Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael C. CamuÑez
Market Access and Compliance
"The United States and Middle East: Our Partnership of Mutual Prosperity"
AmCham Abu Dhabi
Wednesday June 8, 2011
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. Thank you, Greg, for your kind introduction and congratulations on your recent election as President of the Abu Dhabi Am Cham, our gracious host this afternoon along with the U.S.–U.A.E. Business Council. Thank you both for your invitation to be here today.
Before I begin, I want to recognize Laurie Farris, our Senior Commercial Officer in Abu Dhabi, who will soon leave for her next assignment. During her three-year tenure, Laurie has been an invaluable asset in deepening the United States’ trading and investment relationship with the U.A.E. Some of you may have also had the pleasure of working with Bob Dunn in Dubai. Bob also leaves shortly for a new assignment, but don’t be surprised if you see him around. He will be nearby in Doha.
I would also like to tell you about Laurie and Bob’s successors, John Simmons in Abu Dhabi and Bob Bannerman in Dubai. I hope that you will receive them with open arms. They share their predecessors’ commitment to the future success of the region.
DEEPENING OUR COMMERCIAL ENGAGEMENT
From the beginning of his administration, President Obama has made clear his vision for the United States’ relationship with the Middle East. Almost two years ago to the day, in Cairo, the President articulated his desire to frame our relationship as one based on “mutual interest and mutual respect.” And just two weeks ago, in addressing the recent developments associated with the “Arab Spring,” the President again reiterated our commitment to the region and his desire to deepen the strong bonds that exist between our country and the people of the Arab world.
A key element of that vision entails deepening and strengthening our economic ties to the region. And he has asked senior members of his administration to carry forth that message and to reiterate and amplify the desire on the part of the United States to continue in its role as a strategic partner to the Gulf, generally, and to the U.A.E., specifically. So, it has been my great pleasure to travel to the region this week to reiterate the President’s message and to affirm our commitment and our friendship.
As the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I have the responsibility and privilege to work with our trading partners to advance the President’s agenda. My primary responsibilities entail supporting the President’s trade and investment agenda by working to create the conditions and the business climate that fosters and promotes trade and investment overseas. This includes working to build the capacity and the infrastructure in emerging economies, including the legal and regulatory regime necessary to support trade and investment. My office is also responsible for ensuring that our trading partners are honoring the commitments they have undertaken through their membership in the WTO, as well as, under a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, including free trade agreements.
You have likely heard about the President’ s National Export Initiative, which has the stated goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years. But in reality the NEI is about much more than just promoting the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad. Fundamentally, the President’s vision of the NEI is to deepen and expand our commercial engagement with our most important trading partners. And certainly one of our most important and strategic trading relationships is with the Gulf region.
As part of the NEI, the Gulf has been identified as one of six priority markets for the United States. As you are undoubtedly aware, if the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were considered a single market, it would be our tenth largest export market. Last year, the U.A.E. was our largest export market in the Middle East for the second time in row. That means that we sold more to the U.A.E. than to Chile, Turkey or Spain. In certain important categories, the U.A.E. is our leading trading partner. For example, it is my understanding that the U.A.E. buys more Boeing aircraft than any other country outside of the United States. And the importance of the U.A.E. as a U.S. export market is all the more remarkable when you consider the size and relatively small population of the country.
AN ECONOMIC REVOLUTION
Over the course of the last several days, I have had the privilege of visiting our friends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the State of Qatar where I have seen remarkable signs of economic growth and tremendous opportunity. Notwithstanding the negative stereotypes and threatening images that continue to permeate American media, as you know, this region is going through a tremendous economic transformation and, dare I say, renaissance. You can see it in the striking new skyline of Doha’s west bay and in the ambitious plans of the new Lasail City as Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. But nowhere is the sense of economic progress more palpable and more evident than here in the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, the U.A.E. has been on the vanguard of an economic transformation that has taken Abu Dhabi from what was, a mere 50 years ago, nothing more than a few thatch huts and a fort to what it is today: a world class city that inspires and captivates.
I believe there are at least three distinct forces driving the remarkable economic change we are currently witnessing in the region. The first is a sober recognition of the need to migrate from an unsustainable reliance on a hydrocarbon based fuel source to a more sustainable base of energy; the second is the thoughtful commitment to the creation of a knowledge based innovative economy that relies not on what comes out of the ground, but, instead, on what comes out of the creativity and imagination of a talented and proud people; and third, is a region-wide commitment to upgrade and modernize the core infrastructure that will sustain this economic growth and enable the region to compete effectively well into the 21st century. And, again, the U.A.E. has led the way in each of these respects.
