Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
"Strengthening Global Commercial Relationships: The View from Washington"
AmCham Abu Dhabi and U.S.-UAE Business Council
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
As prepared for delivery
Thank you for that generous welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here in Abu Dhabi with so many distinguished friends and partners. My thanks to Greg for that very kind introduction and for his leadership of AmCham Abu Dhabi.
Allow me to also thank Danny Sebright from the U.S. – U.A.E. Business Council for co-hosting. It’s always great to see a fellow Kennedy School of Government alumnus doing well and doing good.
I want to thank my colleague — Assistant Secretary of Transportation Susan Kurland — for being a valuable partner during this trip.
Finally, I’d like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Corbin for all his valuable service and work. He’s been a great supporter of our trade mission. Thank you, Ambassador.
At the outset, I want to start by saying what a thrill it is to be in the U.A.E. The energy, vitality, and culture here is truly special. I feel privileged to see it up close and be a part of it —even if it’s just for a few days.
And, it’s remarkable to think that — in so many ways —you are just getting started.
Take this city, for example. I know there is an ambitious effort underway called Abu Dhabi 2030 which is designed to keep the city at the cutting-edge of development far into the future.
We in the U.S. government want to help Abu Dhabi achieve its ambitious plans by promoting commercial and investment partnerships. Certainly, one area with huge potential for partnerships is infrastructure – specifically as it relates to transportation.
The formula is simple — for any country or city to succeed in the 21st century, it must have a 21st century transportation network.
One that gets people to work, brings customers to businesses, and transports goods with partners abroad — all in a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective manner.
I know that this is a focus here in Abu Dhabi.
Because cars are the primary form of transportation there is a lot of congestion. Whenever people are stuck in traffic opportunities are being lost. That stifles economic growth. With estimates predicting that the population here will roughly triple by 2030 — it’s clear that this issue needs urgent attention. That’s why I commend local government leaders for taking action.
I know that as part of the 2030 plan, $25 billion has been budgeted for transportation projects. This includes an expanded road network and a world class public transit system, among other initiatives.
These are important goals. And, today — as part of our trade delegation — I am here with 14 U.S. companies who can help Abu Dhabi achieve them.
They are experienced. They are creative. They are committed to innovation. And, they are leaders in a wide-range of sectors in transportation. So, my goal for today is to get all of you talking.
Please, exchange ideas. Exchange contact information. And — if all goes well — that will lead to a lot of exchanging of goods and services down the road.
These partnerships would benefit all those in this room. It would also have a positive impact in the larger picture.
The global economy is moving fast. Those that fail to adjust by strengthening their commercial ties will be left behind. That’s why it’s critical that we deepen the trade ties between our two countries. The benefits would flow both ways.
U.S. products and services represent quality. They can help the U.A.E. achieve their ambitious economic goals, which in turn brings new prosperity to your communities.
On the other hand — for the U.S. — exports lead to jobs. And, putting Americans back to work is President Obama’s top priority.
As you know, the President took office in 2009 — just a few months after the fall of Lehman Brothers and the larger financial crisis — sent shockwaves throughout the world.
In response to the crisis, the President immediately took bold steps, including:
- stabilizing the financial system
- and keeping the American auto industry from going bankrupt
As a result, we’ve come a long way. Roughly 2.6 million U.S. jobs have been created in the last year and a half. We’re seeing a comeback in manufacturing. Consumer spending is rising. And, we’ve had nine straight quarters of positive growth.
But, there is more work to do. That’s why the President recently proposed the American Jobs Act.
Now, why am I telling an audience in Abu Dhabi about the American Jobs Act?
It’s because the plan will strengthen the U.S. economy, which inevitably helps partners like you.
As the President recently said — from our vantage point — “the single most effective thing we can do to get the global economy growing faster is to get the U.S. economy growing faster.” That’s what the American Jobs Act is designed to do.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, let me quickly say that it’s a series of proposals that — in the past — were supported by both of the major U.S. political parties. It won’t add a dime to our deficit. And — if all of it was enacted — it would create roughly 2 million jobs, according to independent economists.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You’ve heard that the relationship between the President and the United States Congress is less than ideal. I’m not going to argue with that. Neither would he.
