Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Americas Competitiveness Forum Official Dinner
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Santa Domingo, Domincan Republic
As prepared for delivery
Good evening and thank you for that warm reception.
Your Excellency, President Dr. Leonel Fernández, Minister van der Horst, esteemed ministers, colleagues, partners and friends.
On behalf of the Obama Administration, it is an honor and a pleasure to be with you tonight to celebrate the 5th Annual Americas Competitiveness Forum.
All of us in this room represent different regions, and bring a diversity of interests and perspectives to the table. But, I know we all agree that this ACF has been a tremendous success.
The last thing I want to do is stop the momentum by giving a long speech. But, I do want to leave you with a few thoughts.
First, I want to express my appreciation to the Dominican Republic for the outstanding job they’ve done hosting this year. I know that a number of people deserve recognition, but I do want to pay special tribute to the leadership of President Fernandez.
He’s been a good friend to the United States. And, for his people, he has been an incredible champion for reform, progress and prosperity.
Mr. President: thank you for your work and hospitality this week. It really is an honor to be here.
To me, ACF represents an opportunity: An opportunity to share experiences and ideas, an opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and setbacks, an opportunity to strengthen our existing partnerships and form new ones, and, of course, an opportunity to create new opportunities for the people of the Americas.
This is important work. The world is rapidly changing. Think back to the first ACF in 2007. It doesn’t seem like that long ago. But, it was. It took place before the financial meltdown that crippled the global economy, a crisis that still presents us with challenges.
So, yes, the world is changing. And, we must all change with it to be competitive. We all have to rethink how we do things. But, in these difficult times, it’s important that all governments resist the temptation to turn inward in an effort to exert more control over their economic destiny.
This isn’t the solution. Instead, we must turn outward. We must expand our economic imagination. We must embrace the exciting possibilities that exist throughout the Americas. Why? Because no country has a monopoly on good ideas and innovation.
We all have something to learn. We all have something to offer. That’s why success in the 21st century will be fueled by cooperation and community. We must help each other sharpen our competitive edges and build a better future for our peoples.
A full commitment to economic integration is essential to this effort. It’s in all of our interests to expand our trade with each other. For instance, supply chains present enormous opportunities for all of us.
One example is the textile industry. In the United States, it employs nearly 600,000 workers sector-wide, with shipments totaling more than $50 billion last year.
A key focus of our textile manufacturing companies is on expanding commercial relationships with our neighbors to the north and the south, whose markets offer tremendous opportunities — for both sides.
The textile and apparel trade is extremely important to many of the countries in the Western Hemisphere — especially Central America and the Caribbean. In Nicaragua, for example, 51 percent of their exports to the U.S. are apparel. And, the Americas are the largest market for U.S. textile and apparel.
Much of the U.S. textile exports to the region —especially to Mexico and CAFTA-DR — are converted into apparel that is shipped to the U.S. duty-free under the benefits created by our free trade agreements with those countries.
That regional integration encourages us to continue to work closely with those trading partners to maintain and increase the textile and apparel trade flow.
That’s largely why, in 2010, U.S. textile and apparel trade with the Western Hemisphere grew, with imports rising 11 percent and exports growing by 20 percent.
Cleary, textile trade in the Americas region has a strong foundation. And we believe it is well positioned to grow.
One other quick supply chain example is in aviation. Earlier this year, Embraer — the Brazilian aircraft maker — opened an assembly plant in Florida. To create these jets, parts and components of the aircraft are brought by sea from Brazil.
The Florida plant then assembles the aircraft — doing everything from the interior furnishing to the painting. It’s just a remarkable example of all that’s possible when we work together.
More than ever, it’s clear: When the Western Hemisphere does well, all of us can benefit. I want you to know that the United States is fully committed to developing mutually beneficial, prosperous partnerships.
That commitment starts at the top. Earlier this year, President Obama spoke about the Latin American region and said:
“We've always had a special bond with our neighbors to the south. It's a bond born of shared history and values and strengthened by the millions of Americans who proudly trace their roots to Latin America. But what's clear is that in an increasingly global economy, our partnership with these nations is only going to become more vital. For it's a source of growth and prosperity—and not just for the people of Latin America, but for the American people as well.”
By coming together this week, we are helping to pave a new path to prosperity. And, I look forward to our continued partnership in the years ahead to help our peoples walk down this path — together.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to speak. Thank you to President Fernandez and the Dominican Republic for your hospitality.
Enjoy the rest of the dinner and forum.
The International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, manages this global trade site to provide access to ITA information on promoting trade and investment, strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry, and ensuring fair trade and compliance with trade laws and agreements. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein. This site contains PDF documents. A PDF reader is available from Adobe Systems Incorporated.