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Business

October 28, 2012

Web lets even small businesses go global

WASHINGTON — Global trade is no longer just for the big guys.

In a major shift, the Internet and new technologies have allowed small companies and micro-businesses to make their mark in the world of international trade, meaning global commerce relies far less now on big companies using large-container shipping.

A panel of business and government experts gathered in Washington recently to ponder the changing face of trade and to examine how the Internet is shrinking the world for consumers and exporters.

They agreed on one point: As part of the evolution of commerce, global trade is accessible to every business in the United States, regardless of its size. And they said that would be an increasingly important message to relay to skeptics who thought that trade helped only multinational corporations.

“There’s no question that the global perception that the current system is made to serve the elites is a problem,” said Brian Bieron, the senior director of federal government relations for eBay Inc., the San Jose, Calif., company that bills itself as the world’s largest online marketplace. “And I don’t think it’s true, but it’s real.”

As part of a panel discussion at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, eBay released a study that found that 97 percent of its commercial sellers — most of them small businesses — now export products. More than 80 percent of the businesses export to five or more foreign countries.

In contrast, less than 4 percent of U.S. businesses that don’t use the Internet are involved in exporting, according to the study, presented at the forum sponsored by eBay and the National Foreign Trade Council, a pro-trade association in Washington.

Susan Schwab, who was the U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, said the eBay study provided “dramatic commentary” about the potential of global trade to aid small businesses and create jobs around the world.

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