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U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk Remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk

U.S. Conference of Mayors
Baltimore, Maryland
June 20, 2011

**As Prepared for Delivery**

“Good morning. Thank you, Mayor Kautz and Mayor Villaraigosa. Also thanks to Mayor Rawlings-Blake for hosting us here in Baltimore. And, of course, it is always good to see your Executive Director, and my friend, Tom Cochran.

“As chief executives of your cities, you are constantly thinking about the big picture, while at the same time watching the bottom line.

“You’re pursuing a vision of your cities’ future even as you balance budget priorities in a difficult fiscal environment.

“President Obama and I understand the circumstances you face. We care about your constituents’ needs. And I can assure you that entire Administration is committed to working with leaders like you so that we can meet our collective challenges together.

“We’ve just come through the worst recession since the Great Depression, and while our economy has been growing and adding private sector jobs, too many Americans are still struggling to get back on their feet.

“Even as we act with the utmost urgency, it’s important to remember that since we didn’t get into this mess overnight, we won’t get out of it overnight either. It’s going to take time.

“The good news is we’re headed in the right direction. Looking at the big picture, we’ve seen fifteen consecutive months of private sector jobs creation, over 2.1 million jobs. In the past six months alone, the economy has added over a million private sector jobs.

“And exports are contributing to our economic recovery – they were up 17 percent last year. That figure puts us on pace to meet President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

“In fact, I understand that later this morning you will be considering a resolution regarding the National Export Initiative.

“Of course, the Administration would greatly value your support, because we consider you critical partners in our efforts to enhance job creation in cities and communities across the country.

“For example, when I was Mayor of Dallas, I spent a lot of time talking with small business owners about how we could best help them grow their sales so they could hire more workers. We attracted investment and made Dallas a hub for international trade, so that we could connect our local businesses to customers all around the world.

“Now as U.S. Trade Representative, my job is to open up markets and increase opportunities for American producers to sell more of what we make, grow, and provide here in the U.S.A. to the 95 percent of consumers who live beyond our borders.

“That’s what the President’s National Export Initiative is all about. We’re taking a whole of government approach to increasing exports, with a special focus on helping more small businesses get involved in international trade.

“After all, small businesses are engines of American economic growth: historically, America’s small- and medium-sized businesses overall have created about two-thirds of new private sector jobs in the United States.

“And exports can help job-creating small businesses run even stronger: American small businesses that sell goods or services internationally have tended to grow faster, pay higher wages, and hire more quickly than similar-sized firms that only sell to U.S. customers.

“We have room to grow here, because right now only one out of every 100 U.S. small businesses is selling to foreign customers.

“Of course, opening up markets is a great way to create export opportunities. So President Obama is committed to passing trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia this year, as well as extending Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

“We are working every day with our partners in the House and Senate toward the informal markups that need to be held before these agreements are formally submitted.

“And we are also urging Congress to reach an agreement on TAA so that these agreements are not delayed.

“The bottom line is that there are real job-building opportunities on the table. That’s why we are working so hard to bring home the full benefits of trade for American businesses, workers, and families, in cities and communities across the country.

“More broadly speaking, we know what it takes to build a stronger economy and stay competitive.

“Looking at the big picture, we see how we must invest in the research and technology that will lead to new ideas and new industries of the future. We must build new roads and bridges.

“And we must manufacture new products right here in America, and then sell those U.S. products in markets all around the world.

“As mayors, you understand the critical importance of investing for the future. Economic development doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning and strong leadership to make tough decisions.

“And it requires cooperation. Government needs to work with the private sector to enable robust job creation.

“Last week, President Obama announced several new commitments by the private sector, colleges, and the National Association of Manufacturers to make it possible for 500,000 community college students to get industry-accepted credentials for manufacturing jobs that companies across America are looking to fill.

“The President also met with his Jobs Council to discuss ways we can spur private sector hiring in the short term and ensure our workers have the skills and training they need in this economy.

“The Jobs Council announced an effort to train 10,000 new American engineers every year, strengthening our competitiveness to ensure the new jobs and new industries are created right here in America.

“They also provided an update on the Better Buildings Initiative, which would be co-led by the Jobs Council and President Clinton. This initiative will lead to more energy efficient buildings across the nation, which could save America’s businesses up to $40 billion a year on their utility bills.

“This will also boost manufacturing of energy-efficient products and put contractors and construction workers back to work in many of your cities and communities.

“These efforts are part of the President’s overall plan to win the future for America. After all, he has challenged us to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build other countries, so that we can continue to out-sell and out-compete the rest of the world.

“As a former mayor, I know all of you want to seize every opportunity to create jobs, both in terms of the big picture and the bottom line. That’s our common goal, and I look forward to working with you to achieve it. Thank you.”