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Internet-Enabled Trade a Boon to Small Businesses
January 17, 2014

16 January 2014

Internet-enabled trade, which has grown dramatically in recent years, is empowering millions of small businesses to sell their goods and services to customers around the world 24 hours a day, says an official of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“Internet-enabled trade allows small businesses to have an online presence, while maintaining a physical local presence and contributing to the local economy and jobs in their communities,” said Christine Sevilla, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for small business, in a January 14 blog post.

Sevilla cited a recent series of studies of online marketplace data that found that Internet-enabled small businesses are more likely to export and reach more country markets than their offline counterparts. One study, she said, found that almost all small businesses on online marketplaces such as eBay export, and on average they reach between 24 and 39 foreign markets.

She said small businesses can increase their export sales through their company Web presence and multiple platforms.

Technology innovations are expanding the global customer base while reducing the costs of trade and reducing the importance of geographic distance in finding customers, Sevilla said. The study she cited notes that Internet access increased 300 percent in all developing markets from 2004 to 2012, while online sales in all developing markets increased 800 percent over the same period.

In 2013, the value of cross-border online trade was $114 billion across the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, China and Brazil, with a combined 94 million online shoppers. This value is projected to increase to $307 billion in trade and 130 million online shoppers across these countries by 2018, she said.

Sevilla noted that trade policies that promote e-commerce and Internet-enabled services, electronic payment methods and improved customs logistics can enable even more small businesses to grow and thrive globally online. She pointed to the historic trade-facilitation agreement reached in December by the United States and 159 other World Trade Organization members, which she said “increases predictability, simplicity and uniformity in customs procedures and includes key measures such as the online publication of steps to import, export, and transit goods, and use of electronic payments.”

In negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, she said, the U.S. trade representative is committed to allowing for the free flow of information to facilitate electronic commerce and to providing market access and national treatment commitments for cross-border services and Internet-enabled services such as social networking.