Trade

Picture this unusual sight: a government-led trade mission consisting not of Boeing and Westinghouse executives but of small-business owners. Credit a determined handful of high-tech companies at last year's White House Conference on Small Business with bringing it to pass. Disgusted by the antigovernment venom and myopic self-interest that marked the conference delegation's behavior, they rammed through the eminently sensible recommendation of a small-business-only exporting mission. Despite its long-held view that big-company trade missions benefit small companies through the trickle-down magic of subcontracting, the Commerce Department reacted by leading a weeklong trip to Hong Kong and Singapore last May. "The Department of Commerce is actually bending over backwards to help small business export," gushes Robert Pap, whose 50-employee aerospace contractor, Accurate Automation, was one of 12 companies chosen for the mission. "There's life over there."