China Trade Trip Focuses on E-Commerce<@VM>Issues for E-Entrepreneurs<@VM>Agencies Step Up E-Document Requests

The Commerce Department and the Software & Information Industry Association sponsored a trade mission focused on e-commerce to China this month.

The group traveled April 3-11 to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, focusing on finding potential business partners and other business development opportunities.

"SIIA is providing member companies with unique opportunities to enter the China technology market. ... Successful entry into the China market for any company is a long-term proposition, and we are committed to helping our members build the government and domestic business relationships necessary to move forward," said Ken Wasch, SIIA president.Lack of financial investment and human investment are among the top difficulties facing Internet entrepreneurs, Douglas Mellinger, head of the National Commission of Entrepreneurship, told a House panel at an April 3 hearing.
There also is not enough broadband access in this country, or the cost and time for installation is prohibitive for young companies, Mellinger told the House small business subcommittee. He also said Internet companies are concerned about paying sales taxes if the moratorium is lifted.

The hearing was the first in a series the subcommittee will hold this year. It will examine the impact of federal regulatory policies on the ability of small businesses to deploy new technologies and markets and generate economic growth, said subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

The hearings will focus on the "meteoric rise of the Internet-based economy and whether current federal government policies help or hinder the small businesses that seek to utilize the Internet as a business strategy," Pence said.Most federal agencies have opened electronic reading rooms to expedite requests for government documents, but several lag behind in implementing a 1996 law to speed processing Freedom of Information Act requests and to provide electronic versions of documents to the public, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.

The report was based on a survey of 25 major federal departments and agencies that account for 97 percent of FOIA requests. It was asked for by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the prime author of the 1996 E-FOIA law; Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; and Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., who chairs the House subcommittee on government efficiency.

"The GAO report highlights how many of our agencies have used the power of the Internet to provide government information of public interest," Thompson said in a March 21 statement. "It is also clear, however, that there is still much work ahead to take full advantage of information technology and comply fully with the E-FOIA requirements, to ensure the government provides all appropriate information to the public electronically."

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