GADGET SALES GO WAY UP
Small businesses that sell gadgets such as smartphones and tablet computers, or that make or sell accessories for those devices, can look forward to good sales this year. The Consumer Electronics Association says revenue from shipments of tablets is expected to reach $29.1 billion. That's up 83 percent from 2011 and $10.8 billion more than the trade group forecast in January. The CEA predicts 68.5 million tablets will be sold.
"Tablets are the fastest growing product category in the history of the CE industry," says Steve Koenig, the group's director of industry analysis.
The CEA also forecasts $33.7 billion in revenue from shipments of smartphones. It predicts more than 108 million will be shipped, up 24 percent from last year.
It also says that overall consumer electronic sales, which also include TVs, computers and other devices, are expected to be up an estimated 5.9 percent in 2012 and surpass $200 billion for the first time. That's 2 percentage points more than the CEA forecast at the start of the year.
AGRICULTURAL TRADE RESTRICTIONS
The House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade held a hearing last week about the challenges that U.S. farmers face in exporting crops and meat to other countries. Witnesses at the hearing said that many countries are banning U.S. crops based on evidence that doesn't meet international scientific standards or based on questionable testing practices.
"These measures threaten, if they remain unchecked, to close entire markets to U.S. products," said Jason Hafemeister, vice president of AFJ & Associates, an international trade consulting firm in Washington, D.C. He cited a number of bans on U.S. products that were unjustified including Indian restrictions on dairy imports; limits on pork imports because of concerns about trichinosis in several South American countries, Europe and other nations; and restrictions on genetically engineered crops in China, Europe and other countries.
Another witness, Roger Mix, a potato farmer in Colorado, said fresh potato exports to Mexico are limited to an area along the border with the U.S. that extends only about 16 miles into Mexico. He said the Mexican government is concerned about pests that have been found on U.S. potatoes. But, Mix said, similar pests have been found on potatoes grown domestically in the country. He said that limitations on imports of U.S. potatoes for that reason violate international agreements that call for similar standards for domestic and imported crops.
Witnesses called for international trade rules to be strengthened to stop countries from being overly restrictive. They also called for rules to be enforced in order to open more markets up to U.S. products.
THE CONSUMER FINANCE PROTECTION BOARD ON CAPITOL HILL
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray appears before the House Small Business Committee on Wednesday. Cordray will speak about the CFPB's compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires federal agencies to assess whether their regulations are too burdensome for small businesses. The hearing will focus on mortgage disclosure requirements and how they affect consumers, community banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, mortgage companies and settlement agents.