Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
2012 Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference
University of Southern California
Monday, March 26, 2012
Los Angeles, California
As prepared for delivery
Good morning, and thank you.
It’s such a great pleasure to be here today with all of you, talking about partnerships and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region.
I had the honor of participating in this conference in 2010, and I loved it.
Helping U.S. businesses succeed in the international marketplace is more than a job to me.
It’s a passion. It’s work that I’ve been involved in for decades, both in the public and private sectors.
So it’s great to see representatives from both sides coming together to boost U.S. exports and strengthen American businesses.
What’s especially great about this event is the close interaction — a seemingly rare thing these days.
For example, I saw a recent LA Times article that mentioned a teenager who averaged 6000 texts a month. This resulted in a monthly bill that’s roughly 25 pages long. That’s a lot of texting. And it’s part of a larger trend.
The way people are communicating is changing. And even though I text — I’m old fashioned.
I still believe that so much more can be accomplished in settings like this, where we can talk face-to-face, exchange ideas, ask questions and share information.
So it’s going to be an exciting day. A lot of people deserve our gratitude for making this event happen. I’d like to recognize a few.
I want to thank Dick for that kind introduction and all his outstanding efforts.
I’d also like to recognize Dean Ellis for his great contributions.
A special thanks to Mayor Villaraigosa for his outstanding work. The Department of Commerce has been proud to work with the Mayor, his team, and the Brookings Institution to develop the “Los Angeles Regional Export Plan” that was released last week.
The effort will help local businesses succeed in overseas markets, generating economic growth in Los Angeles and by extension in the nation.
So I thank the Mayor for his leadership. And I look forward to working with him in the years ahead to advance these efforts.
Finally, I want to thank all those from USC and the Department of Commerce who worked tirelessly to put together this 25th Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference.
I am especially pleased to be joined today by 16 of our commercial officers, who are featured speakers at the conference. What we’re doing here is important work.
As President Obama has said: “In the 21st century … the security and prosperity of the American people is linked to the security and prosperity of Asia.”
So this relationship is critical, especially at this moment in time.
Sure, the nation has come a long way since the financial system nearly collapsed and sent our economy into a tailspin.
We’ve had 24 straight months of private sector growth, resulting in nearly 4 million new jobs. This is obviously good news.
But, we at the Department of Commerce know that more needs to be done. And central to this work is our commitment to boosting U.S. exports.
This is a critically important effort for one simple reason: If more companies don’t embrace the opportunities outside of America, our nation won’t be able to compete in the 21st century economy.
I often tell people to imagine if their friends opened a retail store, say at The Grove here in LA.
Let’s say that these friends made a conscious decision to only market to 5 out of every 100 customers who walked by.
Could that business ever be competitive? Of course not.
But that’s what happens when American firms don’t export. That’s because 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders.
So to be competitive, our companies have got to go where the customers are. Yet just 1 percent of U.S. businesses export. That’s not enough. We’ve got to do better. We can’t afford to leave any opportunities on the table.
President Obama recognized this early on. That’s why in 2010, he announced the National Export Initiative with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
This month marks the two-year anniversary and good things are happening. Last year, U.S. exports surpassed $2 trillion for the first time in history. They supported 9.7 million jobs, an increase of more than a million when compared to 2009 numbers.
So the formula is pretty clear: exports benefit jobs, businesses and the national economy. That’s why we’ve got to continue to increase U.S. exports.
One of the areas with the greatest potential for this work is the Asia-Pacific region. It represents 55 percent of global GDP and accounts for 44 percent of world trade.
And all of us at the Commerce Department are committed to keeping the U.S.- Asia-Pacific partnership growing — both through our words and our work.
As Under Secretary, I’ve probably spent more time in the Asia-Pacific than any other region abroad.
Last year, I led the largest-ever higher-education mission to Indonesia. I visited Hong Kong and China last fall. And, earlier this month I was in Japan and Vietnam to advance commercial relations.
Our work in this region is a priority for us. And good things are happening.
U.S. goods exports to the broader Asia-Pacific totaled nearly $900 billion in 2011, a 15 percent increase from 2010.
This is equal to 60 percent of total U.S. goods exports to the world. This partnership is generating benefits for all sides.
This means jobs and growth for the American economy. In turn, U.S. products and services are helping to fuel the economic development in the Asia Pacific.
These have been win-win partnerships. Now, we’re focused on producing even more wins.
To do this, the Administration is working from the policy level to the community level.
For instance, one win came recently when the U.S.- Korea Trade Agreement took effect.
Before, in a variety of sectors, U.S. companies had to pay a tariff rate to sell their goods and services in Korea.
Now, many of these same companies can enter the market duty-free. Almost 80 percent of American exports of industrial products to Korea will enter without getting taxed.
Estimates are that this will lead to roughly $11 billion in additional U.S. exports. It will also provide new opportunities in the 12th largest economy in the world.
That’s a big win.
Another win involves the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
As many of you know, it’s an ambitious, high-standard trade agreement for doing business in the Asia-Pacific. It seeks to address new and emerging trade issues and 21st-century challenges.
Working with our colleagues at the Office of the United States Trade Representative — we are addressing traditional trade issues involving:
- goods and services;
- rules on intellectual property; and
- technical barriers to trade.
And we are making progress. A TPP framework was agreed to in Honolulu at the APEC Leaders’ meeting in November.
It was a landmark accomplishment. The agreement identified five central features that nations around the world are already viewing as a new standard for trade agreements.
These features include:
- expanding market access by removing all the tariffs and other barriers to trade;
- enhancing supply chains across the region;
- and easing the regulatory challenges facing businesses.
As negotiations move forward, we’ll continue to work for the best deal on behalf of American businesses.
We’re determined to make this another big win for the American people.
But let me be clear, at the Department of Commerce, we know that Washington can’t do it all. Nor do we want to do it all.
We recognize that progress often starts from the community level. That’s why we are working in neighborhoods and cities across the country to help businesses sell their goods and services overseas.
The Commercial Service Officers here today are on the frontlines of this work. I’d like to ask all of them to stand up.
If you haven’t made an appointment with one of these folks — do it right after you leave this room. It will be worth your time.
These talented individuals are working in markets all over the Asia Pacific, as well as Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.
They know the opportunities.
They know the challenges.
They stand ready to help U.S. businesses explore the possibilities that are out there.
There are going to be some great conversations today.
But the only way for all of you to start talking — is for me to stop talking.
So, let me just close by saying that this gathering is more than a conference.
It’s also a chance to achieve common goals:
- more markets and customers for U.S. businesses;
- which can lead to more sales;
- which will boost U.S. exports;
- which supports jobs and strengthens the American economy.
These are big goals that will make a big impact.
And I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead to achieve these goals.
This conference today is a big step in this effort.
So let’s get the conversation started.
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