Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - March 14, 2023

Bangkok, Thailand
March 14, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Jim. What an honor to be here alongside Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong and Ambassador Godec as our nations celebrate 190 years of diplomatic relations and as we embark on new opportunities through this exciting gathering. 

Kuhn Supattanapong, the U.S. government is eager to partner with Thailand to help strengthen your position as a regional hub—whether in transportation, communications, healthcare, energy or other sectors. The United States’ innovative private sector companies stand ready to support your ambition through their cutting edge products and services. 

To prove this point, I will recognize and warmly thank all of the U.S. companies joining us as official sponsors and partners for this year’s Trade Winds program. We literally could not hold Trade Winds without you. And I will also welcome our friends from the AmChams of Asia-Pacific. The discussion that we had yesterday was frank, practical and results oriented. You are valued partners.  

I am pleased to be back in Bangkok, delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to reinvigorating our ties with ASEAN nations. This commitment motivated my prior visit to Thailand just six months ago, when I first had the pleasure of meeting you, Khun Supattanapong. And this commitment is reflected in the four trade missions that the U.S. Commerce Department led to Southeast Asia last year.    

The United States is working to ensure a free, open and interconnected Indo-Pacific. We are preparing to tackle next-generation challenges, alongside of our partners. With 60 percent of the world’s population, the Indo-Pacific is projected to be the largest contributor to global economic growth over the next 30 years, creating tremendous opportunities. As such, we are eager to expand trade and investment ties across the region, fueling a new wave of job creation and shared prosperity. 

The centerpiece of our economic engagement is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF. Launched last May by President Biden and the heads of state and their representatives from 13 partner nations, IPEF is a novel economic arrangement that offers an affirmative vision for promoting long-term and inclusive economic growth and stability across the Indo-Pacific region. We are optimistic about IPEF’s potential to tackle 21st century challenges in order to boost innovation, enhance our mutual economic competitiveness, and increase job creation—and we are determined that these benefits be broadly and equitably shared. 

This week, delegations from the 14 IPEF Partner nations are meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are leading the U.S. delegation. Let me give you a glimpse of what is being discussed by our IPEF negotiators in Bali.   

First, we are working to increase supply chain resilience, mitigate supply chain disruptions and foster collective action in critical sectors, while supporting workforce development and labor rights.  

Second, we are capitalizing on the clean energy transition—helping to unlock economic opportunities by tapping into IPEF Partners’ abundant clean energy potential. We are also promoting low- and zero-emissions goods and services.  

Third, we are leveling the playing field for businesses and workers among IPEF countries by strengthening anticorruption efforts, increasing the efficiency of tax administration and enhancing transparency.  

And fourth, we are seeking high-standard provisions in areas that are foundational to resilient, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth. These include provisions on labor, environment, transparency and good regulatory practices, competition, inclusivity, and trade facilitation. Significantly, we will also seek provisions and initiatives to promote trusted and secure cross-border data flows, inclusive and sustainable growth of the digital economy and the responsible development and sue of emerging technologies. 

IPEF, along with our robust bilateral engagements in the Indo-Pacific region, is poised to grow sustainable and equitable trade and investment. But economic diplomacy among governments is only part of the equation. Another essential factor is all of you in the private sector, who work every day to fulfill the promise of economic engagement—working deal by deal and sale by sale to expand existing commercial relationships and create new ones.  

Supporting your access to global markets is what Trade Winds is all about. So, our Trade Winds team has assembled an unparalleled commercial program that includes business matchmaking, client counseling, and other programs and services. With more than 100 U.S. companies here representing some 20 industry sectors, along with U.S. government experts who are stationed in over 20 Indo-Pacific markets, there is limitless potential for what we can achieve together this week.  

Still, the success of Trade Winds—and of all our U.S. Department of Commerce programs—cannot be measured by trade and investment flows alone. Ensuring that growth is sustainable and equitable also demands  increasing the pool of exporters—which is why we are deeply committed to helping micro and small businesses, and those that are located in historically underserved communities, to overcome obstacles to doing business in global markets.    

I am heartened by the diversity of our Trade Winds delegation, which hails from 34 states and the District of Columbia. Of the companies here today, more than a third report being either rural or women-, minority-, veteran-, disabled-owned. Most are also micro-, small- or medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise the majority of U.S. exporters. In fact, 85 percent of the clients served by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration are MSMEs. 

Our commitment to equity extends beyond ensuring that our services reach all U.S. businesses. We also see international trade as a lever to uplift marginalized or underserved communities across global markets.  As part of this effort, two days ago we launched the EMPOWER Asia Initiative. Empower stands for Export Markets Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise. EMPOWER Asia seeks to create economic opportunity for women by providing U.S. and Asian women business leaders with networking, mentorship and digital skilling resources so that they can thrive in competitive markets. We expect that the connections and insights sparked by EMPOWER Asia will return compelling benefits on both sides of the Pacific, especially for those who are newer to international trade. 

Whether you are a first-time exporter or a seasoned globetrotter, a healthy business environment is essential to pursuing opportunities and converting leads into tangible deals. That is why we are eager to hear from all of you about how our U.S. Government team can help you seize opportunities and overcome challenges that you face doing business in Asia. In addition to the scores of representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce who are here, I am so grateful that colleagues from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of State have joined Trade Winds. My colleagues—Assistant Secretary for Global Markets Arun Venkataraman and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia Pamela Phan—join me in welcoming your input so that we can be even more effective advocates as we meet with our Southeast Asian government counterparts during mission stops.  This includes highlighting areas where U.S. businesses are most eager to collaborate—from climate change mitigation, to the clean energy transition, to supply chain resilience, to digital transformation.  

Before I close, I will take advantage of this fantastic gathering of businesses to pitch you on two upcoming events.  The first is our annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, which is the U.S.’s annual landmark event to facilitate foreign direct investment into the United States. SelectUSA will be held from the first through the fourth of May in the greater Washington, DC area. I encourage businesses and investors from across Southeast Asia to take advantage of SelectUSA’s unique gathering of businesses, economic development organizations, and federal, state and local government representatives. SelectUSA is the single best place to explore investment opportunities across America—which you may know is the world’s top investment destination.  

Now for the second event. Those of you here today are about the be the first to learn of the location for Trade Winds 2024: Istanbul, Türkiye. Our U.S. Commerce team is committed to helping the people of Türkiye rebuild after last month’s devastating earthquakes. In this dark time, the generosity and solutions of the American private sector have already helped provide a glimmer of hope. I urge you to join us during brighter days in May 2024 in Istanbul.

With that, my thanks once again for your journeying—whether across town or around the world—so that you could be here.