Acting Under Secretary for International Trade Joseph Semsar Remarks - December 17, 2019

Remarks at Launch of Expanded America Crece Growth an Americas Initiative
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019


As Prepared For Delivery


Good afternoon and thank you to thank the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for hosting this important event to launch the America Crece initiative.


I would also like to thank all of today’s presenters from our partner countries, U.S. industry, and numerous U.S. government agencies.


The Department of Commerce plays an important role in this landmark new initiative by connecting U.S. businesses with opportunities and partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.


As the Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, I lead the International Trade Administration, an agency charged with creating prosperity by strengthening the international competitiveness of U.S. industry, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade and compliance with trade laws and agreements.


ITA’s global footprint consists of more than 100 domestic-based U.S. Export Assistance Centers, U.S. Commercial Service officers in more than 70 countries worldwide, and headquarters staff consisting of country and industry experts focused on addressing trade barriers and market challenges.


We introduce U.S. exporters, including small businesses and startups, to potential buyers and distributors and offer the tailored advice that companies need to compete and win in foreign markets.


We accomplish our mission in three ways. First, our U.S. Commercial Service staff assists U.S. companies with access to new markets globally. We provide counseling and information, such as helping develop business strategies or increasing brand awareness in foreign markets.


Second, we facilitate discussions with government decision makers and policy influencers. ITA’s trade policy role, blended with our trade promotion work, creates new relationships and strong contacts for U.S. businesses looking to get a firmer foothold overseas.


Third, we help U.S. businesses succeed in trade through customized solutions, from transactional issues, like getting U.S. products through customs, to commercial diplomacy, such as breaking down barriers to market entry.


Last year, ITA assisted more than 30,000 companies, the majority of which were small and medium sized enterprises located across all 50 states and the U.S. territories to access new opportunities in international markets and overcome challenges and barriers.


As our neighbors and friends, the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean have long been among our closest commercial partners.


This is evidenced by the multitude of longstanding trade agreements the United States has maintained with countries in the region.


These include the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA-DR, Bilateral agreements with Chile, Colombia, Panama, and Peru, and the newly agreed upon U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.


In fact, of the twenty countries globally with whom the United States has free trade agreements, eleven are countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.


However, when it comes to infrastructure, U.S. companies are only involved in 2 percent of the construction projects in Latin America.


In comparison, companies from Spain are involved in 19 percent of construction projects, followed by China at 7 percent.


We can and must do better.


In Latin America, there is nearly $4.5 trillion dollars in potential opportunities over the next 10 years.


America Crece presents an opportunity to address this issue, and further solidify our important commercial relationships by collaborating on vital infrastructure projects.


As Secretary Ross highlighted in his remarks at the White House this morning, American businesses are at the cutting edge of technologies and practices that enhance the efficiency and reliability of critical infrastructure.


U.S. firms are well positioned to address Latin America’s infrastructure needs because they bring a unique value-set to the table.


They provide the world’s most innovative products and services; promote political and social stability, hire and train local workers, and doing business with U.S. firms won’t burden countries with loans that can never be repaid.


Infrastructure in all of its forms – whether it be energy, high speed telecommunications networks, public health, or aviation – is the lifeblood of any economy. For U.S. industry as well as our friends and partners throughout the region, we have a unique opportunity through this exciting initiative to ensure the prosperity and security of the Americas.


At the Department of Commerce, an agency committed to promoting economic growth and prosperity in the United States and around the world, we have long recognized the importance of maintaining strong, state-of-the-art infrastructure in supporting the economic health of our nation and that of our partner nations.


With America Crece, we finally have the means to improve the infrastructure and expand commercial ties with every nation in our hemisphere.


This brings me to how the Department of Commerce supports the vital work of this initiative.


From working through big-picture policy issues to facilitating business-to-business introductions, the Department of Commerce is excited to take the lead on coordinating America Crece’s efforts to engage the American business community in this work.


The Department of Commerce is already playing a central role in drawing from the experience and expertise of our industry leaders to identify opportunities, develop best practices, and overcome challenges facing our partner nations as they work toward their infrastructure goals.


On February 20, we plan to host an industry symposium to solicit feedback from industry stakeholders on how the U.S. government can better assist businesses in capitalizing on opportunities.


The U.S. Commercial Service will also leverage its network of industry specialists located throughout the United States, as well as embassies and consulates in more than twenty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, to connect U.S. businesses with partners in the region to help advance vital infrastructure projects.


Additionally, our deal teams bring together the resources of multiple U.S. government agencies, such as the State Department, USTDA, and the ExIm Bank. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Department of Commerce-led Deal Teams in the Western Hemisphere helped close approximately 4.7 billion dollars in deals in renewable energy, construction, security, aerospace and other infrastructure sectors.


These are just a few of the ways the Department of Commerce is already supporting the work of America Crece. I am excited to see how our future work continues to strengthen ties between U.S. industry and Latin American and Caribbean countries.


In closing, I would like to thank you for your important work on America Crece. It has been a great honor to be here with you today to celebrate the official launch of this exciting new initiative, and I look forward to our continued collaboration.