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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative

Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Chicago, Illinois
April 14, 2011

* As Prepared for Delivery *

“Thank you, Michael. And thanks to Marshall Bouton and all the members of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs for hosting today’s events.

“Thank you, Ambassador Michael Michalak for over three decades of service to our country and your continuing service in support of the APEC Host Committee.

“And of course, thank you, Mayor Daley. It’s great to be here. As a former mayor, it’s always exciting for me to visit another city, and you’ve built one of the best here in Chicago.

“Under Mayor Daley’s leadership Chicago has developed what it takes to excel in international trade: a wide range of industries from aerospace and automobile manufacturing to health care and high-tech, a strong infrastructure network with one of the world’s busiest airports, and great colleges and universities that continue to attract the world’s best and the brightest to the Windy City.

“In fact, the entire state of Illinois benefits from trade. Last year, the Land of Lincoln exported $49.8 billion of goods, which makes it the 6th largest exporter among the 50 states. In 2009, the greater Chicago area exported $28.2 billion, which makes it the 7th largest exporting metropolitan area in the United States. And in 2008, an estimated 384,000 private sector jobs in Illinois were supported by U.S. exports.

“The positive correlation between increased exports and U.S. jobs is a major reason why President Obama created the National Export Initiative and set a goal to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

“Our approach is yielding results. Exports were up 18 percent last year. Overall we’ve had 13 straight months of private sector job growth, which has added a total of 1.8 million private sector jobs.

“Moving forward, trade continues to play an important role in President Obama’s plan to win the future with better jobs for more Americans.

“Because President Obama has said that to win the future, America must continue to attract the best jobs and industries of the 21st century to our shores.

“That’s why the Administration supports making investments in areas that will help us sell more to the world by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building the international competition.

“The President wants to make sure America stays on the cutting edge, and continues to lead when it comes to trade, innovation, and job creation.

“In that vein, it is fitting that our focus today is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and the ambitious agenda for 2011 we have planned as APEC host this year.

“Since its inception in 1989, APEC has been taking on pressing and new cutting-edge business, trade, and investment issues as they emerge.

“Today APEC has become the primary regional vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic cooperation.

“And of course, the United States is hosting APEC this year for the first time since 1993. We’re eager to seize the promise of APEC 2011 because the Asia-Pacific region matters for U.S. exporters of all sizes.

“The 21 APEC member economies account for over 40 percent of the world's population, over 54 percent of world GDP, and approximately 44 percent of world trade.

“In fact, APEC economies represent 9 of the top 15 export markets for U.S. goods. Over 60 percent of U.S. goods exports in 2010 were to APEC economies.

“All of these numbers paint a clear picture that there are great export opportunities for U.S. businesses both small and large in the Asia-Pacific.

“Of course, our collective challenge is to find ways for business leaders like you to seize these opportunities. APEC helps us do that.

“This year, our APEC goal is to build towards a seamless regional economy by pursuing practical, concrete and significant outcomes in three priority areas: (1) strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade; (2) promoting green growth; and (3) advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence.

“Last month in Washington APEC senior officials discussed each of these issues. So I’d like to spend the next few minutes sharing some concrete examples of how our APEC work could help your business.

“With regard to strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade, here are four examples.

“First, you and your customers may also be pleased to know that APEC is working to reduce the time, cost, and uncertainty of moving goods through the Asia-Pacific region with the Supply Chain Connectivity Action Plan.

“Under the Action Plan, there are a number of initiatives that we are working on with other APEC economies to help U.S. businesses exporting to the region.

“One of the areas we seek to discuss with our APEC partners is how to expedite the shipment of goods under a certain value by establishing a commercially useful baseline de minimis value for APEC.

“This could benefit small businesses by allowing relevant low value shipments to enter economies without paying duties or taxes. And it would allow for customs officials to process those relevant shipments more quickly. Both of these factors would lower exporting costs, which could be especially beneficial for small businesses seeking to grow through trade.

“Second, here’s another APEC idea that could help you and your customers.

“Last year we put all the information regarding tariff schedules and rules of origin for virtually all 21 APEC economies in English on one website – it’s called WebTR.

“This year we are looking at ways to expand WebTR with additional information such as summaries of existing trade agreements, so that you and your customers can more easily take advantage of trade opportunities throughout the Asia-Pacific.

“Third, APEC partners are focusing on the intersection of trade and innovation. Specifically, we are looking to advance the adoption of competitive, market-driven innovation policy in the region.

“This initiative will give us a good opportunity to discuss why the ability to use technology is critical to growth, and why policies that limit this access are detrimental to economies’ future economic prospects.

“Fourth, we are hosting the first ever joint meeting of Trade Ministers and small business ministers in Big Sky, Montana. This meeting will focus on identifying top barriers small businesses face when exporting in the region and how APEC can address these barriers in ways that will provide a real benefit for small businesses.

“For example, one idea we would like to explore would be for APEC economies to provide contact information for relevant authorities that can be used by a small business if they suspect that their intellectual property is being stolen.

“Economies could also provide relevant information and guidance on the legal protections provided for intellectual property.

“With regard to promoting green growth, we are working to gain agreement from APEC economies for streamlined, tariff-free temporary import of advanced, low-carbon demonstration vehicles.

“This could encourage greater R&D for these research vehicles by reducing the time and cost of exporting them for trials in foreign markets. Gaining greater access to valuable research data is essential for automakers to tailor their production and sale strategies to specific markets.

“That’s why the ability to send these demonstration vehicles to other economies will help American automakers stay competitive in new and growing markets.

“Such efforts could also support President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which calls for America to reduce net imports of foreign oil by one-third by the year 2025.

“To reach this goal we plan to increase U.S. domestic energy production and enhance efficiency and conservation measures, including alternative fuel vehicles.

“With regard to advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence, the U.S. is working in APEC to prevent or reduce non-tariff trade barriers, improve the investment environment, and produce better regulatory outcomes.

“We know that small businesses especially tend to lack the major resources required to navigate different legal, regulatory, and technical requirements in foreign markets. That’s why we are discussing with our APEC partners concepts like stronger internal coordination of rulemaking, regulatory impact assessment, and public consultation.

“In particular, our conversations are advancing in emerging sectors related to green growth such as smart grid, green building materials, and solar technologies.

“We think concrete, practical measures like these will help to level the playing field in a way that encourages more small businesses to get in the game when it comes to exporting around the Asia-Pacific.

“We’ll be discussing all of these ideas and many more next month when I chair the meeting of APEC trade ministers in Big Sky, Montana. The work we do there will advance the APEC 2011 agenda toward the final Economic Leaders’ Meeting, which will be hosted by President Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii this November.

“On that note, let me just close by emphasizing that supporting job creation is job one for the Obama Administration.

“We understand that opening up opportunities for American producers to compete abroad allows leaders like you to expand your businesses and create more jobs here at home.

“I look forward to working with you. Thank you.”