Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale
Manufacturing and Services
The Roadway to North American Competitiveness
North American Steel Trade Committee
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much for your kind introduction. I am excited to be here today because the whole topic of infrastructure – as a critical element in shaping our nation and our region’s export competitiveness, and as an explosively growing global market for U.S. exports – is central to the work we are doing in the International Trade Administration and in Manufacturing and Services in particular.
The Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration is single-mindedly focused on U.S. industry succeeding internationally through enhanced market access, and increased exports in order to promote economic recovery and job growth.
These efforts are driven by President Obama’s challenge in the National Export Initiative to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, to support millions of jobs here at home.
Importance of America’s Infrastructure Industries
America’s critical infrastructure industries – particularly transportation, equipment, construction, steel, and materials industries represented here today – play a crucial role in the NEI. As the builders and operators of America’s freight infrastructure, and as important exporters in your own right, your success will help determine whether we can improve our ability to compete in global markets, boost America’s economic growth, and put millions of people back to work.
What is true for the United States is also true for North America as a region. Much of our region’s prosperity over the past 15 years is rooted in the competitive regional supply chains that have developed in conjunction with NAFTA and have transformed the region into a leading export platform. And a key to this success has been the overall strength of our region’s infrastructure, particularly when compared to many of our global competitors.
Your efforts to improve the “Roadway to North American Competitiveness” are particularly crucial to the success of the NEI. Solving the national and regional freight and infrastructure issues that impede our trade flows is crucial to our effort to help North America compete and succeed – both overseas and at home.
But it has now become painfully clear that action is needed to address our critical infrastructure problems to sustain the competitiveness of the North American export platform and the prosperity it has brought to our three countries.
President Obama has challenged Americans to “win the future” and helping North American exporters become more competitive internationally is a critical step toward that more competitive, more prosperous future. Every $1 billion of goods and services the U.S. exports supports more than 5,000 U.S. jobs.
But this effort depends on our ability as individual nations and as a region to move these exports quickly, seamlessly, and inexpensively throughout our countries, to our ports, and out into the global economy. Improving and speeding the flow of North American goods into global markets is crucial to improving our collective competitiveness in world trade.
Any failure or chokepoint in the infrastructure and supply chain that links North American exporters to their suppliers and customers can delay the movement of these goods, causing higher costs, lost sales, and missed export targets.
For America’s exports and economy to grow, for our exporters to be competitive, and for the NEI to succeed, our entire, end-to-end domestic and regional freight infrastructure must be as interconnected, efficient, and reliable as possible.
Importance of NEI to America’s Economy
The NEI is the Obama Administration’s commitment to serve as a full partner with U.S. businesses to promote American-made goods and services worldwide. The NEI is focused on (1) improving trade advocacy and export promotion efforts; (2) increasing access to credit, especially for small and midsize businesses; (3) removing barriers to the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad; (4) robustly enforcing trade rules; and (5) pursuing policies at the global level to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth.
As part of the NEI, President Obama named the first-ever Export Promotion Cabinet – ensuring that export promotion would be a top issue for the top officials across the Administration.
As we are improving our export promotion policies, we are also working to improve the underlying economic and infrastructure policies that make U.S. exports possible.
The Export Promotion Cabinet’s Report to the President last year, and the National Export Strategy that will follow later this year, makes it clear that our nation must pursue policies that facilitate supply chain infrastructure improvement and freight movement in the United States if we want to achieve our national export goals under the NEI.
In particular, the Export Promotion Cabinet’s September 2010 Report to the President explicitly recognizes that improvements to America’s supply chain and transportation infrastructure are crucial to our efforts to help U.S. exporters expand their sales in both existing and new overseas markets.
To do this, the Departments of Commerce and Transportation are working together in a Competitive Supply Chain Initiative, to develop and promote interagency coordination and cooperation with stakeholders to promote a competitive and environmentally sustainable supply chain infrastructure.
As part of this initiative, Commerce and Transportation are leading a comprehensive series of joint outreach forums to regional stakeholders to better understand America’s supply chain and transportation problems. At these forums, we are gathering information on each region’s top freight movement and infrastructure issues and on what regional stakeholders view as potential solutions. The results of these forums will inform the development of our national freight policies and upcoming legislation.
This meeting today is important because it will tell us about these topics from the very important North American dimension. It will tell us what we have to do to make sure that the investments we have made in developing a competitive North American export platform are not eroded by the failure to build an equally competitive North American supply chain infrastructure.
Infrastructure and International Markets
And just as infrastructure projects are important to the U.S. economy and to our national competitiveness, we are now seeing the growth of large, multi-year freight infrastructure construction projects overseas for which America’s transportation and construction materials firms can compete.
There is enormous spending on infrastructure in major markets around the world. China has announced that it will spend more than $100 billion on 23 priority infrastructure projects over the next decade. It has been estimated that India will need to spend over $1 trillion between now and 2017 to achieve its economic growth objectives. And with the Olympics and the World Cup looming, the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) estimates that infrastructure investment in Brazil could total more than $145 billion over the next three years alone. And these are just the most obvious cases with the biggest numbers.
Construction and engineering services is a priority sector for the International Trade Administration, along with the equipment and associated services typically involved in major infrastructure projects. We are currently developing export strategies that will target infrastructure spending overseas and seek to maximize U.S. business opportunities associated with these projects. We are looking at these projects strategically to ensure that we capture the full U.S. export potential including the full infrastructure supply chain and downstream business opportunities as well.
Helping North American Trade to Grow
To further support the National Export Initiative, our Department is now pursuing an ambitious Border Export Strategy that seeks to facilitate the flow of trade within North America.
Under this Strategy, as outlined by Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez on March 1st, our focus will be on the shared border regions of the United States, Mexico and Canada. These areas provide unique opportunities and include distinct challenges for U.S. companies seeking to export goods and services.
The Strategy will increase the export potential and opportunities for U.S. companies doing business along our shared borders; enhance the community, business and government networks that make these opportunities viable; and continue efforts to reduce trade barriers that impact the flow of secure, efficient and legitimate commerce.
In particular, the Strategy aims to: (1) work collaboratively with local communities, (2) develop and support new ideas that address challenges and foster opportunities along the border, and (3) enhance the accessibility of ITA’s trade promotion activities along our shared borders.
President Obama has identified the doubling of exports as a national goal for the very simple reason that it is the quickest and most sustainable way to restore U.S. prosperity, generate jobs and boost competitiveness. As the Department of Commerce, and the International Trade Administration in particular, explore ways to achieve this goal, we recognize that the state of our nation’s infrastructure is critical to our ability to transform our economy into an export superpower. And that means that the companies here today are critical partners for us. Not only as builders and innovators in the domestic and regional infrastructure and supply chains that ensure our export competitors. You are also our partners in capturing the billions of dollars of potential sales to countries that will be building infrastructure overseas.
So to the companies in the audience today, we ask that you please stay in touch with us over the coming weeks and months. You have an important role to play in our National Export Initiative.
And to our partners in Mexico and Canada, we recognize that we have a shared stake in the competitiveness of the North American export platform and that NAFTA too is an important competitive asset for us.
North America’s export growth relies on our ability to connect all regional stakeholders –
and to leverage all available resources to help our companies succeed in the global marketplace. If we can work together, we can achieve the export growth, job creation, and national economic recovery and development goals that are at the heart of President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
Thank you very much.
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