Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Remarks by Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez
American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama
"Panama-Business Gateway to the Americas Forum"
Thursday, October 4, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much, Jose (Orive), for that kind introduction, and for the great work you’re doing to strengthen ties in the Americas.
And my thanks to the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama for organizing this important forum.
I am grateful that it has brought together such a distinguished group of individuals from the U.S. and Panama to exchange perspectives and ideas.
I am also grateful that the organizers scheduled me to speak before Alberto Aleman.
He’s done such great work over the years and would be a tough act to follow.
It’s an honor to share the stage with him.
I look forward to his comments.
And of course, I look forward to our time together today.
This gathering is particularly important to me.
Connecting the Americas has long been an interest and a focus of mine.
It started when I was young.
I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida.
And when I was a teenager, I had the privilege of working for then Governor Bob Graham.
I started out as a travel aide, and eventually worked my way up to serve in the Florida Department of Commerce.
And I remember that the Governor used to have a saying, based on his experience in South Florida.
It was that “the future of America is in the Americas.”
Obviously, the dynamics of the global economy have changed in the decades since, but his reasoning is still right on the mark.
Here in the Americas — we are all neighbors.
Our futures are shared.
Our economies are linked.
And what happens in one country impacts the entire region.
So we’ve got to work together to advance mutual interests and mutual goals.
From our vantage point in the U.S., we view Panama as an important partner in this region.
One of the great honors of my life was serving as Chief of Staff to Buddy MacKay, when he was Special Envoy to the Americas during the Clinton Administration.
And I remember being in his office, which was across from the White House, and was this windowless space.
In fact, we had to label the doors — “exit” and “closet.”
Anyway, on his desk, there were a bunch of books.
And prominent among them was a history of the Panama Canal.
The Canal was a top interest of his, and of mine.
It’s been a driving force in Panama’s growth.
It’s also played a huge role in the United States’ development into a global economic power.
As a result, the U.S.-Panama partnership has evolved into something quite special.
I’m sure you’ve heard some of the key points throughout the morning.
Last year, bilateral trade between our two countries was nearly $9 billion dollars.
And it’s been a win-win partnership.
U.S. exports grew 36 percent.
Companies like Boeing and Caterpillar are doing big business in the market.
And our partnership is also fueling growth for our Panamanian friends.
In fact, Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding nearly 11 percent in 2011, with annual growth estimated to be between 5 and 8 percent through 2017.
And U.S. products are playing a role in major projects like:
- the expansion of the Panama Canal;
- the construction of the Panama Metro Line;
- and the modernization of Tocumen International Airport.
So again — this has been a win-win partnership.
And in my role as Under Secretary for International Trade, I want this strong partnership to continue for years to come.
Thankfully, we have an historic opportunity to take our relationship to the next level.
That’s because of the Trade Agreement we have negotiated.
Like all of you, I look forward to the agreement taking effect, hopefully soon.
For our Panama friends, the agreement will help them meet their own aspirations and goals.
From our vantage point in the U.S., it will expand access for manufacturers by eliminating duties charged on U.S. exports into Panama.
It will help small- and medium-sized enterprises by helping to eliminate unnecessary red tape and regulatory obstacles.
In short — it will help more products stamped with those three proud words — “Made in America” — reach customers in the vibrant Panamanian market.
My agency — the International Trade Administration — stands ready to help U.S. businesses make the most of these opportunities.
We do this because boosting U.S. exports is:
- good for jobs;
- good for growth;
- and good for our future.
That is why the President launched the National Export Initiative, with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
Now, let me talk about how we are going about achieving this goal.
First let me stress that we continue to work with Members of Congress, U.S. exporters, and the American public to raise awareness about the value of the Trade Agreement.
Additionally, our Trade Agreements Compliance Program is a one-stop shop that stands ready to help businesses seize the new opportunities that will be created.
The program works with businesses of all sizes on issues including:
- intellectual property rights;
- and government procurement.
When businesses contact our shop — we’ll help them compete and succeed.
We also have staff on the ground.
The ITA team is working in more than 100 cities and 70 countries around the world.
This includes a talented team in Panama.
They know the market … the opportunities … and the players.
I urge you or your friends to reach out to them through export.gov.
They are eager to help businesses navigate through the export process.
We are also eager to maximize the potential of the expanded Panama Canal.
As many of you know , in July, the Obama Administration announced that significant infrastructure projects will be expedited.
As a result, we’ll help modernize and expand 5 major ports in the United States:
- the Port of Jacksonville;
- the Port of Miami;
- the Port of Savannah;
- the Port of New York and New Jersey;
- and the Port of Charleston.
These five ports, and the exporters that use them, are ideally positioned to take advantage of the Canal’s new, expanded capacity.
We are working with partners throughout the U.S. to help position businesses for success once the Panama Canal expansion is completed.
One example: in my home state of Florida, a major focus is funding the inland infrastructure that connects Florida’s ports to U.S. manufacturers and providers, allowing them to take better advantage of overseas opportunities.
We are looking to you — the business community — to participate in these efforts to use the Canal’s expansion to our best advantage.
We are also looking to work with you in many other ways.
You know the importance of exports to America’s economic success.
Every time a business makes a sale abroad, that’s revenue coming back home.
That’s capital which can be used to hire workers.
And a working America is a strong America.
U.S. exports are also helping our friends in Panama meet their own aspirations and goals.
So the U.S. and Panama share a rich history.
And the next chapter is poised for even more progress.
In this next chapter, there will be expanded opportunity and prosperity for both our peoples.
And I look forward to working with all of you to build stronger economies in both our countries.
At this point, I am reminded of the Panamanian proverb: “Speak whenever you must, hush whenever you can.”
I’m going to hush now, and enjoy listening to Alberto Alemen.
Once again, my thanks to the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama — and all its partners — for bringing us together today.
And I look forward to our continued partnership far into the future.
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