Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
The Economic Club of Florida
Friday, June 22, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Wayne (Mixon), for those kind words of introduction.
And more importantly, thank you for everything you’ve done for Florida, for its people, and for me personally.
I first met Wayne when I was 19 years old.
I had just signed up to be a volunteer on Bob Graham’s first campaign for Governor.
I was assigned to be an aide to the candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
And that was Wayne.
Like most people my age, I was just hoping to get along with my boss and learn a few things.
Those expectations grew when I met Wayne.
He started as my boss.
Then he became my mentor.
Then my friend.
And now I consider us family.
So I really value who he is and what he’s done.
And, I am so glad to see him today.
Please allow me to also thank:
- your Chairman — Larry Snowden;
- your President — Bill Gunter;
- and the entire leadership for their efforts.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you with the Economic Club of Florida for your valuable work on behalf of businesses.
It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
And it’s always good to be back in Florida.
I was born and raised in this state.
And even though I now live in Washington, DC, it will always be home.
I have a lot of memories here.
My family is here.
And much of my history is here, specifically in Tallahassee.
After the Graham campaign ended, I had the pleasure of working in the Governor’s Office for many years.
And I remember inauguration day like it was yesterday.
I remember Bob talking about his dream for this state — that it should be:
- a Florida of equal opportunity;
- and a Florida of expanding prosperity.
I know you share this dream for Florida and our nation.
Unfortunately, for many Americans in recent years, this dream has been challenged.
We’ve seen these challenges emerge in a variety of forms, from:
- businesses closing their doors;
- to student loans that are spiraling out of control;
- to people losing their jobs, the result of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In fact, it was five years ago this month that the Wall Street Journal reported that two hedge funds operated by Bear Stearns were nearing a meltdown
They were in trouble because of big bets on subprime securities.
This was an eye-opener for many people.
After all, the firm had posted record earnings just the year before.
Now all of a sudden, here were these reports of huge losses.
People wondered what would happen to Bear Stearns.
Then they wondered what would happen to the rest of the industry and the overall economy.
Well, I don’t have to tell you how this story evolved.
We all know that:
- the financial system was brought to the brink of collapse;
- credit for businesses froze up;
- homes were foreclosed;
- and the economy plunged into a deep recession.
When President Obama took office in 2009, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month.
I repeat — 800,000 jobs a month — a huge number.
Imagine if the Basketball Arena here (in the Tallahassee-Leon Civic Center) was filled to capacity.
And each person was given a pink slip.
Then another group was brought in, and they were given pink slips.
And that this happened a total of nearly 60 times.
That’s equivalent to the monthly job losses in the economy when President Obama took office.
But even in the most trying times, our country had some important things going for it.
And that’s the resilience, imagination, talent and work ethic of the American people.
Throughout the history of this country, markets have always gone up and down.
But the American entrepreneurial spirit always endures.
The productivity of the American worker is always strong.
These traits are part of who we are.
We are dreamers.
We are creators.
We are builders.
This spirit was in Henry Ford when he developed the assembly line to achieve his goal of affordable automobiles for the masses.
This spirit was in Steve Jobs when he sold his Volkswagon minibus to raise capital and pursue his dream of building personal computers.
And this spirit is currently in American entrepreneurs across the country:
- both known and unknown;
- operating businesses large and small.
All they need is a chance to succeed.
And in my role as Under Secretary for International Trade, I’m proud to help give them that chance through exporting.
I view this as important work at an important time.
We are in a period with an “accelerating pace of change.”
Technology is changing fast.
The economy is changing fast.
As a result, the landscape today is much different than when we grew up.
In the old days, if you owned a business, the competition was across the street or across the city.
Now it’s across the world.
And in this new climate businesses have to be ready to operate globally.
More than ever, success here at home depends on success abroad.
Unfortunately just a small percentage of U.S. companies export.
Of those that do — 58 percent export to only one market, usually Mexico or Canada.
Clearly this isn’t enough.
We can do better.
We have to do better.
That’s the message I take to American businesses when I travel the country.
Exporting is not something to fear, or shy away from.
Instead it should be viewed as an opportunity.
It’s an opportunity to reach more customers.
95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders.
A retail store would never ignore 95 out of every 100 people who walk by their store.
A business that can export shouldn’t ignore their potential customers either.
Exporting also provides an opportunity to reach the most promising markets.
According to the International Monetary Fund, roughly 80 percent of economic growth through 2015 will take place outside of the U.S.
Exporting also provides an opportunity to attract more consumer dollars.
80 percent of the world’s purchasing power is also beyond our borders.
So there are a lot of opportunities.
Couple this with the fact that American-made products are in demand all over the world, and one should see that there is incredible potential for economic progress.
