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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk at the U.S.-ASEAN Economic Ministers Road Show Luncheon

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

May 3, 2010
U.S.-ASEAN Economic Ministers Road Show Luncheon

Seattle, WA

*As Prepared for Delivery*

Seattle, WA – In remarks to the U.S.-ASEAN Economic Ministers Road Show Luncheon, Ambassador Ron Kirk spoke about the importance of U.S.-ASEAN trade. Following are Ambassador Kirk’s remarks as prepared for delivery:   

“Good afternoon. I am so pleased to be here with my distinguished fellow ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, and Malaysia, as well as the Secretary General of ASEAN. I would like to thank the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, in partnership with the Trade Development Alliance, The National Bureau of Asian Research, and the National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation for planning and hosting this terrific event. And I would like to welcome all of you who are here to be a part of the great and growing relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN.   

“There could hardly be a more fitting spot for us all to come together. Seattle sits at the intersection of East and West, serving as a gateway for products coming to the United States from all over the world, and as an on-ramp to global trade for American businesses large and small.   

“In fact, if you look to your right, or to your left, and you have a pretty good chance of finding someone who is paying their bills or building their dreams with a paycheck from an export-related or -supported business – and probably, a business trading in the ASEAN region.   

“At last count, more than 330,000 Washington residents owe their livelihoods to trade. This state is exporting apples, video games, lumber, and other goods and services to customers all around the world.   

“Forty percent of all manufacturing workers here in Washington depend on exports for their jobs, and export-supported jobs account for an estimated one out of ten private-sector jobs statewide. But these people are more than just employment statistics. They are supporting their families through the sweat of their labor.   

“That’s noble work. And I want to create more of it. What drives me is this: the idea of a mother or father walking in the door to a family and being able to say, ‘I got a job down at the plant. They were hiring.’ That means fewer anxious days and nights, and more hope for that whole family.   

“USTR is working to make trade policies that enable more companies to export, so more American mothers and fathers can say, ‘They were hiring. And I got a job.’   

“It can happen. It is happening right here in Washington State, where local businesses big and small have continued to support good jobs for American workers by exporting their products to the world.   

“As the United States Trade Representative, it’s my job to craft policy solutions that will help more Americans get those export-supported jobs.   

“The possibilities are huge. 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside America’s borders. So at USTR, we are working to tear down trade barriers and open up new job-creating trade opportunities.   

“Because when American businesses can sell more American products in more places around the world, that creates more jobs for American workers here at home. And this Administration isn’t going to leave any jobs on the table.   

“For the first time in history, President Obama has launched a government-wide National Export Initiative in support of export-related job growth.   

“In keeping with that initiative, USTR is joining forces with the Departments of Commerce, State, and Agriculture; the Export-Import Bank; and the Small Business Administration to accomplish a single goal: double American exports in the next five years. If we can achieve this, we can support 2 million new jobs.   

“With millions of Americans looking for employment, we can’t work fast enough.   

“So at USTR, we are moving full speed ahead with a robust enforcement policy, new market-opening negotiations, and ongoing efforts to boost existing trade relationships.   

“In order to guarantee that an American company from Seattle or anywhere else can compete alongside companies from cities all over the world, the United States is forcefully upholding the rights negotiated in our trade agreements. In the past year, we’ve used the tools of enforcement to level the playing field and guarantee market access for all kinds of American businesses and workers – from lumber producers to tire companies to industrial manufacturers.   

“But it’s not enough just to defend the market access we already have – we have to seek out and seize market opportunities all over the globe. Because as the President has said: if we don’t, other countries will.   

“So the United States is negotiating a new Trans-Pacific Partnership that will expand U.S. opportunities in the Asia-Pacific under a high-standard, 21st century agreement.   

“In 2011, the United States will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which will give us a unique opportunity to grow jobs and increase our economic engagement.   

“And we are working to address outstanding issues on pending Free Trade Agreements – including the U.S.-Korea agreement.   

“Our engagement with the ten countries of ASEAN is a good example of the Administration’s trade policy goals at work. With the ASEAN countries, we are promoting exports, supporting small and medium-sized businesses in global trade, and deepening our trade and investment ties with the most dynamic region in the world.   

“And while Americans who live here in the Pacific Northwest understand the importance of our relationship with Asia better than many who live in the East, even many of you may be surprised to understand the economic importance of the ASEAN region to us.   

