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US seeks to boost small, medium-sized business exports

WASHINGTON - Seeking to boost exports, the Obama administration is launching a new initiative aimed at helping small- and medium-sized businesses sell their products in new markets overseas.

The effort, which was being announced Tuesday by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, focuses in part on helping business get capital in a lending market that remains tight and streamlining federal export requirements to make it faster and cheaper for companies to send their goods overseas.

President Barack Obama has made increasing U.S. exports a key part of his economic agenda, with some success. U.S. exports have risen steadily since he took office, totally $2.3 trillion in 2013, according to the Commerce Department. But those still lag well behind Obama's widely touted goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

The administration isn't setting any lofty new goals with this new export initiative. Pritzker said in an interview that success for her would simply be "American businesses waking up and realizing that 95 per cent of customers are outside the United States."

The Commerce Department says that, despite overhaul exports being up, less than 5 per cent of U.S. companies are selling their products overseas and more than half of those are only selling to one market.

Pritzker said one roadblock for some companies is access to export financing. Under the administration's new initiatives, the government is forming partnerships with groups, including the Finance, Credit and International Business Association, to help business get more federally backed loans, loan guarantees and insurance.

The administration is also seeking to streamline the process companies have to go through in order to export their goods, including creating one electronic platform for completing forms required by dozens of federal agencies. That process is expected to be completed in 2016.

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