Exporting generates widespread benefits.
Whenever an American good or service is sold abroad, that revenue comes back to the business here at home.
That’s money which can be used for investment, expansion and jobs.
So exporting benefits our economy as a whole, and is a key to our economic recovery.
President Obama recognized this early on, which is why he launched the National Export Initiative with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
It’s been a tremendous success.
More businesses are reaching more markets and making more sales.
As a result, last year, U.S. exports soared to $2.1 trillion dollars in total value — an all-time record.
They supported nearly 10 million jobs — an increase of 1.2 million jobs since 2009.
And this is helping to drive the larger economic recovery.
Under the President’s leadership, there have been 27 straight months of private sector growth, resulting in roughly 4.3 million jobs.
The manufacturing sector is the strongest it’s been since the 1990’s.
Manufacturing employment has risen by nearly half a million jobs over the past 28 months.
And to keep this momentum going — as we say at the Commerce Department — we’ve got to continue to help companies build products here and sell them everywhere.
We are working to expand opportunity through exports in a number of ways.
The first is simply by raising awareness.
We are working to take the mystery out of the export process.
Many small businesses think that only the big firms can do it.
Others don’t know how to even start, or where to sell.
To address these issues and more, the talented staff at the Commerce Department is ready to help.
They are located in more than 100 U.S. cities and more than 70 countries.
They know the markets.
They know how to navigate through the export process.
And they’ve done great work in recent years, helping companies export for the first time, and helping those already exporting expand into new markets.
For Florida businesses, one region full of potential is the Western Hemisphere.
Because of geographic ties, Florida firms are uniquely positioned to succeed in these important markets.
They are ripe with potential.
40 % of all U.S. merchandise exports already go to the Western Hemisphere.
The United States has 5 free trade agreements representing 11 countries in the Western Hemisphere.
This includes the Colombia trade agreement which took effect on May 15th.
As a result, American businesses have new access to the third largest economy in South America.
80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia became duty-free.
We are talking about a wide-range of products, from construction equipment to fertilizer.
And this circle of opportunity will expand even more when the Panama trade agreement takes effect later this year.
We are working to ensure that U.S. companies make the most of these trade agreements, and explore the great promise in the Western Hemisphere.
And when they do, we’ll always have their back and ensure they are competing on a level playing field.
Our Trade Agreements Compliance Program ensures that our partners live up to their end of the deal.
American businesses deserve a fair shot.
And we’ll always work to give them that shot.
We are also engaging with Latin American countries in unprecedented ways.
- participating with Brazil in a commercial dialogue and CEO forum — which I co-chair — to strengthen our $75 billion dollar merchandise trading relationship;
- working with Mexico to enhance regulatory cooperation and improve efficiency;
- and partnering with several governments in Latin America to improve customs procedures.
Through this engagement, we will continue to make significant strides in creating new opportunities for U.S. businesses.
We are also looking to create opportunities by attracting foreign investment.
Whenever a foreign firm opens new facilities — or expands existing ones here in America — it spurs economic growth in our communities.
You know this well.
According to the latest data, foreign-controlled companies employed nearly 240,000
In the bigger picture, U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms maintain a stock foreign direct investment position in the United States of about 2.3 trillion dollars.
These companies employ more than 5 million U.S. workers, which translates to more than $400 billion in wages.
With these benefits in mind, we want more investment to flow to our shores.
So the President has launched the SelectUSA initiative.
Housed in the Commerce Department, SelectUSA is the first coordinated U.S. government-wide effort to promote and support business investment in the United States.
Working with headquarters in Washington, this effort is carried out on the ground by the Commerce staff members located around the world.
They spread the word about the desirable market conditions in the American economy, including:
- a hardworking and educated workforce;
- relatively low taxes;
- and, of course, access to an incredible consumer base.
We’re getting an incredible response thus far.
And we look forward to working with you on this effort, and a number of other initiatives.
As I said before, our work at the International Trade Administration is about opportunity.
We want to give businesses new opportunities:
- to reach more customers;
- to be a part of dynamic economic growth abroad;
- and to attract more consumer dollars.
We work to expand opportunities in overseas markets, in regions like the Western Hemisphere.
We protect opportunities by enforcing trade agreements and ensuring U.S. businesses can compete.
And we want to create opportunities by attracting foreign investment.
All this work goes a long way in achieving that dream I talked about earlier, a dream of a stronger, healthier and more prosperous Florida.
As partners, we can achieve that dream.
As partners, we can support the American entrepreneur and the American worker.
As partners, we can accelerate the economic recovery in Florida and the United States of America.
I know you share these same goals.
And I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead to achieve them.
Once again, my thanks to the Economic Club of Florida for hosting me today.
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.