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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk at Kick-off of World Trade Week
May 7, 2009
Wilshire Grant Hotel
Los Angeles, CA
*AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY*
Thank you so much. I am honored to be here on behalf of President Obama to celebrate this World Trade Week.
I would like to extend a special note of appreciation to Chamber President Toebben and Chairman of the Board Fran Inman, for their invitation to be with you here today and to Giselle Fernandez for her warm introduction.
I also want to acknowledge Mayor Villaraigosa and thank him for his work. As a former mayor myself -- of Dallas, TX - I can tell everyone here you have one of the best advocates for your city in Mayor Villaraigosa.
During the first World Trade Week celebration, dockworkers at the Port of Los Angeles were busy piling Golden State citrus and American lumber onto ships destined for countries around the world. And raw rubber from across the Pacific was being unloaded and transported across town to a brand-new Goodyear manufacturing plant where workers were turning out new tires for American family cars. International trade was bringing new wealth and prosperity to thousands of families, just in this city.
Now here we are, eighty-three years later and trade is opening new avenues of opportunity for businesses big and small.
Ninety-seven percent of American exporters are businesses with fewer than 500 employees. They bring to the table an incredible variety of creative business solutions and diverse backgrounds. That diversity enriches the character of our nation, and it also allows us to engage our trading partners around the world with a broad range of voices.
And, in part because of that diversity, last year exports were a record 13% of our GDP.
Our trade is based not only on the goods and services we have to offer, but on how we relate to consumers and companies around the world. When those consumers and companies see their values reflected in ours, or find that our entrepreneurs share their culture, it becomes easier to build our business relationships.
That's why cities like yours are uniquely suited to play a leading role in expanding global markets for American products and services.
Los Angeles and California exhibit the best of American potential. Not only do you have the infrastructure to support the flow of global trade, your city and your state are home to men and women of every culture, who are able to do business in any language.
President Obama's number one priority is turning around the American economy. And by engaging the global marketplace in innovative ways, we can create jobs and build new industries with the potential to bring jobs for years to come.
California is the 7th largest economy in the world, and you are here because you already understand the enormous rewards of connecting with that global marketplace.
California's export shipments of merchandise in 2008 totaled $144.8 billion, ranking California second only to my home state - Texas -- ($192.1 billion) among the states in terms of total exports in 2008.
Los Angeles is the leading metropolitan exporting city in California with close to 55 billion in merchandise exports in 2007, making LA the third largest metro area exporter nationally
And with more than half a million Angelenos employed in jobs directly related to international trade, it is easy to see how trade grows our economy.
As United States Trade Representative, I am working to open up new opportunities for American innovators and entrepreneurs by expanding global markets for American goods and services. And that means ensuring that American companies have access to a level playing field, governed by international trade rules that are fairly written and fairly enforced.
That's why the President and I are asking our trading partners to commit to providing market access protections for American businesses, intellectual property protections for American ideas, and international labor and environmental standards for their own workers and companies. And we are drawing on all the tools in our toolbox to ensure that our partners follow through on those commitments, so that American workers and businesses get the benefits of our agreements.
As our nation moves toward economic recovery, the President and I will keep working to empower American businesses, expand opportunities for economic growth, and improve the lives of Americans.
Although the President could not be here today, he sends his best wishes, and he has given me a statement that he would like me to read in his stead.
I'd like to ask Chamber President Toebben and Chairman of the Board Fran Inman to join me as I present this proclamation on behalf of President Obama.