Under Secretary Marisa Lago Remarks - June 23, 2022

Washington, DC
June 23, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Matt, for that kind introduction. And my thanks to both the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) for hosting today’s event.  

It is a privilege to be here alongside Chairman Sasaki and this distinguished panel, and to be able to represent the Department of Commerce and specifically the International Trade Administration (ITA) in this discussion on the future of the economic order in the Asia-Pacific region.

I am proud to represent an Administration that is so deeply committed to building a more prosperous and inclusive global economy here at home through strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry and workers, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade practices.

ITA’s work is at the center of this effort and grounded in the conviction that economic security is national security.  Beyond expanding prosperity and creating jobs, trade and investment are levers to advance economic and strategic priorities, and keep our nation secure—from safeguarding supply chains to advancing high standards. 

This is especially true in the Indo-Pacific, a dynamic region that three out of every five people on our planet call home, and that is poised to drive such a significant percentage of global economic growth in the years ahead.  

Now, all of you who are participating today know very well that the region is far from a monolith—priorities and concerns are not always the same in Tokyo as they are in Jakarta, Hanoi or Canberra.  

The United States proudly identifies as an Indo-Pacific nation.  What unites the countries of the Indo-Pacific is a distinct forward-looking ambition, and the immense potential to fulfill that ambition.  

President Biden knows that our engagement in the Indo-Pacific is essential to ensuring future prosperity, economic security and our ability to address global challenges.  That is why he is committed to renewing and deepening our relationships, as demonstrated during his recent visit to Seoul and Tokyo. 

The President’s strategy in the region embraces an affirmative agenda focused on investing in our strengths at home, aligning with likeminded allies and partners, and competing to protect U.S. interests and values.

This Administration is committed to bolstering an open, inclusive international system.  And ITA embraces our role in that strategy—ensuring that U.S. workers and businesses can invest, align and compete on a level playing field.  Whether through our commercial advocacy and export promotion, or our enforcement and compliance actions to ensure fair and open markets, the ITA team champions American workers and businesses in markets worldwide.

ITA is keenly focused on building alignment with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, including by cooperating on standards, setting rules for digital trade and emerging technologies, and by promoting regulatory interoperability to avoid fractured standards that create needless barriers across borders. 

The cornerstone of our economic engagement in the region is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF.  Grounded in a shared commitment to a free, fair, open, interconnected, resilient, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, IPEF seeks to deepen commercial relations, advance shared economic and technology policy priorities, and ensure mutual economic competitiveness for the United States and partners in the region. 

Last month, President Biden launched IPEF, which now includes the United States and 13 partners, together representing roughly 40% of global GDP.  This robust group includes the seven ASEAN members who are also in APEC. Together, we are working to establish a Framework that will advance meaningful policy cooperation with the goal of shaping economies that are connected, resilient, clean and fair.
As excited as we are about the launch of IPEF, we also recognize that the real work has just begun. Broad participation will necessarily require complex negotiations.  But we firmly believe that a more inclusive framework will yield more consequential and enduring results, and so we look forward to these complex negotiations as the way to make progress in the months to come.   

Our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region extends beyond IPEF. We are also committed to engaging through APEC to promote trade, high standards, and inclusive and sustainable growth. I am particularly enthusiastic about APEC’s progress on Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR), which are APEC-created strong, interoperable privacy protections that enhance trust and facilitate cross-border data flows. In April, the United States joined other participants to establish a Global CBPR forum so as to expand APEC’s innovative system to more countries across the globe.   

While we very much value these regional frameworks, much of ITA’s more immediate progress comes through our many bilateral initiatives in the region, so let me touch on a few.

Given JETRO’s sponsorship today, it is only fitting to begin with Japan, where our ties are closer than ever. Working through the Japan Economic Policy Consultative Committee, the so-called 2+2, as well as the Japan-U.S. Commercial and Industrial Partnership or “JUCIP”, we are strengthening policy coordination and improving commercial relations in critical areas from semiconductors to the digital economy. In particular, I thank JETRO for their warm partnership on the Trade and Investment workstream of the JUCIP.  

Moving to Australia, in March, Secretary Raimondo and then-Trade Minister Tehan launched the inaugural Australia-U.S. Strategic Commercial Dialogue—focusing primarily on critical minerals and supply chain resilience, and also addressing economic coercion and non-market practices. We look forward to continued discussions, facilitated by the arrival of a skilled and experienced U.S. Ambassador in Caroline Kennedy.  

Our warm relationship with Australia also supports our increased engagement with the Pacific Islands Countries, including in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, where ITA recently added staff. We are particularly pleased that Fiji has joined IPEF and plans to send its first ever investment delegation to our Select USA Investment Summit, which is being held at National Harbor, Maryland next week. This is part of our “whole of ITA” effort to drive job-creating foreign direct investment.

Continuing our tour of bilateral initiatives, we are pursuing the U.S.-Singapore Partnership for Growth and Innovation, which invites deeper commercial ties in areas such as the digital economy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, clean energy and environmental technologies.  

And, in partnership with the Government of India, we are exploring how to refresh and renew the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue and advance the U.S.-India CEO Forum.  This includes selecting the U.S. business executives to participate in meetings that Secretary Raimondo and Minister Goyal will co-chair later this year.

The list goes on—and our engagement in the region continues to grow. I am especially pleased when we find opportunities in new markets like Bangladesh, where we hope to open a Commercial Service office soon.

Further, with the resumption of more widespread international travel, our ITA team has resumed its fruitful trade missions to the region. Just this month, ITA led our first clean technology trade mission to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, where participating U.S. companies met with potential buyers and partners.

Our ITA team will return in September for a healthcare sector business development mission to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, and again in October for an advanced manufacturing trade mission to Indonesia, Singapore and Japan.

And in March of next year, ITA will host Trade Winds, the U.S. Government’s largest trade mission and business development forum, this time in Bangkok, with stops in additional countries in the region.

I, myself, look forward to visiting Thailand in September to lead the U.S. Delegation to the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Ministerial—a vital topic when SMEs comprise 97 percent of all businesses and employ the majority of workers in APEC economies. We will continue engaging on this important topic into 2023, when the United States hosts APEC. There is a lot going on! 

In all of ITA’s efforts to deepen commercial ties and policy cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, I welcome your continued engagement—from industry, labor, and other stakeholders here and in the region. And that is why I am so grateful for your kind invitation to join you here today. Thank you.