Recently, the U.S. Small Business Administration proposed changes to existing rules governing maximum revenue allowed to maintain status as a small business and compete for set-aside contracts in 52 industries.
In a notice published in the Federal Register on October 12, 2011 , SBA proposes to increase receipt based size standards for 37 industries in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 56, Administrative and Support, Waste Management and Remediation Services. This would include companies that provide various types of staffing services, including security guards and patrol, as well as travel and event planning companies.
In an additional notice published the same day, SBA proposes to increase receipt based size standards for 15 industries NAICS Sector 51, Information. This includes telecommunications companies and those providing data processing and hosting.
In both sectors, the proposed changes are based on annual gross revenues. The standards delineate how large a business can be and still qualify as small for federal government programs. SBA estimates that up to 500 more firms in Sector 51 and 2,700 more companies in Sector 56 will qualify for SBA assistance and other federal programs if the proposed revisions are adopted.
Both proposed rules are currently available for public review and comment at http://www.sba.gov/size . The comment period ends on December 12, 2011.
President Obama Signs Free Trade Agreements
On Friday October 21, 2011, President Obama will sign free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea  ratified by Congress the previous week. These agreements will remove barriers to U.S. goods entering these markets, creating real opportunities for U.S. companies, workers, and investors.
The pact with South Korea would eliminate tariffs on over 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years. Equally importantly, the Agreement will open Korea’s $560 billion services market to highly competitive American companies – supporting jobs for U.S. workers in sectors ranging from delivery and telecommunications services to education and health care services.
In signing a trade agreement with Colombia, the third largest economy in Central and South America, key U.S. exports will gain immediate duty-free access to Colombia. This includes almost all products in these sectors: agriculture and construction equipment, aircraft and parts, auto parts, fertilizers and agro-chemicals, information technology equipment, medical and scientific equipment, and wood.
A free trade agreement with Panama will also greatly benefit U.S. firms seeking to do business abroad. Currently, U.S. industrial and agricultural goods currently face an average tariff of 7 percent and 15 percent, respectively, with some tariffs as high as 81 percent and 260 percent, respectively. Over 87 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Panama will become duty-free immediately. Remaining tariffs will be phased out over ten years. Over half of current U.S. agricultural trade will also receive immediate duty-free treatment, with most of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated within 15 years.
The legislatures of Colombia and Panama have ratified the agreements while South Korea’s National Assembly has yet to take the measure up.