Obama pitches TPP to online businesses

President Obama on Thursday made an appeal to online businesses as part of his campaign to build support for an expansive Pacific Rim trade agreement.

The president sent a message to eBay sellers who represent a business network of millions connected worldwide to tout the improvements in global trade that they would experience from the implementation of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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Obama's message — posted on ebaymainstreet.com and emailed to more than 600,000 eBay members — said the TPP includes the first-ever chapter aimed at helping small business owners better navigate the complex global trading system.

The TPP is the first trade agreement ever to include a chapter dedicated to small business, "addressing the chief obstacles so many business owners like you face in the global economy," Obama said.  

He highlighted that the agreement streamlines e-commerce for small business exporters, eliminates 18,000 tariffs on U.S. products, preserves a free and open Internet and establishes rules for digital trade that will bolster online businesses in the global market.

"In the last six years, the number of people connecting to the Internet has nearly doubled to 3 billion, with the fastest growth in developing regions like Southeast Asia," Obama wrote.  

"In fact, TPP trading partners are home to over 300 million Internet users, and they’re looking to connect and buy from sellers like you."

Obama said the agreement, which took years to complete, would eliminate the red tape of customs regulations and would bolster delivery and secure online payment options.

"Hate all the paperwork that accompanies doing global business today?" Obama asked.

"TPP also promotes paperless trading — transitioning customs forms from paper to electronic format and providing for electronic authentication and signatures for consumer transactions," he said. 

Jean-Francois Van Kerckhove, vice president of global expansion at eBay, agreed that the "TPP sets a strong foundation for removing the significant hurdles — such as customs, shipping and other infrastructure limitations — that exist when doing business internationally."

"As eBay works to enable global commerce and create opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world, we are encouraged by the provisions that will bring important benefits to the millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses that sell on eBay," he told The Hill in an email. 

Obama said that while online businesses helped the United States sell "a record-breaking $2.34 trillion in exports around the world last year," fewer than 5 percent are selling their products in foreign markets — and those that do send their exports abroad are selling to only one country.

"That’s got to change," he said.

"If America is going to continue to lead, we have to make it easier for entrepreneurs like you to sell what you proudly make here in some of the fastest-growing markets around the world," the president said. 

He urged eBay members to read through the TPP and said he is convinced the agreement "will level the playing field for entrepreneurs like you and open up opportunity to expand in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world."

"After all, small business — the business you’re doing right here on this platform — is propelling the American economy and our global economy forward. And the fact is that this deal can significantly impact the way you work and run your business," he wrote. 

Van Kerckhove said eBay appreciated the letter and the seller community is "encouraged that policymakers at the highest levels of government understand the economic and social value of the cross border trade that occurs on our platform."

"With more than 90 percent of American small businesses on eBay exporting, the TPP is an important way to move global trade forward," he said.