Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Western Hemisphere Business Opportunities Forum
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Manny.
I’m so proud to call you both a partner and a friend, and I appreciate that kind introduction.
I also want to extend my thanks to the entire Enterprise Florida team for their role in organizing this event.
Allow me to also recognize Ralph McNamara and the Florida District Export Council for their outstanding contributions — both to this forum and our economy.
Finally, I’d like to offer special thanks to all the Commercial Service Officers here today for their participation, their insight, and their tremendous work on behalf of U.S. businesses.
I’ve heard that this forum has been a very productive discussion.
I’m sorry I couldn’t join you earlier but I literally just flew in from Mexico where I was participating in a World Economic Forum event focused on Latin America.
Before that, I was in Colombia for the Summit of the Americas with President Obama and dozens of other Heads of State from across the Western Hemisphere.
So it’s been a busy time.
And I’m glad that I could end this hectic period with all of you today.
Since this morning, you’ve heard from roughly 30 great speakers, who have talked about a number of timely and important topics, and given valuable insight into overseas markets and opportunities.
So I promise to abide by the “three B’s” rule: be sincere, be brief, and then be seated.
Today, I’d like to talk about the big picture, specifically why it’s so important that American businesses like yours seize the great opportunities across the Western Hemisphere.
As all of you know, our country has faced some difficult challenges in recent years.
When President Obama took office in 2009, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month.
Many feared that we were entering a second Great Depression.
But, thanks to President Obama’s leadership — we avoided a complete economic collapse, and are now on the road to recovery.
The auto-industry is back.
GM is once again the world's number one automaker.
And more than 200,000 new jobs have been created over the last two and a half years in the American auto industry.
Manufacturing is back.
The sector has added 460,000 new jobs since 2010, the fastest growth since the 1990’s.
And overall — there have been 25 straight months of private sector growth, resulting in roughly 4 million new jobs.
Clearly this is all good news.
Across the country, Americans are finding new jobs, new opportunities and new hope.
President Obama deserves a lot of credit for this progress, taking bold action in the face of a historic crisis.
But all of us in the Administration know that there is a long way to go.
We won’t be satisfied until every person who wants a job can fine one.
And to make that happen, we’ve got to give American businesses every opportunity to succeed.
And exporting is key to achieving this goal.
It simply makes business sense for firms to sell their products in as many markets as they can, in order to reach as many customers as possible.
Yet remarkably — just 1 percent of U.S. businesses export.
We have to do better if our nation is going to be competitive in the 21st century.
We can’t afford to overlook the opportunities overseas.
I often tell entrepreneurs to imagine if they opened up a retail store — say in Dolphin Mall.
Then I ask them to imagine that, for whatever reason, they decided to market their products to just 5 out of every 100 customers that walked by.
Could that business ever reach its full potential?
Could it ever be competitive?
Of course not.
But, that’s just what happens when U.S. businesses don’t export because 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders.
Also consider that, according to the IMF, 85 percent of the world’s growth over the next five years will be abroad.
Furthermore, data shows that exports strengthen businesses.
From 2005-2009, U.S. small- and medium-sized manufacturers that exported experienced revenue growth of nearly 40 percent.
Those that didn’t export saw revenue decline 7 percent.
So the benefits of exporting are clear:
- more customers;
- more exposure to growth markets;
- more access to purchasing power; and
- healthier businesses.
Now, we’ve just got to get more businesses to experience these benefits.
This is something that President Obama recognized years ago.
In 2010, he launched the National Export Initiative, with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
Last month was the two-year anniversary of the NEI, and we’ve done very well.
In 2011 alone — U.S. exports reached an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in total value.
And if you look behind the numbers, these efforts are making a significant positive impact on families and communities.
Last year, exports supported roughly 10 million jobs, helping Americans pay for:
- their rents;
- their groceries
- and their children’s tuition bills.
So we’re making progress.
And we want to keep this progress going by giving more American businesses every chance to succeed — especially in international markets with the great potential.
That work brings us to the Western Hemisphere.
As all of you know, the Western Hemisphere is an increasingly prosperous and peaceful region.
These improving conditions present U.S. firms with great opportunities to do business — opportunities which have increased during President Obama’s tenure.
U.S. exports to the Western Hemisphere are up by 46 percent since 2009.
We now export more to the Western Hemisphere than to any other region in the world
That’s good news for the American people.
And it’s good news for Florida.
Businesses in this state are uniquely positioned to succeed in the Western Hemisphere.
They are linked by geography, common values and mutual interests.
And that’s reflected in the numbers.
Florida’s exports to the Western Hemisphere are up nearly 30 percent since 2009.
This is generating economic growth.
It’s supporting jobs.
And it’s boosting the bottom line for businesses.
So we’ve got to keep the momentum going.
One way is at the policy level.
As Walter talked about earlier — two of the three trade agreements President Obama signed into law last year were with Colombia and Panama.
And, it was just announced that the agreement with Colombia will take effect on May 15.
On that day, over 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia will become duty-free
The agreement will also provide significant new access to a $180 billion services market.
This is a significant milestone for businesses like yours.
Estimates are that this will lead to an increase in U.S. GDP of $2.5 billion.
And we look forward to working with you to ensure that you are a part of this growth.
When it comes to the Panama trade agreement — details are still being finalized.
But, when it’s completed, U.S. businesses will have new opportunities in one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America.
President Obama deserves a lot of credit for getting the best deal on behalf of the American people.
And the Administration will continue to work at the policy level to push for progress.
We are also working towards this goal through partnerships.
Our latest effort was announced by President Obama last Friday in my home city of Tampa.
It’s called the Small Business Network of the Americas.
Among other things, this initiative will connect together the more than 2000 Small Business Development Centers, and similar SME support centers, located throughout the Hemisphere.
This will help small- and medium-sized enterprises gain greater access to markets across the region.
As the President said: “small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of our Nation’s promise.”
We’ve got to do everything we can to help them succeed, and this is an important step in this effort.
So we’re doing work through partnerships.
We are doing work at the policy level.
And finally, we are doing work on the ground at the community level.
That’s why we are here today.
The Commercial Service Officers here know about the great opportunities throughout the Hemisphere.
The businesses represented here offer products and services that can meet this demand overseas.
So let’s link them together.
This work will support economic development throughout the Hemisphere.
It will benefit your bottom lines, your employees, and your communities.
It will boost exports, help people at a time when they need it, and strengthen our nation’s economic future.
And, in the big picture, it will help continue to pave the road for our nation’s economic recovery, and ensure that America’s best days are indeed ahead.
So let’s continue to work together to ensure that our discussions today lead to action and progress tomorrow.
Once again, thank you all for participating in this important dialogue.
And I look forward to our continued work together.
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