But, the President is focused on people — not politics — so he’s moving ahead by submitting components of the bill – piece by piece.
These proposals include giving tax breaks for small businesses so that they can hire more workers and providing relief for those struggling to pay their mortgages, which would bolster the housing market.
In addition, the President has proposed $50 billion in infrastructure investments.
The President’s plan includes:
- $2 billion to modernize airports;
- $9 billion to improve rail systems; and
- $27 billion to make our highways more efficient
This effort alone is predicted to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and enhance our competitiveness.
To me, the President’s proposal is a no-brainer. It is good for people and businesses. And, for those that say that bi-partisanship in Washington isn’t possible — I say there is hope.
Just look at the recent trade agreements. As many of you know — last month — the President submitted three trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia to Congress for approval. Roughly a week later, they were approved with bi-partisan support.
I believe it’s because there was a clear recognition that the agreements will create tens of thousands of jobs and increase the U.S. GDP by billions. There was clear recognition that trade creates jobs, expands opportunities, and is necessary for countries to compete in the global economy.
This is something that President Obama has long recognized. It’s why he launched the National Export Initiative nearly two years ago.
Our goal is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The NEI is the first government-wide export promotion strategy with focused attention from the President and his Cabinet — and we’ve had tremendous results.
In 2010, our national exports grew 17 percent, reached the second-highest annual total on record, contributed to nearly half of all U.S. economic growth, and supported 9.2 million jobs.
Certainly, the U.A.E played an important role in this success. Last year, bilateral trade was nearly $13 billion dollars. And, my message to you today is that we want to do more.
The Gulf has been identified as one of six priority markets for the United States. The commitment to innovation here is firm. The opportunities are enormous. And, we share common values and interests.
So, it just makes sense for us to come together to build partnerships that can build infrastructure. As I said before, U.S. companies — like those here today — are some of the most talented in the world.
Just take a look at our freight rail system. It’s the largest in the world. It moves roughly two trillion tons of goods every year. That this is possible is a tribute to skill and expertise of American companies like those present.
In fact, this week we are meeting with representatives of Etihad Railway to discuss ways to utilize our expertise in their development plans.
American companies — some of whom are here today — are already involved in Etihad’s work. And we look forward to involving even more American companies.
As I look at all that’s happened to the world economy in recent years, it’s clear that we can’t just rebuild our economies. The old ways of doing things are over. Globalization has forced all of us to rethink how we do business.
Now, maybe it’s because I was just in Qatar —and heard a lot about the World Cup — but I want to close with a soccer analogy.
How many of you are soccer fans?
Well, those of you who are know of a team called Manchester United. For those that don’t, Manchester United is one of the world’s most popular teams. They’ve dominated the English Premier League in recent times.
Well, across town is another team called Manchester City. For a long time, they weren’t winning anything. They haven’t won a league title in roughly four decades. In fact, they were literally known as the “noisy neighbors.” They were an afterthought.
But, everything changed a few years ago when a group from Abu Dhabi bought the club. They put forth a significant effort to improve the team. They brought in new players.
Meanwhile, United failed to match this effort. In fact, they let some great players go. Now look at the situation.
Just last week, City beat United in a match. The score was 6 to 1, which is a blowout in soccer terms. It was Manchester United’s worst loss in decades. And — right now — City is in first place. I bet there are many happy fans here in Abu Dhabi.
I didn’t tell this story because I’m a soccer fan. I told it because I think it conveys a larger story about the global economy. Overseas partnerships have changed all the rules. Companies aren’t just competing with others across town anymore.
All of us are now in a global competition and the old rules no longer apply. Just because a company or a country was successful in the past, doesn’t mean they can afford to stand pat. Everyone must constantly sharpen their competitive edges or risk being left behind.
The fact is that we have choices to make. Do we want to be defined by the obstacles or by the opportunities? Do we embrace the changes or wait until change is brought upon us?
To me, the answers are clear. I know they are to you as well.
So, let’s work together to bring new hope, new jobs, and new growth to both the United States and the U.A.E.
Once again, my thanks to the AmCham and the Business Council for hosting us today. It’s both a pleasure and a privilege.
I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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