Burdensome regulations, outdated labor laws and international trade barriers are growing threats to small businesses in the United States, said Frederick Smith, chairman, president & CEO of FedEx Corp. in a recent speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That impacts freight demand as small businesses make up 97% of America’s exporters and produce 26% of all export value, he said.

“One problem is that while both the traditional and the more innovative work models are flourishing side by side, the definitions and regulations governing them are built on the one-employer-one-paycheck model,” Smith said. “In short, the new players get hamstrung by old rules.”

Besides hurdles within the United States, international obstacles are restraining economic growth for small and big businesses alike, he noted. Restrictive trade barriers stifle external competition for both large and small companies, and create artificial market distortions, Smith explained. He pointed to a FedEx-commissioned study of 2,100 small businesses that found almost a quarter of respondents said that duties and taxes were a barrier to global operations, with one-fifth claiming that access to logistical tools and resources was also a problem.

“If these confusing customs regulations, duties and taxes are difficult for large companies, they are excruciating for small ones,” Smith said.