Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Americas Business Council's Continuity Forum
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon and thank you all for that warm welcome.
I want to thank Derrick for those kind words. I also want to thank Camilo Galvis and the entire leadership team with the Americas Business Council.
I appreciate all your outstanding contributions to the hemisphere and the invitation to join you today.
It’s always great to be back in my home state of Florida. And I’m honored to be here with so many distinguished leaders and participants.
However, I must admit that I feel a lot of pressure right now. As I understand it, today you’ve had an action-packed program that started at 9:00AM.
And, I am the last speaker of the day.
I’m the only thing standing in the way between you and the start of your night in Miami.
Clearly, this is a daunting task. And, it’s been said that under such circumstances — a speaker should start his speech with a bold statement, something that peaks the interest of an audience.
So, let me start out by saying that I’m getting old.
Why you ask? Well — it’s because I use email. Let me explain.
Earlier this year, I read a piece on The Huffington Post which started with the line — “Email is for old people.” The point of the article was that last year — email use dropped 59 percent among users aged 12-17. The reason? Because many young people think it’s too slow.
Think about that? To them, email is too slow.
They prefer to contact each other through social networks and texts. I mention this story to illustrate that the world is changing all around us.
Technology is changing the way we communicate, live, and yes, the way we do business. And remarkably, that pace of change is accelerating faster and faster.
Tom Friedman from The New York Times has a new book out about America’s competitiveness.
And, he’s got this great line about how just a few years ago:
- Facebook didn’t exist;
- Twitter was a sound;
- “the cloud” was something in the sky;
- 4G was a parking place;
- LinkedIn was a prison;
- Applications were things you sent to college;
- And, Skype was a typo.
Now all these things are a reality in our daily lives. It’s this kind of technology that has brought the entire Western Hemisphere — and the entire world — closer together.
Now, there are two ways to look at this. There are some who fear this change.
They fear that the falling barriers between international markets will ultimately be bad for their businesses and economies. I take the opposite view.
Globalization is an opportunity. And the only way to seize this opportunity is to expand our economic imagination.
This means expanding where we do business, how we do business and who we do business with.
For President Obama, this work to deepen and broaden commercial relationships across the globe has been a top priority, especially in the face of the most difficult challenges since the Great Depression.
In fact, let’s take a step back for a moment.
When the President entered office in 2009, the United States was on the brink of a complete collapse. The good news is that 2.6 million jobs have been created in the last year and a half.
But, clearly more needs to be done because many families are still struggling.
That’s why this past September, President Obama stood before Congress and unveiled the American Jobs Act.
It’s a series of common sense proposals that would among other things:
- Provide tax cuts to small businesses so they can hire;
- And invest $50 billion in infrastructure projects.
Independent economists say the plan would create nearly 2 million jobs. That’s why the President, I and the entire administration are fighting for it.
We are committed to taking action and putting people back to work. The Jobs Act is one step in this effort.
We are also looking at other options as well. And, strengthening our commercial relationships with the rest of the world is a top priority.
In fact, it’s been a key to our economic growth.
As many of you know, in 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative —also known as the NEI — with the goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.
Why? Because exports impact jobs. Every billion in U.S. exports supports 5,500 jobs.
And, we’ve had great success thus far. Last year, exports contributed to nearly half of the GDP.
They supported 9.2 million jobs. And, we’re keeping the momentum going this year.
In the first nine months of 2011, exports were up nearly 16 %. This means support for more jobs and more businesses.
And not just for us, but for our global partners as well. So, this is what I mean when I say that we must expand our economic imagination.
During times of crisis, some feel the need to look back at the way things used to be and wish for the good old days.
They want to rebuild the old economy. But, because of technology those days are gone.
Instead, all countries and businesses must embrace a new approach. And that means expanding who we do business with and where we do business.
As I look over the landscape, it’s clear that countries in the Western Hemisphere make for a natural partnership.
We are linked by geography, common values and mutual interests. We should work together to build a brighter future for all our peoples.
And, we can’t wait. There are a lot of opportunities. Clearly, there are a lot of good things already happening in the Western Hemisphere.
After absorbing the impact of the global financial crisis — the Latin American and Caribbean region rebounded last year with the GDP growing nearly six percent.
However, there is potential to do so much more. In fact, I just came back the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.
The 21 members worked together in a number of different ways with the goal of creating a seamless regional economy. Yet, a similar vehicle doesn’t exist for the Western Hemisphere.
