Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
White House Colombian-American Briefing
Thursday, July 18, 2013
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon! ¡Buenas tardes!
Welcome to the White House. Bienvenidos.
I am delighted to be here with all of you.
And, today’s agenda, with both topics of discussion, and the speakers following me will lead to an excellent and important dialogue.
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say to you today, I wondered how many Colombian-Americans are in the United States.
Well, my colleagues at the Census Bureau said, that according to the 2000 Census there were more than 470,000.
Fast forward ten years and the 2010 Census said there were more than 908,000 Colombian-Americans in the U.S.
That’s a 93 percent increase!
And the latest available 2011 American Community Survey estimate of Colombian-Americans puts the population at more than 994,000.
This community is still growing and we are thrilled that many of the community’s leaders are able to join us today.
No doubt, you are all well aware of what is going on in Colombia.
The past 10 years have seen massive transformational change in Colombia with respect to economic and commercial development.
The Colombian middle class has nearly doubled in that time frame, now representing more than 35 percent of the total population.
Colombia has experienced record foreign direct investment over that time, reaching an all-time record of $15.3 billion last year.
The improvement in the national safety and security situation within Colombia has led to the country opening up for trade and investment.
For example, Colombia now has free trade agreements with almost every country in the Western Hemisphere and is currently working to implement a trade agreement with the European Union and is in talks with countries such as, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Australia.
The United States is proud to be part of this club, having implemented a bilateral trade promotion agreement with Colombia on May 15th, 2012.
I had the honor of being in Cartagena in April 2012 for the Summit of Americas where Presidents Obama and Santos announced the trade agreement’s date of entry into force.
Since then, I have been back to Colombia for the Americas Competitiveness Forum hosted in Cali in October and witnessed first-hand the optimism and excitement about the economic opportunities brought by this new partnership.
In just its first year, the trade agreement has produced impressive results for U.S. manufacturers, exporters, and farmers.
Already, more than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products and more than half of agricultural exports to Colombia are duty free, with remaining tariffs phased out over defined time periods.
The agreement also provides significant new access to Colombia’s $180 billion services market, supporting increased opportunities for U.S. service providers.
As a result, total U.S. exports to Colombia are up nearly 20 percent since the trade agreement took effect just over one year ago.
The agreement has also provided a vehicle for our two countries to engage on key outstanding issues related to the U.S.-Colombia agricultural trade relationship and has helped us resolve longstanding regulatory issues that had impeded greater trade between our countries.
We have escorted approximately 500 Colombian companies to visit U.S. trade shows through the International Trade Administration’s International Buyer Program.
Shows to which we have taken Colombian companies range from focusing on tourism, plastics and packaging to automotive, food and consumer electronics.
Our goal is to put U.S. and Colombian companies together and let them conduct business.
In addition to U.S. trade shows, we also recruit U.S. companies to attend Colombian trade shows such as, Inexmoda, Oil & Gas, and ANATO.
At other times, our efforts are to find ways institutions from our two countries can collaborate.
For example, this past February along with iNNpulsa Colombia, the Colombian government agency supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, we supported a Technology Transfer Trade Mission in which we recruited six U.S. university technology centers to travel to Colombia to meet with 20 Colombian universities for one-on-one meetings.
Just this week, I was in Miami to facilitate a series of meetings for Colombia’s Ministry of Trade and several Miami-area colleges, universities, and service providers to discuss possible partnerships to develop English-language training for Colombian entrepreneurs.
Next week, my agency will also implement a series of workshops with Colombia’s counterpart to our Food and Drug Administration, addressing best practices in product registration and port inspection procedures – with specific focus on trade in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, processed foods, and medical devices.
ITA has supported 13 trade missions from the United States to Colombia in the first year of the FTA, including the infrastructure business development trade mission, led by former Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, that coincided with the 1-year anniversary of the FTA.
And to underscore what an important friend Colombia is, Vice President Joe Biden was there in late May.
As you can tell, we are actively engaged and we are excited about the prospects for continued growth of the U.S.-Colombia trade relationship.
Growing our exports is a top priority for President Obama.
To strengthen America’s economy, support additional jobs here at home, and ensure long-term economic growth, President Obama launched a government-wide strategy to ensure U.S. businesses can actively participate and succeed in international markets.
The President created the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010 to directly improve the ability of the private sector to increase exports supporting America’s workers, farmers and ranchers, manufacturers and service providers, innovators, investors, and consumers.
The President set ambitious goals under the NEI of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and supporting an additional 2 million jobs.
The NEI is a whole-of-government effort in which export assistance and advocacy agencies, such as the International Trade Administration, work closely with financing and other trade agencies.
These efforts are paying off, now more than at any time in our history more Americans are selling more U.S. goods and services to customers abroad.
U.S. exports for the first quarter of 2013 were $559 billion, the highest quarterly total on record.
In 2012, U.S. exports hit an all-time record of more than $2.2 trillion.
American jobs supported by exports increased to 9.8 million in 2012, up 1.3 million since 2009.
Our trade agreements, including the recent agreement with Colombia, are driving this growth.
In fact, exports to free trade agreement countries represented nearly half of all U.S. goods exports in 2012 and grew twice as fast.
That’s why, under the NEI, it is critical that we, both government officials and leaders like you, continue to promote how important it is for U.S. companies to seize the incredible opportunities that our trade agreements hold for U.S. companies.
Again, thanks for taking the time to join us here at the White House.
And, thanks to Colombian-American community for all it is doing to contribute to the very fabric of our great nation.
Have a great afternoon. Muy buenas tardes.
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