Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael C. CamuÑez
Market Access and Compliance
U.S.-Russia Business Dialogue
Friday, June 22, 2012
St. Petersburg, Russia
As prepared for delivery.
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Shokhin, Minister Belousov, and Vice-Minister Denisov.
I want to thank the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs for organizing the U.S.-Russia Business Dialogue. To all the private sector leaders and government officials from both countries, thank you for being here for this important discussion and for giving me the opportunity to make these brief remarks.
Let me express a special word of thanks to Ambassador Michael McFaul, who so ably represents the people of the United States here in the Russian Federation. Thank you Mr. Ambassador for your service and leadership.
I would like to begin today by publicly recognizing and thanking Secretary John Bryson for his leadership of the Department of Commerce and his service to our nation. As many of you know, the Secretary, who had hoped to be here today, announced his resignation yesterday in Washington. I know that you all join me in wishing the Secretary well. Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank has assumed the responsibilities of Acting Secretary, and the Department could not be in better hands. As many of you know, Dr. Blank is an acclaimed economist, a former member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, and she has previously done a tremendous job leading the Department as Acting Secretary.
I want you to know that Acting Secretary Blank and the entire leadership team of the Department of Commerce is fully committed to the US-Russia relationship. And I’m pleased to help lead this delegation to demonstrate our commitment to President Obama’s goal of strengthening the commercial relationship between the U.S. and Russia to foster shared prosperity and economic growth.
As you have heard, and I am sure Ambassador McFaul will convey, at Los Cabos, President Obama and President Putin again reiterated their joint commitment to this vision.
Ambassador Sapiro has already spoken of the significance of Russia’s accession to the WTO and of our Administration’s full commitment to establishing permanent normal trade relations with the Russian Federation. Clearly, important work remains to be done, and we will need industry’s full support to make that happen.
But I’d like to focus the limited time that I have today on the significant opportunities and challenges that await us in the next phase of our bilateral relationship. And I want to begin by emphasizing that we are very bullish about the Russian market, and the opportunities it represents. Bilateral trade is up nearly 40%, and growing. But as the President correctly acknowledged, we are far from reaching our potential, and there is much more work to be done.
To that end, we have prioritized Russia under the National Export Initiative and have mobilized our resources to help American companies take full advantage of the opportunities that await them. At Commerce we’ve deployed 30 commercial service professionals here—one of our largest posts in Europe—and have already led 3 trade missions in critical sectors in just the last 18 months.
The Secretary of Commerce chairs the Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group under the Bilateral Presidential Commission, and we anticipate increased engagement as we explore how to collaborate further with Russia on critical market opening initiatives, ranging from targeted trade promotion, collaboration on standards and regulatory cooperation, and a range of sectorally focused efforts. And of course, Commerce is not alone in its efforts. This is an administration-wide commitment. So I want to recognize and thank Chairman Fred Hochberg for his leadership in announcing yesterday the Ex-Im Bank’s commitment to expanding export financing support in this priority market.
But the fact is, our countries must work together address the underlying challenges that function as constraints on trade and investment, and that includes working hard to improve the business and investment climate in Russia. I am encouraged to see President Putin’s public commitment to dramatically improve the ease of doing business in Russia, and we will look for tangible opportunities to partner with the Russian government on those efforts. We are also interested in learning more about President Putin’s naming of Boris Titov to the newly established Ombudsman position that will liaise with the private sector to improve the business climate. I had the privilege of conversing with Mr. Titov just yesterday, and have expressed our willingness to work with him to facilitate dialogue with the American business community.
Our hope is that we can work together with Russia on key initiatives that may provide the foundation and building blocks for an eventual Bilateral Investment Treaty between our countries. And of course we also want to see increased Russian investment in the United States. That’s why the Department of Commerce is spearheading President Obama’s new initiative, known as SelectUSA, to better facilitate foreign direct investment into the U.S., and to make clear that the U.S. welcomes and encourages FDI as a critical driver of growth in our country.
Finally, a significant part of the work that awaits us concerns our shared efforts to improve transparency and eliminate the transnational problem of corruption. President Putin, and President Medvedev before him, has affirmed Russia’s commitment to this goal. We are encouraged by the important steps Russia has already taken, including its accession to the OECD AntiBribery Convention, as well as the commitments it has made on this front through the G20 and in other important fora, like APEC. And we are determined to continue to work with the Russian government, civil society, and the private sector to address the significant work that remains unfinished. The Department of Commerce views this agenda as perhaps the most important factor in contributing to the development of a Russian economy that is truly competitive, innovative, and diversified, and that will create sustainable growth.
The path forward is not easy, but it’s essential. It will require our governments to work candidly and honestly together, taking on real challenges, and confronting, at times, real differences. But the benefits of our economic partnership clearly merit the sustained effort, and we’re determined to see this work through.
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