In the debate over trade escalating in Washington D.C., the impact trade has on small businesses like mine, Cannon Industries, is often overlooked.  

I founded my company, which specializes in sheet metal stampings and custom weld fabrications, in 1979 with the mission to be the "supplier of choice" for our customers. This mission is underpinned by our commitment to providing quality products and service – a commitment that has helped Cannon Industries grow. Today, we have 200 employees who manufacture custom engineer parts that can be found in transit rail systems, hybrid vehicles, factories, and other machinery for diverse industries.  

The success of Cannon Industries has also been driven by international trade, as our largest clients, such as Cummins Inc., use our manufactured parts to build products that are exported to customers around the world. When our customers can reach new markets abroad, my company and its employees benefit here at home. International trade has enabled us to diversify product capabilities, share in cost reduction initiatives, and, perhaps most importantly, create jobs in the United States. In fact, Cannon recently announced the expansion of our operations to Dallas, Texas.  


The impact trade has had on our success explains why the United States negotiate new trade agreements that lower and eliminate trade barriers to new markets. This isn't just about Cannon Industries, it is about all businesses -- large and small -- in New York and around the country that depend on trade. Of more than 300,000 U.S. businesses that export, 98 percent are small- and medium-sized businesses. What's more, international trade already supports 2.6 million jobs in New York – more than one in five.  

These benefits can increase further with the passage of new trade agreements. Consider this: countries with whom the United States had trade agreements in 2013 purchased more than six times as many goods per capita from New York than countries we did not have a trade agreement with.  

From where I'm sitting, it's clear that trade is beneficial to my business and to workers across New York. It's also clear that trade agreements help deliver better outcomes for U.S. exports. That is why we need Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to help finalize any new trade agreements. 

Through TPA, Congress sets rules for how our trade negotiators consult with Congress, and the objectives that our negotiators much achieve in final trade agreements. TPA also enables our trading partners to come forward with their best offers, because with TPA, Congress must vote on completed deals with an up-or-down vote without amendments. The procedure empowers U.S. trade representatives to negotiate with one voice and tells our trading partners the United States will not go back on promises made during the negotiating process. If a trade agreement doesn't meet the standards Congress sets for it through TPA, it can vote it down.  

TPA is vital for the passage of trade agreements – only one trade agreement has been passed in the last 40 years without it. TPA expired in 2007, and the time has come for Congress to step up and pass this legislation as soon as possible. For businesses like mine, potential new contracts, investments, and jobs hang in the balance.

Cannon is the CEO of Cannon Industries, headquartered in Rochester, New York. Cannon Industries is a certified minority-owned business.