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A Small-Business Envoy to the WTO

Q: How would you characterize your stance? Very much for free trade?

A: Yes. I believe in fair trade, too. I believe if a country makes a commitment to do something in international trade, we should hold them to that commitment. I'm not a na. I understand that there are always people who will want to cheat, and you have to keep your eyes open. But, yes, with that proviso, I do believe in free trade. I do think it's the best thing all the way around.

Q: So how do you react to the antiglobalist argument that freer trade is somehow harming developing countries?

A: Well, why are they trying so hard to have free-trade agreements? Why do I go to these meetings with the South African Customs Union all the time? Because South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and these countries in southern Africa all want to have a trade agreement with the U.S....and have our companies go over there. The reason is, they think it's in their self-interest. They wouldn't be over here asking for it if they didn't.

Q: So the whole image of multinational corporations forcing their way into other countries is false?

A: Multinational corporations are trying to force their way into other countries, sure. But the other countries for their part are either welcoming those companies or doing what we should be doing, and we don't always do: understand that the best defense is a good offense. If they're coming in here, we'll go over there.

Every time I hear somebody complain about imports -- a business person -- I always say, "What are you exporting these days?" [They reply] "Oh, ooh, well, we don't really export." Well, then, don't complain.

Q: At the WTO meetings, how much influence do you expect to have?

A: Not much, to be honest.... The influence is something that you develop over time. You develop it on the basis of the economic strength of the people you represent but also on the basis of the soundness of your arguments, your ability to persuade others, and your ability to work with other people. And that takes time.

Q: Are there certain groups that will be your natural allies?

A: You can slice it two ways, horizontally and vertically.

Vertically, we're part of the U.S., and our view is going to be that of American businesses. And we're going to be on the same page, probably, with the USTR [U.S. Trade Representative] and most American businesses on an awful lot of issues. There is a horizontal dimension, too, in [that] small-businesss exporters are going to be thinking like small-businesss exporters in other countries, and priorities for us will tend to be priorities in other countries.

Q: Do you have any advice for small businesses dealing with the regulatory environment in foreign trade?

A: One of the things I would say to small businesses is, if you've got an obstacle to your ability to trade in a foreign country...and it's causing a problem for your company, one place to stop is at [the office of] the U.S. Trade Representative. Go there and say, "You know, I'd really like to trade in this country, but they've got this requirement that makes it almost impossible. Could you do something about that?"

I don't want to toot my own horn, but...just drop us a note [at SBEA].... If it's something that I think is important and/or general, I will try to bring it up with USTR myself. If necessary, I'll mention it as a possibility for WTO negotiations.

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