This prevents us from being as competitive as we can be.
We need to be encouraging consistent collaboration between the private sector academia and government. We need to be standardizing regulations. We need to be encouraging entrepreneurship in every way possible.
Until we do, we are all leaving money on the table.
That’s why we can’t wait. So, since there isn’t a big organization like an APEC, I always cherish the opportunity to meet with community leaders from the Hemisphere.
I’ve been told that many of the ABC’s attendees are business leaders from across the region.
My main message to you is that the United States supports your success. We want to work closer with you. We want to collaborate to create new opportunities throughout the Hemisphere.
We want to help you generate inclusive growth that helps people transition from the informal economy to the formal economy. And, we want to see you in the private sector take the lead in research and development.
I know governments often take the lead on change. But, as I look back on history, so many of the greatest ideas have come from the private sector.
I applaud those of you following the same path and are unleashing all the innovation the people of the West Hem have to offer.
Again, we all need to expand the way we do business. And, we need to expand who we do business with.
I know that during times of challenge, there is a tendency to turn inwards. But, all countries must resist this temptation. That’s because the global economy presents opportunities — for all of us.
Let’s look at Yamahuara,Peru. The population is heavily indigenous.
And, many single women and heads of households work in the textile and apparel sector.
Yet, many of their products are sold in some of the finest stores in the United States and Europe — including Nordstrom and Bloomingdales.
Now, the employees in Peru have never heard of these stores. So how did this happen?
Well, its former Mayor realized that in order to grow the local economy and create jobs, he needed an infrastructure able to support a global undertaking. During his administration, he installed a cell phone network.
This allowed business executives in the area to:
- communicate with the major buying centers in the world;
- develop new clients;
- and improve the quality of life for many citizens.
This is globalization that’s benefiting a community. And, it’s the kind of progress that should be happening all over the world.
We all have something to learn. We all have something to offer. That’s why success in the 21st century will be fueled by cooperation and community.
We must help each other sharpen our competitive edges and build a better future for our peoples. We can’t wait.
And, a full commitment to economic integration is essential to this effort. It’s in all of our interests to expand our trade with each other.
For instance, supply chains present enormous opportunities for all of us. Since, we were just talking about clothes from Peru — let’s use the textile industry.
In the United States, it employs nearly 600,000 workers sector-wide, with shipments totaling more than $50 billion last year.
A key focus of our textile manufacturing companies is on expanding commercial relationships with our neighbors to the north and the south.
Their markets offer tremendous opportunities — for both sides. The textile and apparel trade is extremely important to many of the countries in the Western Hemisphere, especially Central America and the Caribbean.
In Nicaragua, for example, 51 percent of their exports to the U.S. are apparel. And, the Americas are the largest market for U.S. textile and apparel.
This kind of regional integration encourages us to continue to work closely with our trading partners to maintain and increase the textile and apparel trade flow.
And we believe it is well positioned to grow.
The fact is that global supply chains are behind many American products in a wide-range of sectors.
For example — the launch of new aerospace projects — such as Bombardier’s CSeries jetliner — can create new opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in a supply chain worth billions of dollars.
Their supply chain starts in Canada, goes through the United States and ends up in Mexico.
Without this supply chain, the airplanes they make wouldn’t be competitive in the world.
One final example is GM cars; some of their auto parts cross the border as much as seven times before final assembly.
The bottom line: behind so many of the great products we see on the shelves is a supply chain of parts from around the world. And, having a supply chain comprised of the best products at the best prices is a global effort.
And to achieve this goal, we have to work together.
Global trade doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
Brazil doesn’t have to lose so the Dominican Republic can win.
Peru doesn’t have to lose so the United States can win.
And, so on.
That’s why I stress the need for all of us to expand our economic imagination by expanding with whom and where we do business.
By expanding our imagination, we can expand opportunities for our peoples and businesses.
And, we can ensure that the 21st century brings new prosperity for the Western Hemisphere.
Once again, I want to thank the Americas Business Council for inviting me today.
I look forward to talking with all of you today.
I hope to see many of you at the Summit of the Americas next year in Colombia, where we can continue this conversation.
And, I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead to achieve great things.
Thank you very much.
Now, I’d be happy to take any questions.
The International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, manages this global trade site to provide access to ITA information on promoting trade and investment, strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry, and ensuring fair trade and compliance with trade laws and agreements. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein. This site contains PDF documents. A PDF reader is available from Adobe Systems Incorporated.