Among Gulf states, Abu Dhabi has truly been the pioneer in investing in alternative energy and sustainable construction. Its leadership in this space is well established by its development of the path breaking Masdar City, the creation of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology with MIT, Masdar’s investments in solar power generation and other technology, and its extensive relationship with the US Department of Energy. This commitment convinced the UN to choose Abu Dhabi as the site of the new International Renewable Energy Association. In addition, Abu Dhabi was selected as the host of the 2011 World Clean Energy Ministerial, and it is the creator and the host of this year’s World Future Energy Summit.
Abu Dhabi has also pioneered the development and implementation of the renowned Estidama sustainable construction standards, which reflect the Emirates’ commitment to and leadership in the area of sustainable development. There is no better illustration of this leadership than the construction of Masdar City, which aspires to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city.
The Emirates have also been leaders in the development and deployment of state of the art infrastructure that is driving the long-term competitiveness of its economy. The U.A.E. has established itself as a transportation and business services hub between East and West. To strengthen its lead in the area of logistics, it has made significant investments in its transportation infrastructure by building new ports, like Port Khalifa; new airports, like the Al Maktoum Airport at Dubai World Center; the new midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport; and the new Etihad Rail project that will provide the U.A.E. with a freight and passenger rail system that links it to its neighbors throughout the Gulf and beyond.
With the economic growth spurred by these infrastructure projects, electricity networks are being taxed to the limit. The U.A.E., along with other GCC countries, is facing rapidly increasing growth in demand for electricity and the concurrent risk of shortages associated with that growth. But, once again, the U.A.E. is leading the way through its strategic investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency, including through the development of nuclear energy. The U.A.E. is also actively participating in an effort to link its electrical grid with other grids throughout the region and in the development of smart grid technology.
In short, my friends, the pace of change is real and the evidence of it is all around us. My message to you today is that the United States wants to continue to partner with you and with our allies throughout the region in making these changes a reality.
It is no coincidence that the U.A.E. has attracted the largest concentration of U.S. firms in the region. Approximately 750 American companies have offices in the U.A.E., serving both the Emirati and the broader regional market. The U.A.E.’s unparalleled air and sea connections, its concentration of high quality financial and business services, and ease of doing business here have made it an indisputable regional hub for American business. The presence of so many U.S. companies will, I hope, serve as an inspiration for many more.
I want you to know that the United States Department of Commerce is committed to doing all that we can to facilitate and promote the full participation of U.S. industry in this dynamic market. Our engagement has been and will continue to be diverse and multifaceted. We are committed to promoting the U.A.E. in the United States as a promising export market and to bringing more American companies to the U.A.E., and the greater Gulf region, to showcase our world-class technology, products, and services. We are also working to deploy reverse trade missions, bringing large business delegations of Emiratis to major trade shows in the United States like Greenbuild and the Offshore Technology Conference. We are also working hard to advocate on behalf of U.S. industry as it competes for the significant commercial opportunities that exist in the region.
For example, as Etihad Rail develops the U.A.E.’s rail system, we have sought to advocate on behalf of the unparalleled expertise of U.S. firms when it comes to designing, building and operating freight rail and multi-modal logistics systems. The U.S. has – by every metric possible – the largest and most sophisticated freight rail system in the world, and moves nearly two trillion, yes trillion, tons of freight every year. It is not enough to build a road or a port or a railroad. To make these expensive investments pay, they must be designed and built to last. They must be designed so that they can be integrated together in an efficient, secure and profitable manner. No country has the depth and breadth of expertise in multimodal technologies as the United States. And we are working hard to make that case, not just here in the Emirates, but throughout the Gulf region.
Finally, we are committed to working hard to promote an open, transparent and predictable business climate that enables our industry to compete fairly and on a level playing field. Whether by promoting the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, collaborating on the development of international standards, or advocating for an approach to regulation that provides the kind of certainty and predictability that is essential to doing business in the region we want to do all that we can to facilitate your ability to compete under, what we know, are increasingly challenging and competitive conditions.
I began my remarks by observing that the United States has a deep and abiding commitment to the success of the Gulf region. We have been a strategic partner of the United Arab Emirates since the early days of its independence and have played an integral role in the development of its energy sector and related industries. And it is our goal and our intention to continue that partnership, even as these changes unfold. Of course, the role of government only goes so far. As the President is fond of saying, it is the private sector, not the government, that is the engine of growth and prosperity, not just in our economy, but throughout the world.
So I want to thank the Abu Dhabi Am Cham, the U.S.–U.A.E. Business Council, and each of you for the role that you have played and leadership you have shown in representing the United States so well in this important part of the world. I am grateful for the warm hospitality and for the opportunity to be with you. Thank you.
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