Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Colombian Independence Day Celebration
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Friday, July 20, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Ricardo (Zuniga), for that kind introduction.
And allow me to also congratulate you on your new role in the Administration.
I know that you’ll serve with the same distinction that you have throughout your career.
I also want to thank all my colleagues from government who are taking part in this program.
Every day, they demonstrate tremendous leadership and service.
And it’s a privilege to serve with them.
Finally, I want to thank all of you in the audience for your great contributions to your community, and to the United States as a whole.
As many of you know, I was born and raised in Florida, home to a large Colombian–American population.
So from an early age, I saw up close how this community has helped shape every aspect of our nation’s life.
And throughout my career, I’ve been privileged to work with so many partners from Colombia:
- from my time at the Florida Department of Commerce, where I helped strengthen ties with the Caribbean;
- to my years in the private sector, when I directed a team to Medellín as part of the “Teaching Tolerance” program, an initiative designed to break the cycle of violence that was threatening the country;
- to my time as Chief of Staff to the Special Envoy to the Americas during the Clinton Administration;
- to my current role as President Obama’s Under Secretary for International Trade.
Through it all, I’ve always valued and appreciated the people, the culture and the history of Colombia.
It has become a special place to me.
And it’s truly an honor to be here with you to celebrate this 202nd Colombian Independence Day.
Today, we celebrate freedom.
We celebrate democracy.
And we celebrate the strong bonds that the United States and Colombia share.
It’s fitting that Colombia’s Independence Day is so close to America’s Independence Day.
We are bound by a rich and shared history, cultural ties and proximity.
Colombia has been a close friend over the years.
And so many Americans are overjoyed by the extraordinary changes that have taken place over there in the past decade.
Stronger national safety and security.
Growing political stability.
And robust economic growth, which has helped so many Colombians make the transition from poverty to the middle class.
Like all of you, I’m proud that U.S. businesses have played a role in this boom.
Products stamped with the words “Made in America” are helping to fuel Colombia’s economic development, in sectors ranging from transportation to telecommunications.
That’s obviously good for the people of Colombia.
It’s also good for American businesses here.
Last year alone, U.S. exports to Colombia totaled more than $14 billion, making the country our fourth largest export market in the Western Hemisphere.
And whenever a U.S. business sells a product in Bogota or Cali, it means more revenues are coming back to our shores.
And that supports jobs and growth here at home and in Colombia.
So clearly, the U.S. – Colombia relationship is a win-win partnership.
And in addition to celebrating Independence Day, let us also use this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to building on the progress that’s been made.
President Obama is committed to this goal.
As you can see by the wide-variety of participants in the program, the entire Administration is committed to this goal.
And all of us at the Department of Commerce are committed to this goal, especially now that we’ve entered a new chapter of our commercial relationship because of the U.S. – Colombia Trade Agreement.
As all of you know, last October, President Obama signed this agreement into law.
It took a long time, but that’s because the President was focused on making the fairest deal.
He did, and it will help both sides in a number of ways.
For Colombia, it will help lock-in the remarkable gains made during the past decade in human rights and rule of law.
It will deepen our strategic partnership, and allow Colombia to make progress on the social inclusion issues President Santos has identified as his principal challenge.
And it will help consolidate and strengthen labor and human rights reforms the Santos Administration is taking.
Here in the U.S., businesses now have unprecedented access to sell their goods in this important market.
This means new opportunities.
In one case, Colombia will spend at least $26 billion in the next four years on transportation infrastructure that will require a wide-variety of goods and services.
U.S. businesses are perfectly positioned to meet this demand.
And that’s just one example.
The overall picture is extremely bright.
Estimates are that the Trade Agreement will increase U.S. exports to Colombia by more than $1 billion and provide a two-and-a-half billion boost to the U.S. GDP.
Again, this means:
- more economic development;
- and stronger communities here at home.
Colombia will also benefit economically.
Experts predict that the Trade Agreement could add between 1 and 2 percentage points to its annual growth rate, meaning jobs and reduced poverty over there.
So again, there are potential benefits for both sides.
And we at the Department of Commerce are determined to help all parties fulfill this potential in a number of ways.
One way is through engagement.
A few months ago, the Summit of the Americas was held in Cartagena.
I was proud to attend, along with the President and so many partners from the Western Hemisphere.
And later this year, the Americas Competitiveness Forum will be hosted in Cali.
These forums present a unique opportunity:
- to exchange ideas;
- to strengthen partnerships;
- and to advance common goals like inclusive economic growth … and greater cooperation across the Hemisphere.
This year, a prominent theme is competitiveness, specifically how we can work together to sharpen our competitive edge in a rapidly changing economy.
I plan to be in Cali for the Forum and am grateful for Colombia’s continued leadership on these issues.
This kind of collaboration between the Commerce Department and Colombian public and private sector leaders is being demonstrated every day.
We have been working with Colombia’s private sector to promote greater transparency in order to enhance their business climate at the local level.
We’ve held workshops to help Colombian businesses adopt best practices that are consistent with the Trade Agreement goals.
We’ve created a tool kit that American companies can use to protect their intellectual property rights in Colombia so that entrepreneurs can innovate and create without worrying about having their ideas stolen.
And we are working together to promote the opportunities created by the Trade Agreement.
At the Commerce Department, we strive to raise awareness — particularly with small- and medium-sized concerns — about the great possibilities.
We have staff located at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota that covers cities across Colombia.
They host trade missions.
They send delegations to international buyer exhibitions.
They organize trade fairs.
And they stand ready to help American businesses that want to reach new customers and new markets.
If any of you are interested, reach out to me, or my team, or check out export.gov
The U.S. – Colombia partnership is a prosperous one.
And you should be a part of this prosperity.
Global trade doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
U.S. businesses don’t have to lose so other countries can win — and vice versa.
That’s why we are committed to working with our Colombian partners — and our partners across the Hemisphere — to create and strengthen mutually beneficial partnerships.
The simple truth is that if we want to make things happen, we’ve got to take action.
By coming together this morning, we are taking action.
By having this dialogue, we are taking action.
By strengthening the ties between the U.S. and Colombia, we are taking action.
Let’s continue to take action to advance shared causes and goals.
Today’s conversation can go a long way in achieving these goals.
I’m glad that the next session will continue the dialogue about export opportunities, and that later, you’ll hear about the President’s tremendous work with, and on behalf of the Latino community.
Together, we can ensure that opportunity reaches all communities.
And together, we can ensure that our issues and concerns are addressed.
Once again, thank you all for joining us during this important celebration.
Enjoy the rest of the program.
And Happy Independence Day.
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