Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - November 29, 2022

Santos, Brazil
November 29, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Christopher, for that kind introduction and for your leadership. I look forward to working with you and AAPA on your POWERS initiative.

It is a pleasure to be here representing the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) in our second year participating in the American Association of Port Authorities Latino Conference. 

ITA is committed to building a more prosperous and inclusive economy through strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry and workers, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade practices. Two of our key priorities are at the top of the agenda for ports and maritime industries—ensuring resilient and secure supply chains and combatting climate change. 

The port and maritime industry is close to my heart. Growing up near the Brooklyn docks in New York City, ports have always been a part of my life, a reminder of home. From my grandfather’s job as a cook on a tugboat in New York Harbor, to my uncle’s working on an ocean liner running voyages to ports throughout South America, I saw the ocean as a source of livelihoods and a gateway to adventure. Today, whenever I am home in New York City, I look forward to hearing foghorns in the harbor and to seeing industrial maritime traffic on the Hudson River as soon as I step outside of my front door.

In my previous role as Director of the New York City Department of City Planning, I oversaw New York’s comprehensive waterfront planning process, in which we examined all of the multiple uses of the waterfront access through an equity lens. So, I am a firm believer in the power and the potential of maritime industries—or what we at the Department of Commerce call the Blue Economy.

Maritime logistics are the backbone of global commerce: more than five in six cubic meters of international trade in goods are transported by sea. This immense enterprise, with nodes spanning the globe, raises thorny challenges—most especially with respect to supply chains and climate. Indeed, if the maritime shipping sector were a nation, it would be the eighth largest emitter globally. 

The scope and urgency of improving sustainability and ensuring robust supply chains across the industry demands collaborative, innovative solutions. Our team at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration are working to forge a more sustainable and resilient maritime sector. 

Consistent with President Biden’s commitment to combat the climate crisis at home and abroad, we are harnessing the power of trade, forging international cooperation and leveraging the innovation of the private sector to reduce emissions and accelerate the clean technology transition, including in Latin America’s maritime industries. As those here today know so well, ports are central to this work. They are not only affected by the consequences of climate change, they also play an essential role in confronting it through onshore and vessel technologies that are decarbonizing the industry.

Our team is proud to help drive this work, starting with our U.S. “Go Green and Blue Initiative”, which we launched at the AAPA Latino Conference last year in Bogotá, and we are enthusiastic about continuing it through active participation in future AAPA Latino Conferences.  

Included under the mantle of U.S. “Go Green and Blue” are our efforts to promote clean technologies and supply chain sustainability throughout Latin America. We do this through trade missions, export promotion and engagement with our foreign government counterparts to foster policies that encourage innovation in this important sector.

Of course, we recognize that governments alone cannot provide adequate climate solutions in ports and maritime industries. That is why our team is supporting cutting-edge U.S. climate technology firms that are seeking to export their solutions to global markets, thereby helping partner industries and governments to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions.  

At the same time, we are seeking out similar climate-focused companies abroad, encouraging these producers of innovative tech and critical inputs to invest in the United States to strengthen clean tech supply chains and to help meet the growing regional and global demand for these important solutions. 

Just as clean tech supply chains are integral to making our ports and maritime industries more sustainable, so too are maritime logistics at the heart of global supply chains—ensuring the wide distribution of goods and commodities, including those on which our health, prosperity and security rely. 

From COVID-19 to Russia’s unjust, illegal invasion of Ukraine, recent shocks to global supply chains have underscored the urgent need to build long-term resilience, dependability and security among trusted partners. Through technology like real-time monitoring and forecasting solutions that are made possible by open markets, we can increase visibility and transparency, which improve logistics and efficiency. 

Here, too, our ITA team is driving progress in close collaboration with international and private sector partners. Our supply chain industry specialists work closely with U.S. industry to identify the latest developments in freight transportation and logistics, including in the maritime sector. This information can then be used to support industry in reducing its carbon footprint and enhancing the competitiveness of sustainable U.S. transportation and logistics services.

Our team recently released a Supply Chain Sustainability Report, which examines key trends, public and private sector initiatives, and technologies across the major modes of freight transportation. This Sustainability Report also sets out how the Biden-Harris Administration is working with industry to reduce emissions. We will use this Report to inform our climate work going forward, especially under the U.S. “Go Green and Blue” Initiative. 

But, as I speak today surrounded by experts and decisionmakers from across the region, it is clear that our work must also extend beyond the U.S. domestic industry. We are eager to partner more closely with Latin American governments and industry on supply chain issues. This is an integral part of our broader engagement in the hemisphere, grounded in three overarching priorities: competitiveness, transparency and security. 

While supply chains and climate issues may dominate much of our time together, I will note that there is huge untapped potential in maritime logistics and, most especially, where it intersects with data flows.  

We at the Department of Commerce see the Blue Economy as a knowledge-based economy, looking to the sea not only for extraction of resources, but also for the figurative mining of data. 

In collaboration with our colleagues at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we are working to advance business opportunities in this nascent space, both within the United States and around the globe.

From harnessing the next-generation potential of the Blue Economy, to ensuring resilient supply chains, to accelerating clean technology adoption, our Department of Commerce International Trade Administration team is fully committed to supporting sustainable growth in ports and maritime industries across the Americas. 

To that end, I will close by inviting you to visit our International Trade Administration booth in the expo room, where you can meet our team members, who are based in Washington, Brazil, and countries throughout Latin America. After visiting our booth, you can learn more about what we do and how we can support you.

Once again, thank you Christopher, and to the American Association of Port Authorities for the invitation to speak and for hosting this important convening. I look forward to seeing you all on the expo floor.