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Remarks by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the National League of Cities

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

March 16, 2010
National League of Cities
Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*


"Thank you all for having me today. In particular, thank you to your President, Mayor Ron Loveridge, and to your Executive Director and my good friend, Don Borut for inviting me to join you today.

"Thomas Jefferson - founding father, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States - hated cities. He said that "[t]he great cities are pestilential to the morals, health, and liberties of man." I guess even President Jefferson wasn't always right.

"Not only would all of us here today disagree with President Jefferson, so would most Americans.

"Today, 8 in 10 Americans live in metropolitan areas. And when you put more people and more minds together in one place, you get more great ideas - for new businesses, new products, and new innovations. Those ideas foster global competitiveness and support high-quality American jobs.

"How do I know that? More than 90 percent of American exports come from metropolitan areas.

"In 2007, businesses and workers in the New York metropolitan area exported more than $80 billion worth of goods. Other cities weren't far behind. Metropolitan areas like Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Detroit all exported tens of billions of dollars worth of American goods.

"But that's not to say smaller communities aren't benefitting from trade as well. In fact, trade is the lifeblood of many rural towns and communities. One-quarter of American agricultural production is sold abroad, and more than 900,000 American jobs are supported by those agricultural exports.

"That's why I've been collaborating with state and local leaders from Washington to Iowa, New York to Kentucky, and Michigan to Vermont - and the list could go on.

"That's why I made it a priority to visit with U.S. Mayors at their winter meeting here in Washington, DC and with State Legislators at their fall gathering in San Francisco.

"And that's why I made it a priority to be here today. Because as a former mayor, I know you understand better than anyone else how USTR can help your local businesses support jobs with trade.

"There is no substitute for on-the-ground experience, for face to face conversations with the men and women who are working to succeed in the international marketplace. You have the luxury of living next door to those men and women in your communities. And you get to have those conversations all the time.

"Because I'm based here in Washington, I have to seek out those conversations. And I am seeking them out all across the country.

"I've met with small business owners in Detroit, Michigan and with green technology innovators in Las Vegas, Nevada. I've been to a high-tech engineering center in Orlando, Florida and I've visited a textile plant in Anderson, South Carolina.

"Wherever I go, I hear about many of the same export challenges and trade opportunities. We all share a common purpose in tackling those challenges and seizing those opportunities. Because we all want to create jobs, and we can grow jobs through trade.

"Just look at the Glen Raven textile plant in Anderson, South Carolina. Glen Raven manufactures all kinds of textile products - everything from sun umbrellas to convertible car tops. They export those products to 128 countries around the world. And they employ hundreds of South Carolinians to help make that happen. Because, as the CEO of Glen Raven told me, global opportunities are calling. And Americans can take advantage of those opportunities to revitalize established manufacturing and build new industries.

"A lot of people told me they thought I was crazy to go to South Carolina to talk about trade. But Glen Raven is proof that wherever you go in this country, you can find people who are succeeding through trade. In fact, you can find quite a lot of them.

"In South Carolina, more than a quarter of all manufacturing jobs are now tied to exports. Across the country, nearly seven million jobs are supported by manufacturing exports.

"And the Obama Administration is working hard to create more jobs like them by finding new ways to help Americans reach out to the 95 percent of global consumers that live outside our borders.

"At the center of that effort is an Administration-wide initiative. Just last week, President Obama signed an executive order inaugurating the National Export Initiative and creating a Cabinet-level Export Promotion Cabinet to support export-oriented economic growth.

"The National Export Initiative brings together the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, and other federal agencies to help more Americans succeed through trade.

"The President has asked us all to team up and combine our best efforts to meet a national goal: double American exports in the next five years. And if we achieve that goal, we could support two million additional jobs.

"USTR's role in that initiative is clear: we are going to do more of what we do best - tear down barriers to trade and open up new opportunities for American businesses to grow and create jobs through exports.

"For many American companies and workers, we just can't work fast enough.

"You may have heard from some of them - companies in your communities that are trying to stay ahead of the game by finding global customers for established ‘Made in America' products. Others, like the green energy companies I met at a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas, Nevada, are trying to establish America as a go-to source for cutting edge products and services.

"They know that if Americans aren't able to take advantage of global opportunities, others will.

"So yesterday, the United States began negotiations toward a new Trans-Pacific Partnership that will expand U.S. opportunities in the Pacific under a high-standard, 21st century agreement. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we hope to build what will become the largest, most dynamic trade collaboration of our time - a partnership that will enable American businesses and workers to more easily sell their products and services in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.

"We are also working in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or APEC to make it cheaper, easier, and faster to trade in the Asia-Pacific. That means eliminating obstacles to the flow of goods through supply chains, improving the transparency and accessibility of APEC economies' customs information and regulations, promoting trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and putting into place building-blocks to high-quality, 21st century agreements in the region. In 2011, the United States will host APEC, which will give us a unique opportunity to address issues related to U.S. objectives to grow jobs and increase our economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific.

"We are working to deliver economic and strategic trade benefits and opportunities by resolving outstanding issues on the Colombian, Korean, and Panamanian Free Trade Agreements in an effort to move those forward at the appropriate time. When those agreements go into effect, they will create billions of dollars in new market access for American exporters and new sourcing opportunities for American importers.


"And we are defending Americans' trade rights under our existing agreements, so that an exporter in Cincinnati has the same chance to compete anywhere in the world as a company from Shanghai. In the past year, we've used all the tools of enforcement to level the playing field for all kinds of American businesses and workers - from lumber producers to tire companies to industrial manufacturers.

"These efforts are going a long way toward helping American businesses succeed in the international marketplace. But we're not stopping there.

"When I met with small exporters in Detroit, Michigan, they told me two things. First, exports are a major source of business and job growth within their companies. Second, if their businesses had the right tools to navigate the global marketplace, exports could be an even bigger source of business and job growth.

"As many of you know, over the past 15 years, small- and medium-sized businesses have generated nearly two-thirds of all new employment. But even among this star group, one particular type of small business stands out - those that currently export. Because we know that firms that export grow faster, add jobs faster, and pay higher wages.

"Today, only about one in one hundred small businesses is an exporter. And those that do export generally sell only one product to only one foreign country.

"USTR is working to boost those numbers through a small- and medium-sized business initiative.

"We have appointed a new Assistant United States Trade Representative for Small Business, Jim Sanford, to target our trade policy efforts to better support small- and medium-sized exports. I know that Jim would love to hear from you as to how we can best leverage those efforts to support small business exports and export-oriented job creation in your cities, and so would I.

"Our efforts are helping to jump-start economic creativity. They are helping to make America more competitive. But to create and sustain new jobs and new economic growth we need more than just a forward-thinking trade policy.

"We need national efforts that support innovation and help businesses to invest in the future. That's one reason why the Obama Administration is focused on reforming health care and shrinking health care costs. Because when American businesses no longer face the prospect of ever-increasing premiums, they'll be able to invest instead in new products, new ideas, and new markets.

"And economic recovery will also depend on a concerted effort across all levels of government. Because this Administration's efforts are going to help communities best that help themselves.

"I'm talking about communities that invest in creating local jobs with global scope. I'm talking about communities that support trade missions and trade-promoting activities, and that help to educate local businesses and workers about international opportunities. And I'm talking about communities that support the kinds of cutting-edge companies, manufacturers, and researchers that are going to help drive American exports for the next 50 years.

"I know that many of you have already undertaken these efforts - you are going above and beyond to help your businesses in your cities compete for customers around the world.

"USTR is committed to supporting your efforts and fostering local job creation in every way possible. I look forward to working with you."