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Scott Harris: International Trade Helps Virginia, Local Community

Scott Harris: International Trade Helps Virginia, Local Community

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Global trade might be a topic many Virginians don’t think about, but international trade is one of the key drivers for our state’s economy — and it has a huge impact on taxes, revenue and jobs in our community.

In Virginia, agricultural exports reached an estimated $1.2 billion in 2013. This boosted farm prices and income, while supporting about 9,100 jobs. On the national level, U.S. global food and agricultural exports reached $150 billion, which supported more than one million jobs nationwide.

And while the statistical impact looks impressive, it is the thousands of small business success stories that demonstrate how promoting trade has a positive impact in our community.

We established our distillery Catoctin Creek in Purcellville in 2009, where we produce small batch handcrafted whiskey, gin and brandy. The name “Catoctin” is derived from a Native American tribal name and describes a range of mountains and the creek that flows into the Potomac River and Chesapeake watershed. We are a small family-run business that sources local and organic grains and fruits, so purchasing our distilled products is supporting our community at several levels.

Our business has grown significantly since my wife and I started this adventure six years ago, and we are seeing firsthand how international trade and access to foreign markets can grow our small business.

We will soon launch Catoctin Creek products in Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and several other European countries. Foreign sales represent 10 percent of our business — and we have increased sales by 50 percent and hired 10 more employees since we entered foreign markets.

The U.S. government is negotiating a trade agreement with countries in the Pacific Rim (Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP) to open new markets for small businesses. For Catoctin Creek, this would mean lower import duties for our rye whiskeys, gins and brandies to key emerging markets in Asia. However, a successful TPP agreement is contingent on Congress passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

TPA is a critical tool that ensures congressional input and oversight of U.S. trade negotiations, thus ensuring that the president can negotiate and complete trade agreements that are in the United States’ best interest. Without such authority, the United States’ trading partners will be hesitant to put their best offers on the table.

Concluding high standard trade agreements is critical for Catoctin Creek and other Virginia small businesses to expand into key emerging markets.

In the TPP countries, U.S. spirits face duties as high as 45 percent, which effectively block many small companies, including ours, from exporting to those markets. Trade negotiations offer an important — and in some cases the only — vehicle to address these barriers.

Our family business has benefited greatly from access to foreign markets — and expanding that access is not only good for the country as a whole, it has a direct and significant impact right here in Virginia.

It is critical that Congress pass TPA to help U.S. exports flourish in markets abroad. We are proud of our American made spirits products and know that the world is ready and willing to buy them. All we need is access — and TPA can make that happen.

Scott Harris is the founder of Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, the first distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. Contact him at

It is the thousands of small business success stories that demonstrate how promoting trade has a positive impact in our community.


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