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Ambassador Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative
Remarks to the Miami Chamber of Commerce
September 23, 2010
* As Prepared for Delivery *
“Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here to talk about trade and President Obama’s plan to increase exports in support of more Florida jobs.
“I know some of you met with Deputy USTR Ambassador Miriam Sapiro in Washington last week. Ambassador Sapiro told me about some of the exciting business opportunities you are pursuing on the front lines of trade, and she conveyed your concerns, too.
“On the one hand, most of you are making South Florida a base for your overseas operations. Whether this is your home and headquarters, or another strategic hub, firms both large and small are able to capitalize on the advantages of trading from South Florida.
“On the other hand, you could use more expanded market access overseas, reduced barriers to trade around the world, and enhanced policy and regulatory coordination with our trading partners.
“Frankly, you need a U.S. trade policy that responds to your current needs and reflects your aspirations to sell more to world markets and create more jobs in the Sunshine State. I hear you loud and clear, and that’s why – to paraphrase one new Miami resident – ‘I’ve brought my talents down here to South Beach.’
“All kidding aside, I’m here today so we can serve you better. I’m here to listen and learn, and I also want to share what the Obama Administration is doing to deliver on the promise of trade that can enable you to grow your businesses and create more Florida jobs.
“As a member of President Obama’s Cabinet and the National Economic Council, I can assure you that the Obama Administration is working every day to accelerate America’s economic recovery and help Florida working families.
“President Obama has put in place historic reforms of our health care, education, and financial systems. We’ve made unprecedented investments in clean energy and vital infrastructure. These important measures are helping to form a new foundation for America.
“While the President’s economic strategy is designed to accelerate job creation now, it is also securing the path to future U.S. economic growth. And we want that future growth to be fueled more by what we produce and sell, and less by what we buy and consume.
“This isn’t just about re-learning lessons from our parents and grand-parents. They taught us to build and save more than we borrow and spend. And, to be sure, over the long run we’ll all be better off if we live within our means.
“But the Obama Administration is also focusing on increasing exports as part of the new foundation for long-term prosperity. After all, with 95 percent of the world’s consumers living beyond our borders, we’ve got to compete in foreign markets to win new business, keep our economy growing, and support more jobs for years to come.
“That’s why earlier this year the President created the National Export Initiative and set a goal for the United States to double exports over the next five years in support of two million additional jobs.
“The National Export Initiative (NEI) is a new approach that brings together all of the key players in government to focus on a comprehensive, coordinated approach to meet the President’s goal.
“As part of this initiative, the President reconvened and reinvigorated something called the Export Promotion Cabinet. The Export Promotion Cabinet brings together federal agency leaders such as myself and Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke along with key stakeholders in the private sector and members of Congress.
“We are working to bring all of America’s resources – public and private – together in the best way to promote exports that can boost sales and support more jobs for Floridians and all Americans.
“Already, the United States is seeing progress. According to the Department of Commerce, this month’s economic numbers show that U.S. exports through the first seven months of 2010 are up by 17.9 percent, more than $1 billion, from 2009. With the NEI, we are focused on accelerating this positive trend.
“Last week we presented the President with our initial recommendations. I encourage you to go to www.ustr.gov/nei to see the full report and learn more about the National Export Initiative. But since I’m here, let me give you three main points right now.
“First, President Obama has called for a special focus on helping America’s small- and medium-sized businesses export more.
“Believe it or not, nationwide only one out of every 100 small businesses in the U.S. is exporting right now. Yet small businesses that do export tend to grow faster and hire more people.
“Fortunately, Florida already has over 25,000 small businesses selling to world markets. And at USTR we want to help Florida small businesses do even better.
“That’s why I asked the International Trade Commission (ITC) to do three studies on how we can help U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses tap into global markets. We know that these kinds of firms frequently encounter barriers to their exports.
“Now these ITC reports give us better information about the specific trade barriers many American small- and medium-sized businesses face, such as complex and non-transparent foreign regulations or customs procedures.
“This information, combined with the extensive outreach we’ve conducted with small- and medium-sized businesses around the country, is informing our ongoing trade negotiations, so that we can better address these issues.
“Second, Americans from Montana to Miami tell me that they suffer when our trading partners don’t live up to their commitments.
“When foreign governments put a thumb on the scale in their home markets, or when foreign producers unfairly flood the U.S. market with cheap products, it tilts the playing field.
“That’s not a good deal for American producers, and more importantly it’s not what we bargained for in our trade agreements.
