Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Alvaro, for that kind introduction.
It’s a pleasure to be here in Montevideo with so many honored guests.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Uruguay is a great ambassador for the benefits of expanded trade and investment between our two countries.
Thank you for what you do.
I have a long and rewarding relationship with Latin American countries.
In my official capacity as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, I can say that we are indeed at a unique period in our relationship with Latin America.
The Obama Administration is pleased to see countries of the Americas engaging on a global stage to tackle common challenges, particularly after the recent global economic downturn many countries faced.
Nations in our hemisphere are showing that economies that are open to global trade and finance can withstand severe external shocks without falling into a crisis.
Moreover, we are seeing tens of millions of Latin Americans moving into the middle class out of poverty and demanding more of themselves and more of their governments.
The region, with some exceptions, has turned towards a positive democratic vision, and is much more pro-market, pro-investment than it was before.
The Western Hemisphere remains a top priority for the United States and President Barack Obama.
For us, it’s about proactive engagement and creating a relationship with our partners based on mutual interests and shared values.
The United States has more free trade agreement partners in the Western Hemisphere than anywhere else in the world.
Out of the twenty countries with which the United States has free trade agreements, twelve are in the Western Hemisphere.
And, we value these important partnerships.
The region’s growing prosperity has created important new markets for American goods, which is why the approval of the Colombia and Panama Trade Promotion Agreements was so positive and important.
Our broad goal, and that of many of our friends in the region, is to continue making progress toward a vibrant, seamless regional economy.
I have come to Montevideo this week to emphasize the commitment the United States has made to President Mujica’s administration and to explore ways we can increase economic cooperation between the United States and Uruguay.
Uruguay is a true leader in the Western Hemisphere with its advances in trade relationships, innovation and education.
The United States and Uruguay enjoy a strong relationship in many areas, including cooperation on intellectual property rights, innovation, agriculture, and education.
There are more than 100 U.S. companies doing business in Uruguay, and U.S. investment in Uruguay is rapidly growing in the information technology sector, with opportunities for innovative partnerships in renewable energy, human capital, education, and technology.
Exports have steadily increased throughout much of the past decade – our total trade in 2012 is the highest it’s been in recent years at $1.68 billion.
This is a testament to Uruguay’s pro-business policies and industrial diversification that we continue to increase our commercial activities.
We are committed to working with the government and business leaders to support future growth in trade and investment.
This makes the work you do and your presence here very important to our efforts.
We are proud to call Uruguay a partner in many areas.
In 2010, I signed a memorandum of understanding on education and workforce development with Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mines Roberto Kreimerman.
One initiative under this memorandum is a pilot consulting program with the University of Maryland and two Uruguayan universities.
This program has produced some key successes with groups of students completing consulting projects with Uruguayan firms.
We have also worked with Indiana University, DePaul University, and the University of Nebraska in research, business ethics, and entrepreneurship programs with Uruguayan schools.
Together we are working to educate entrepreneurs who can make both countries more competitive in the increasingly global marketplace.
I am also honored to be here as we kick off the first of many exchanges between our governments on customs modernization and border management.
Businesses have identified trade facilitation in general, and customs processes in particular, as a major competitiveness barrier in Latin America.
In the absence of smooth and efficient customs clearance, companies lose money, goods lose worth, and, consumers lose cost-effective choices.
In today’s world, where supply chains are highly segmented to best locate production resources, goods need to flow in a timely and secure manner.
Delays in moving goods are costly.
Each day saved in shipping time is equivalent to an estimated 0.8 percent ad-valorem price reduction for manufactured goods and 0.9 percent for agricultural goods.
This not only impacts business, but all citizens in both our countries.
I know that Uruguay, in its role as a regional distribution hub, is well aware of the competitive advantages of making logistics even more efficient.
And. we would like to work with you on this goal.
A program under the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative, the Central and South American Customs Modernization and Border Management Program seeks to establish and strengthen public-private dialogue for trade facilitation and, ultimately, improved regional competitiveness.
