Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
Remarks at Trade Winds Forum Brazil
Monday, April 26, 2010
São Paulo, Brazil
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Brian, for that very kind introduction. I am delighted to join you, Joe Hanley, Danny Devito, and your teams here in Sao Paulo. I know that you and your teams, both here and in DC, have worked tirelessly to organize the biggest Trade Winds program to date. Events such as these take much effort, but they also pave the way for much commercial success.
Thank you also to Ambassador Shannon for hosting our team in Brazil, as well as to our 30+ private sponsors for their support. Without such public-private partnerships, we would not be able to orchestrate this event every year.
To the 120 small and medium companies represented here today, let me welcome you to Sao Paulo. I am honored to be here with you today at our Trade Winds Forum. The Trade Winds program is now in its fourth year, and while every year this program gets bigger and better, the goal remains the same – enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. exporters, particularly small and medium sized companies. We believe that small and medium exporters are the key to building America’s position in the global marketplace, and your continued success in exporting will create jobs at home and revitalize our economy.
Our team has planned a terrific program for you, including over 700 counseling sessions and 60 gold key appointments. We are also leading a delegation of 30 U.S. companies to Rio de Janeiro for meetings with local business leaders and government officials to explore opportunities for U.S. companies to participate in preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Knowing Brazil’s love for soccer, and as a huge soccer fan myself, I know we have much to look forward to in terms of the commercial opportunities the World Cup presents, and of course, to the games themselves.
This morning, I would like to share some thoughts about the role of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in President Obama’s National Export Initiative, and in particular, the importance we place on trade in the Western Hemisphere.
First, let me say that I speak about the importance of doing business in Latin America from personal experience. Prior to being selected by President Obama to lead the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, I spent over thirty years in international business. Earlier in my career, I ran Warner Lambert’s Latin American businesses, as well as those for Johnson and Johnson, and I have seen firsthand the immense possibility, potential, and prosperity that come from trade in this region.
The Western Hemisphere is one of the strongest markets for U.S. exports, receiving 42% of total U.S. exports in 2009. For this reason, Western Hemisphere countries will continue to be a focal point for the U.S. business community and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. In 2008, U.S. goods and services trade in the Western Hemisphere totaled $1.5 trillion, $686 billion of which were U.S. exports.
Given our sheer proximity to Western Hemisphere countries, and our extensive cultural linkages, we can, and must, do better. Latin Americans represent the largest, youngest, and fast growing minority in the United States. These ties can only help facilitate already strong trade relationships in the region.
With unemployment at unacceptably high levels, boosting U.S. exports is a national imperative. It has never been more important for our companies to increase their sales to the 95% of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States.
Along those lines, earlier this year, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI). The NEI is an unprecedented, comprehensive strategy aimed at doubling U.S. exports over five years, creating two million jobs in the process, by utilizing the full resources of the U.S. government to assist American businesses that want to sell their goods and services abroad.
To facilitate this mission, the National Export Initiative focuses on impacting three critical areas of international trade: trade promotion and advocacy; availability of credit and financing; and free and fair access to foreign markets.
The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service is largely responsible for the first prong of the NEI. Our core mission is to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry by promoting U.S. exports, and providing commercial diplomacy and advocacy support for U.S. business interests around the world. As Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General, I lead a top-notch team of over 1,500 trade professionals in 109 domestic U.S. Export Assistance Centers and 126 commercial offices located in our embassies and consulates in almost 80 countries.
Our offices serve as one-stop shops for U.S. exporters, which provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from market intelligence and soup-to-nuts trade counseling; to business matchmaking that connects U.S. exporters with potential partners; to trade advocacy to level the international playing field for U.S. companies competing for foreign procurements.
The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service has a strong presence in the Western Hemisphere, including almost 250 trade professionals, operating in 28 cities across 14 countries. In fiscal year 2009, our Western Hemisphere region were responsible for generating over 2,400 export successes, valued at $1.5 billion. To emphasize the significance of this event, we have brought all 14 of our Senior Commercial Officers from the Western Hemisphere region to Brazil this week. Please take advantage of their time here, and talk with them about the export markets in their countries.
One of the most important trade promotion tools of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serve are our trade missions, which help U.S. companies learn first-hand about global markets. Trade missions, such as the one in conjunction with the Trade Winds Forum, provide opportunities for U.S. companies to attend market briefings, participate in site visits and networking receptions, and have one-on-one business matchmaking appointments with pre-screened potential buyers, agents, and distributors. Trade missions offer access, clout and the prestige of being part of a U.S. government trade delegation, and they gain the attention of government officials, business leaders, and media in international markets.
The National Export Initiative will raise the profile of the 40 trade missions that the U.S. and Foreign Commercial service is organizing this year, including several missions we are organizing in Latin America. In June, we are leading a delegation of 16 U.S. companies for a Caribbean Business Development Mission to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. And in September, we are planning three trade missions to the region, including a mission to Colombia and Panama, a security and safety industry trade mission to Brazil, and a green technologies mission to Mexico.
These trade missions are just a few examples of how the National Export Initiative will contribute to building a stronger economic foundation – both for American and the world – by raising the level of attention on building our international trade relationships. Through the NEI, American businesses that want to export are going to have a more vigorous partner in the U.S. Government.
The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service has always been committed to enhancing American competitiveness, by building on America’s core strength of creating and selling products and services that help others around the world improve lives and livelihoods. The National Export Initiative reinforces the commitment of the U.S. Government to assisting American businesses expand the global footprint of our products and services to consumers and businesses around the world. This is, after all, the essence of America’s commitment to free and fair trade.
Thank you for having me with you, and I wish you the best of luck in your commercial endeavors during your visit to Brazil.
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