Nearly five decades ago, an African boy trained his ears on the radio as broadcasts trickled in about Americans landing the first man on the moon. Inspired by this incredible feat, the future businessman made his first – and likely most pivotal – of thousands of sales pitches: a demand that his parents send him to America, the land where anything was possible.
When he walked out of the airport in New York, Morty Fazal carried all of $72 in his pocket. More importantly, he carried his American Dream and the same dogged determination found in every newcomer who has powered this country’s success, generation after generation.
Today, a small business born of Morty’s determination and immigrant ingenuity – the Global Export and Marketing Company (GEMCO) – exemplifies American Dream turned American success story. GEMCO uses marketing knowhow and industry expertise to put American food brands on supermarket shelves around the world, along the way supporting thousands of jobs in the United States.
Companies like GEMCO make the U.S. globally competitive and strengthen the economic standing of our country. We create jobs at home and serve as ambassadors abroad.
But we need help.
Unequal regulations, inconsistent support, and barriers to international trade pose significant obstacles to our growth and expansion.
Current Free Trade Agreement (FTA) structures are putting American exporters at a serious disadvantage. U.S. goods are subject to the highest customs and duty rates globally. One such example of the uphill battle American exporters face can be found in Egypt and India, two nations that are significant producers, with Egypt having secured a free trade agreement with the European Union and India currently negotiating toward an agreement. The U.S. needs new, effective FTA’s so we can level the playing field for American exporters.
Here is another area where we need action: American exporters have benefited greatly from the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) funding. Because MAP and ATP allow us to recoup marketing costs and reinvest those funds, we have been able to withstand other steep challenges, such as the tariffs, price controls in the Middle East, and high customs fees. ATP is set to expire at the end of this year and MAP is capped at $600,000. It is imperative that ATP is extended, and the MAP cap is raised so we can continue to grow U.S. exports and create jobs.
Our industry continues to be challenged by price controls in the Middle East at the same time as we are facing inflationary forces driving up production expenses, tariffs and customs fees. Major American brands like Kraft Heinz, Kellogg’s, and General Mills have all diverted from U.S. exports and employed local production strategies in export markets. While we remain invested in manufacturing in the U.S., these downward pressures are squeezing our business and endangering our long-term survival here.
Nevertheless, there is still much to celebrate.
American entrepreneurs remain top notch, and our workforce is the best equipped in the world. This summer, Morty’s brainchild, the not-so-little-company-anymore, was awarded the president’s “E” Award – one of the highest recognitions a company can earn for making a “significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.” The award was conferred onto GEMCO by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo who commended GEMCO’s work in 60 export markets.
In addition to honoring GEMCO and other top leaders in the field, Secretary Raimondo made another powerful point: for most people around the world, the first – and often only – time they come into contact with America is through U.S. exports like the products we market in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
With a little boost, these sources of American goodwill can continue to thrive, and businesses like the one started by my dad, Morty Fazal, can continue to embody the American Dream.
Zahira Fazal, who lives in Old Westbury, is corporate secretary for family owned GEMCO, an export marketing company based in Manhattan.