Judy Huang, president of 889 Global Solutions Ltd., takes her clients to China.
Patrick Callahan, president of Globid LLC, consults clients in increasing export sales.
The two are among business owners nationwide fighting to improve the United States' international trade by pushing support for the Trade Promotion Authority bill.
The TPA, passed in December by one vote in the U.S. House and yet to be heard in the Senate, would allow the president to have more authority to discuss trade agreements.
"Ohio is an export-dependent state," says Dana Smith of DBS Consulting, a public affairs consultant who does work for the Ohio Alliance for International Trade, of which Huang is a member. "In fact, last year, Ohio sold more than $29 billion worth of exports to more than 200 foreign markets."
A compromise, bipartisan version of the bill includes objectives addressing labor and environment issues and improves consultations between the Administration and Congress. Congress would retain the right to approve or reject, but not amend, trade pacts made by the president.
The TPA, supporters say, will open new markets worldwide to American goods and services, boosting the economy, providing job security for Americans whose work depends on exports and encouraging entrepreneurship. It also levels the playing field by removing trade and investment barriers that have hindered American exports.
"It reduces tariffs and makes the relationship between the two countries much easier," says Huang, who has been meeting with members of Congress to show her support for the bill.
The TPA, however, has met with heated opposition, which has been exacerbated by the Sept. 11 events.
The United Auto Workers union, for example, took out full-page ads to oppose the TPA, often referred to as the Fast Track legislation because of its name when it was in effect from 1974 until it expired during the Clinton administration.
"It does nothing to enforce core labor standards like preventing child and prison labor. It does nothing to protect our environment," the ad says, outlining jobs lost and trade deficits since the implementation of NAFTA seven years ago.
"It's a bad time to threaten American job security," the ad points out, referring to the war on terrorism.
At ExhibitPro in Columbus, Mike Kurilec's domestic trade show business was impacted by the terrorism, but his international clients, who make up about 10 percent of the company's business, were unfazed.
"We have one client that does a lot of work in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. They were here the day after (Sept. 11) talking about a new exhibit going over there. Terrorism for them is just part of life, being on guard," he says.
Despite the terrorism threat, Callahan says, international trade supporters are undaunted in their efforts to increase trade.
"What I'm hearing is this is the time for American business people who have relationships overseas to strengthen those," he says, "to let everybody know we're here to do business and these recent events aren't going to stop us."
For more information about the Trade Promotion Authority, visit www.tpa.gov. To contact your U.S. representative or senator to voice your opinions on the bill, go to thomas.loc.gov and use the House and Senate directories for the 107th Congress. How to reach: Patrick Callahan, Globid Inc., 487-9617 or email@example.com; Judy Huang, 889 Global Solutions Ltd., (614) 231-5531 or firstname.lastname@example.org; the Ohio Alliance for International Trade, Dana Smith, DBS Consulting, (614) 487-8155 or email@example.com; United Auto Workers, www.uaw.org; U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., a sponsor of the TPA compromise bill, (202) 225-2915. For more information about international trade and the TPA, visit the Ohio Business Roundtable's site at www.gotrade.org.
Joan Slattery Wall is senior editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.