Ultimately, because of more efficient customs and border procedures and a focus on regional coordination, countries participating in this initiative are improving the attractiveness of their markets and the competitiveness of their countries, and, we are gaining closer partners in trade facilitation.
We are excited that Uruguay is joining the initiative and has already taken so many steps to make its market attractive for investment and trade, and we look forward to strengthening our partnership.
We are eager to work with Uruguay both within the framework of this very successful program and beyond.
The memorandum of understanding I will sign with Minister Lorenzo later today envisions an on-going, long-term partnership to collaborate on these issues.
Our government is committed to working with our partner countries and multilateral organizations to develop an efficient, 21st century customs and border management system that facilitates trade, expands economic growth and enhances the region’s competitiveness.
I am also pleased to build on our shared vision of seeking new and innovative ways to build competitiveness in the Hemisphere and give our citizens the opportunity to thrive in the global marketplace.
Never has there been a more important time to unite the Americas in a drive to improve our competitiveness, lower our trade barriers to one another, and spur economic growth that has the power to lift millions of people out of poverty.
Governments must do everything they can to ensure that our companies succeed.
Through public-private or private-private partnerships in innovation, we can ensure that the benefits of that innovation are spread through both of our economies and societies.
Innovative products, services, and processes are integral ingredients for competitiveness.
Uruguay, which has 13 free trade zones – 3 of which are dedicated to services, certainly understands competitiveness - you have more than any other country in South America.
I’d like to highlight Uruguay’s impressive initiative in being a leader in innovation.
And specifically, I’d like to note the importance of fusing innovation with education and other fundamental policies to a country’s overall health and development.
I commend Uruguay on the Ceibal Plan to provide 450,000 laptops to children and teachers.
The success of this plan is not only due to technological innovations, but also because it includes the active inclusion of society and teachers in its design, implementation and evaluation.
This project is about prosperity, not just laptops.
The Ceibal Plan is a defining illustration of President Mujica’s commitment to his people and to honing the innovative spirit of this nation.
This isn’t the only place where Uruguay is innovating to benefit its people.
Uruguay is also using its strategic and unique geographic location and access to the Paraná-Paraguay waterway (the Hidrovía), to become a leading logistics and distribution hub for the region.
Newly-implemented Public-Private Partnership regulations offer several opportunities for U.S. infrastructure-related companies interested in further developing Uruguay’s logistics capabilities.
State-of-the-art technology, faster response times with just-in-time deliveries, customizable merchandise and lower administrative costs by centralizing operations make Uruguay a promising regional distribution center.
The strong Uruguayan government backing of these efforts and strategic thinking will help this nation realize tremendous economic and commercial benefits for its people.
Before I conclude let me talk for a moment about Uruguay’s direct investment in the United States.
I am very pleased to report that from 2008 to 2012, Uruguay’s foreign direct investment in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 20.8 percent.
That is the highest rate of growth for any Latin American nation during this period.
As of 2012, the stock position of foreign direct investment in the United States from Uruguay was valued at $234 million.
Later this year, on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, President Obama will be hosting the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit in Washington, D.C. to attract investment to the United States.
It would be great if we saw interested Uruguayan companies joining us in Washington at what promises to be an outstanding event.
Finally, let me just tell you that U.S. companies are eager to do business in Uruguay and build stronger economies and create jobs in both nations.
Uruguay is making progress in opening doors for business, creating advances in technology and forming a concrete educational foundation for its children.
I also salute the American Chamber of Commerce in Uruguay for the work it does on behalf of businesses in the United States and Uruguay.
It is obvious that the main asset of Uruguay is its people.
You work hard, you value education and, you strive to be at the forefront of new technology.
We look forward to working with you for many more years to come, for the benefit of our companies, citizens and nations.
Again, my thanks to the American Chamber for inviting me to speak.
Have a great afternoon and I look forward to taking a few 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.