
Why should American businesses (especially small ones!) care about exporting? Because through exports a company of any size can increase their sales, enter previously untapped markets, and strengthen the financial stability of their company. Most importantly, exporting is one of the key methods for putting Americans back to work. This is especially true for minority-owned businesses that are exploring other ways to employ American workers. Minority-owned businesses have a competitive advantage in global trade based on their cultural ties, language skills and nimbleness.
The 2007 Survey of Business Owners reveals that among firms with export sales representing 20 percent or more of their overall receipts, minority-owned businesses are twice as likely to export compared to non-minority firms. In addition, minority firms are more than three times as likely to have businesses generating 100 percent of all their sales in exports compared to non-minority respondent firms. This finding is quite substantial because it supports the Administration’s goal to double the nation’s exports by the end of 2014.
Why Colombia? Colombia offers an exciting new market in which American companies can expand their presence. It has the third largest population in Latin America, an educated population, and the International Monetary Fund predicts a growth rate of 4.5% for the Colombian economy. In the past there were some perceived barriers to trade with Colombia, but that is no longer the case. Ambassador McKinley asserted that “Columbia is a country that has transformed. Over the past 10 years it has gone from what many described as a country on the verge of failure with major security problems and stagflation to being one of the stars of Latin American growth, with a greatly improved security situation, a stable government and with a growing middle class population that is very interested in purchasing goods from outside the country.”
Ambassador Michael McKinley did an outstanding job at informing the participants about how Colombia has transformed in a robust economic region that is ready to support and grow U.S. businesses. “In the past 7 to 8 years 75 million people have come out of poverty. There is a middle class in Latin America of 275 million people,” he said. “There are emerging companies that are investing across the region with great interest in synergies with U.S. firms and U.S. markets. Frankly this is the moment to take advantage of what is presenting itself in the region.”
For many American companies, exporting can be a daunting task. But for those bold enough to take the plunge the rewards can be huge. Over 95% of the worlds consumers are from outside the United States, yet only 1% of American companies export. That is simply too much business to ignore, which is why the United States Government is committed to making access to that 95% as easy as possible. This webinar is just one example of the many tools available to companies interested in starting or increasing their exports. The most accessible tool is www.export.gov . Here, companies can find simple online resources that provide a starting point in the process of becoming an exporter. An additional resource is the U.S. Commercial Service offices that are located in most major U.S. cities. These offices can provide individual assistance to companies looking to export. If you need additional exporting assistance, please view the following link to connect with a U.S. Commercial Service Center in your state: http://trade.gov/cs/states/csinyourstate.asp 
As the world recovers from the economic slowdown of 2008, the importance of international trade has increased. Companies who export have a better chance of thriving during a domestic economic slowdown, making it essential for companies of every size to access new markets and start exporting. For companies who are looking to start or increase their exports, the conditions are ripe. American goods are in demand all over the globe and it’s time to step out of our boarders into the new global economy. It’s a journey that will help your business, and we’re here to help along the way.
If you need to learn about exporting basics and industry information, please visit: http://export.gov/ 
The Minority Business Development Agency Business Centers can also be of assistance by helping you gain access to exporting resources:http://www.mbda.gov/main/offices 
Lastly, if you would like additional information about the U.S.–Colombia Trade Agreement, please view the following link:http://www.ustr.gov/uscolombiatpa/