“ASEAN countries together are the United States’ fifth largest trading partner, with over $200 billion in goods and services trade in 2008. ASEAN is also a key export market for U.S. goods, together ranking 4th among total export markets in 2009. In addition, ASEAN presents a significant export market for our farmers and ranchers, with over $6 billion worth of agricultural exports to the region on 2009. With all 10 ASEAN economies expected to experience positive economic growth in 2010 and a population of nearly 600 million people, the dynamic economies of ASEAN offer growing market potential for American businesses both large and small.   

“And U.S.-ASEAN investment relations are equally strong. I’ll bet if you were asked whether ASEAN, China, or India is the leading destination for U.S. foreign direct investment, most of you would choose China and a few would guess India. But ASEAN is far and away the leading destination of U.S. FDI – with three times more than China, and nearly 10 times more than India.   

“Washington State has had a strong trade relationship with the ASEAN region for a long time. Over the past 10 years, Washington State exports to ASEAN have ranked within the top five annually among all U.S. states. And in 2009, Washington ranked third among all states with over $3.3 billion worth of exports to ASEAN. Leading exports from Washington State to ASEAN include transportation equipment, crop production, processed foods, and computers and electronic equipment. And these exports support many thousands of well-paying jobs in local companies both large and small throughout the state.   

“The Obama Administration has made it a priority to build this relationship further. We are stepping up our work to strengthen our trade and investment relationship. We have several initiatives under our formal trade dialogue, known as the ASEAN-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement or TIFA. For example, we are working on customs and trade facilitation, as well as on the adoption of internationally recognized standards, to improve the free flow of goods throughout the region. This will help U.S. businesses transport their goods more efficiently throughout ASEAN. We are engaging ASEAN leaders on trade finance, facilitating American exports to ASEAN buyers who know and value our products. And this year, we are working toward more cooperative engagement on environmental issues in trade.   

“In addition to strengthening our trade and investment relationship with ASEAN, we are actively supporting ASEAN’s own goal of economic integration. ASEAN has been actively working to create a single economic area by 2015. This area would encompass a single market and production base, characterized by a free flow of goods, services, investment, and skilled labor, as well as a freer flow of capital. These integration efforts will strengthen the competitiveness of ASEAN countries while also enhancing the efficiency of U.S. companies operating in the region.   

“Today’s event is the kickoff of another aspect of U.S.-ASEAN cooperation: America’s government-business dialogue with ASEAN. This ‘Ministers’ Road Show’ allows ASEAN government and business leaders to tell you in their own words why ASEAN is worth your consideration.   

“Last November, President Obama met with the ten ASEAN leaders to discuss the importance of our relationship and our commitment to strengthening ties. This relationship will remain a priority for the Obama Administration. An ambitious ASEAN agenda will help our Administration to promote exports and trade, strengthen the global economy, and create and retain more well-paying jobs here, including here in Washington state.   

“Seven thousand of Washington’s 8,000 exporting businesses are small- or medium-sized firms, and these businesses have a special place in the Obama Administration’s export plan. Across the country, only one in every one hundred small businesses is an exporter – and most of those that do export sell only one product in one foreign country. So this Administration is taking unprecedented steps to help more small- and medium-sized businesses make the leap to international markets.   

“We have appointed a new Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business, Jim Sanford, to target our trade policy efforts to better support small- and medium-sized exporters. And we are meeting with small businesses all across the country to find out how we can best help them to succeed.   

“All of these steps are making it easier for Americans to do business around the world. But here in Seattle may be the best place for me to reiterate that to the Obama Administration, trade is about more than just doing business.   

“We talk about trade done right – and trade done right is trade that recognizes that there are people behind every deal. There are real people here in the United States who need jobs or who need to keep the jobs they have. People in other countries deserve a fair price for what they’re growing and making and selling – and don’t deserve to be the world’s dumping ground for shoddy financial, environmental, or labor practices. Children right here in America and around the world deserve to grow up with economic promise and decent jobs available to them, in a clean environment that’s better, not worse, because of the goods and services we trade and how we trade them.   

“That’s the kind of trade that our Administration intends to pursue – with our good friends across ASEAN and with every one of our trading partners. And that kind of trade can lift up all our people today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.”