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Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman at the No Labels Business Leaders Forum

Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman at the No Labels Business Leaders Forum

Washington, D.C.
September 17, 2014 

*As Delivered*

“Promoting trade is one of America’s longest-standing nonpartisan projects. In fact, the only president in American history elected without a party affiliation, George Washington, viewed trade as the key to keeping our young nation united.

“After America won its independence, Washington warned of grave consequences that the Western settlers would fall out of touch with the East. And he said “increasing trade would bind those people to us by a chain which never can be broken.”

“And that chain has been solid ever since. From FDR, who was the first president to ask Congress for a version of Trade Promotion Authority, to President Reagan, who said that “America’s growth and future depend on trade,” leaders of all political stripes have relied on trade to keep our country strong.

“President Obama’s trade and investment agenda carries on this tradition by staying focused on promoting growth, creating jobs, and strengthening the middle class. There has been a surge in U.S. exports which has contributed a third of America’s total economic growth over the last five years, and supported 1.6 million new jobs.

“Last year, the United States exported $2.3 trillion, that’s a record high. And those exports supported 11.3 million jobs. More importantly, export-related jobs pay 13-18 percent more on average than non-export related jobs. By exporting more we are creating more wealth and jobs, while helping to address income inequality, and raising the overall wage levels in this country.

“Trade is also strengthening the middle class by unlocking opportunities for all sorts of startups, small businesses, families, farmers, entrepreneurs, and ranchers throughout America. Everywhere I go, I see that opportunity. 

“In Boston, I visited Atlas Devices, a company started by three MIT graduates, designed a piece of equipment that allows rescue workers and soldiers to get out of harm’s way quickly. They now sell half of their products abroad and they have opened a new manufacturing facility and hired new people because of their exports.

“In Minneapolis, I met Johan the Jeweler, an immigrant from Africa who started making jewelry on the side, just to have a little bit of retirement security. Now he sells $2 million a year via the internet to 29 countries, has 28 employees, and he just bought a building to expand his production.

“In Des Moines, there’s Kemin Industries, which is a company that uses small extracts from plants as inputs in medicines, beauty products, food, animal feed and they too are growing through exports.

“These are just three of the 300,000 American firms that export, 98% of which are small and medium-sized business. 

“Today, we’re exporting more agricultural products than ever before, $150 billion worth of agricultural products last year, that’s a 50% increase since 2009.

“And in the services sector, our world-class services companies continue to rack up substantial trade surpluses around the world.

“President Obama’s trade agenda has been working on behalf of all Americans—rural, urban, and suburban; Democrats, Republicans, Independents. What we are now doing is pursuing the most important, ambitious trade agenda in our nation’s history. It’s not ideological; it’s strategic, it’s pragmatic, it’s impactful, and some might even say it is problem-solving. Just like the framework that has brought all of you here today.

“Front and center is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement we are negotiating with 11 other countries in Asia and Latin America. When completed, TPP will give the United States premium access to the fastest-growing, most dynamic economies in the world, representing 40 percent global GDP.

“Very importantly, what we are doing in the TPP is working to raise standards, raise labor and environmental standards, raise intellectual property rights standards, and at the same time, focus on new issues that are affecting U.S. businesses and U.S. workers. For example, state-owned enterprises. This will be the first agreement in history that puts disciplines on state-owned enterprises, so that when they compete against our private firms, they do so on a commercial basis. This will be the first agreement that takes principles from the real economy, and translates them into the digital economy, to keep an open and free internet to allow data to flow across borders and allow small businesses to access the global marketplace efficiently.

“At the same time, we’re also negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, and that will make it easier and less costly for U.S. businesses to export to our largest market.

“By knocking down barriers to trade—while maintaining our high levels of health, safety, and environmental protection—we’ll increase exports by tens of billions of dollars and support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs.

“All the time, I’m visited by and hearing from companies who have made clear that the U.S is an extremely attractive place to invest. You all know the reasons, there is a $17 trillion economy supported by a strong rule of law, an educated workforce, entrepreneurial culture, and now, abundant sources of affordable energy.

“We can layer on top of that our trade policy. When we are done with T-TIP and the TPP, those two agreements, we will have free trade with more than two-thirds of the global economy. We will put the U.S. at the center, and allow companies to make it here and send it all over the world duty-free. And that makes the U.S. the production platform of choice. We view our trade policy as a key part of our investment policy and our manufacturing policy.

“So whether it’s companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States or foreign companies that are building new plants in the U.S., we’re beginning to see the growth in manufacturing jobs – 700,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last 5 years. 

“We are at a critical moment in this effort. We have an opportunity to shape the rules of the road of these regions and for the global economy in a way that reflects and our values. If we fail to seize that opportunity, there are others working equally hard to establish rules of the road that do not reflect our interests and our values. There are trade agreements being negotiated right now that do not raise labor and environmental standards around the world, that do not protect intellectual property rights, that do not impose disciplines on state-owned enterprises, that do not ensure a free and open internet.

“We want to see a race to the top in the global economy, not a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and shouldn’t even try to run.

“In closing, let me say that promoting growth, strengthening the middle class, and creating jobs -- these aren’t partisan issues. These are American issues. And our trade agenda is a key part of that.

“There are a lot of important things that should get done in this town, things that are good for America overall. Many of them may not happen for reasons that you all know better than anybody. But trade is an area where we can get something done over the next couple of years, but only if we do so together.

“Together, we can remind and educate our fellow citizens about what is at stake, for them and their jobs, we can educate our friends, our neighbors, our elected officials that there’s nothing partisan about promoting Made-in-America exports and the good, well-paying jobs that they support.

“I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.

“Thank you.”