“So to enforce America’s trading rights – your trading rights – we are telling all of our trading partners simply this: keep your commitments to maintain a level playing field.
“We’ve made progress through dialogue in many cases, but we’ve also taken a number of enforcement actions in the past two years.
“For example, last year, when an independent agency ruled that a surge of imported Chinese tires was harming the American tire industry and costing Americans their jobs, President Obama acted where others had not.
“No other U.S. president has ever used the United States’ authority to hold China accountable for flooding our country with cheap products that undercut American goods and put our workers out of work.
“Now, this remedy is helping the U.S. tire industry to recover, and putting American workers back on the job.
“Third, we are hearing from U.S. producers like you that you are ready to trade more – to enter new markets, win customers, increase revenue, expand operations, and create more Florida jobs.
“But we also know that hard-working Floridians frankly don’t have the time or resources to tear down trade barriers by themselves.
“Whether you are an entrepreneur or an engineer, you are focused on being the very best at what you do. That’s why part of what we do best at USTR is fight on your behalf to win more market access for U.S. producers around the world.
“We are doing this through innovative models like the Trans-Pacific Partnership we are developing, and by working to resolve outstanding issues with pending agreements in South Korea, Colombia and Panama, for example.
“I know many of you see tangible benefits on the table in those trade agreements, so I’ll tell you where we stand right now.
“First, we are eager to resolve outstanding issues with the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, because it has far-reaching market access commitments that extend across all economic sectors.
“Increased exports due to this one deal may support tens of thousands of additional jobs nationwide, including here in Florida.
“That’s why we look forward to resolving outstanding issues with the Agreement by November’s G-20 summit in Seoul and submitting it to Congress for approval in the following months.
“And of course, our trade agreements with Panama and Colombia in particular hold great potential for Florida firms like yours. We are working to resolve outstanding issues with Panama and Colombia so that we can seek Congressional approval as soon as possible for those agreements as well.
“And while we’re discussing trade opportunities and challenges in the Caribbean Basin, I have to take a moment to talk about Haiti.
“South Florida has always had special relationship with Haiti. You can hear Creole spoken on the corners of La Petite Haiti. Haiti as easily as in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
“So it is no wonder that the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, rocked South Florida communities to the core. During those first difficult days, South Floridians were among the first to respond to Haiti’s urgent need for relief. Medical teams from Miami performed life-saving surgeries and vaccinations and transported Haitian victims to hospitals here in South Florida.
“And when President Obama deployed more than 20,000 U.S. civilians and military personnel to the island, many South Floridians provided the local knowledge necessary to deploy resources as efficiently as possible under emergency conditions.
“Today Haiti is still hurting terribly and it will take time for the Haitian people to rebuild, with our help. But out of this tragedy comes an opportunity to make changes that have long been desperately needed.
“So USTR is facilitating economic development that will put Haiti on a stronger footing in the future. Even before the earthquake Haiti was a strong trading partner with the United States, especially in textiles which account for 90 percent of U.S. imports from Haiti.
“Then in February 2010, USTR put forth a new initiative – the Plus One for Haiti program. Plus One for Haiti fosters trade between our two countries by encouraging U.S brands and retailers to work toward increasing their total apparel sourcing from Haiti.
“Also in May 2010 the President signed the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, which dramatically expands duty-free access for apparel and textile exports to the U.S. market from Haiti.
“Plus One for Haiti and the expanded trade preferences have generated significant interest from companies that are ready to invest in and source from Haiti once the country has increased capacity for production sufficiently.
“And international financial institutions are supporting infrastructure reconstruction and industrial park development so that new factories can be built as soon as possible.
“As Haiti rises we will be her partner through trade, expanding economic opportunity for a resilient nation. At the same time the struggles of so many Haitians help to put our own national challenges in perspective.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, America is moving forward with economic recovery and building a new foundation for future prosperity.
“The President’s new foundation will keep us competitive for years to come so our children and grand-children have a decent shot at getting well-paying jobs and raising their families in peace and prosperity.
“In turn, economic renewal at home will reaffirm our standing in the world. And the United States will continue to meet the responsibilities of global leadership.
“That’s our vision – a future where trade creates more Florida jobs, builds a new foundation for America’s future prosperity, and supports U.S. leadership throughout the world.
“We are all partners in this common cause. Together we can deliver real results for working families in South Florida. We can support more Florida jobs. And we can keep moving forward on the right track. I look forward to working with you.”