Under Secretary Marisa Lago Remarks - March 7, 2022

Remarks at Trade Winds 2022 Plenary Session
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Thomas, for that kind introduction. Your arm may be broken, but your warm spirit is intact.

Your Excellency Minister Al Saleh, Consul General Gregonis, and our UAE government and private sector guests, thank you for joining us today. The best place to start my remarks is by acknowledging the UAE government’s success delivering an absolutely amazing Expo despite the challenges of the pandemic. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, a large delegation from Washington, DC, and I spent much of yesterday at Expo celebrating U.S.A. National Day. We were thrilled by the stunning program of events and performances, which underscored the importance of our partnership in tackling the challenges of the future. 

I would also like to recognize our Trade Winds Platinum Sponsors: AmCham Abu Dhabi, U.S.-UAE Business Council, PepsiCo, Abbott, FedEx, and Viatris. You, along with our gold, silver, and bronze sponsors, have done so much to make this event possible. You truly are indispensable. 

Look around you. In this room, we have 140 American companies participating in Trade Winds, held for the first time this year in the Middle East and North Africa region. I welcome you to Dubai and to the Department of Commerce’s premier annual trade event—its very first trade mission since the pandemic.

I have to admit, before yesterday, I had not been on an airplane since the fall of 2019—after having flown over a million of miles in the preceding decade. It is fitting that my very first international trip as Under Secretary for International Trade is to the UAE, a vital global trade and business hub that is full of opportunity and possibility. 

I am honored to represent the Biden-Harris Administration at Trade Winds, preceded by Secretary Raimondo who many of you will have met last evening and alongside the dedicated team of U.S. Commerce Department employees in the UAE and in Washington, DC.  

Trade Winds is an invaluable opportunity to deepen the partnership between our countries and to advance U.S. economic competitiveness—not just in the UAE, but globally.

Judging by how quickly Trade Winds sold out, I know that the U.S. companies represented here share my enthusiasm. From small businesses that are first-time participants to major companies that attend annually, the firms here today share a drive to grow their businesses by competing and winning in global export markets and helping the UAE achieve its forward-looking development goals. 

That same entrepreneurial spirit has motivated over 1,100 U.S. companies to participate across 12 Trade Winds events since 2008, from Poland to Brazil to Singapore to today. These gatherings have directly supported over $3.4 billion in U.S. exports, resulting in over 17,000 jobs in the U.S. I am excited to see how this group will push that already impressive number even higher. 

Opportunity abounds for you in this fast-growing region, and particularly here in the UAE, where close bilateral ties and the careful work of our commercial diplomats have created fertile ground. 

Since the founding days of the UAE 50 years ago, our nations have built a close and productive partnership. We value our strong ties, and especially our robust trade and investment relationship, which does so much to promote mutual prosperity. The population of the UAE may be only a bit bigger than that of New York City, my hometown, but it remains the top U.S. export destination in the Middle East and Africa.

Still, there is so much more to our economic relationship than trade flows. Our countries are collaborating to support the recovery from COVID-19 and shape the industries that will lead the economies of tomorrow. This week I will be meeting with top UAE officials to discuss our cooperation on global challenges and opportunities, from balancing data security and commercial flexibility, to combatting climate change. This includes by facilitating U.S. private sector participation in UAE climate programs and encouraging investment in cutting edge U.S. climate tech firms. 

As excited as we are to host Trade Winds here, it remains at its core a global event. Beyond the UAE, there is vast opportunity in the Middle East and North Africa, as many of you will experience through additional mission stops facilitated by our tireless colleagues across the region.

Missions like Trade Winds are a vital tool for creating opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses, and building an economy for the middle class. The resources, connections and insights gained this week will help us to build a stronger and more equitable economy at home. 

The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) is deeply 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.

I am laser focused on what ITA can do to promote the competitiveness of U.S. industry, which is at the core of our economic agenda. I am equally focused on promoting ties with trading partners like the UAE, who are central to our economic prosperity. The Biden-Harris Administration is driving crucial investments at home that allow us to compete and win abroad. Strengthening competitiveness also means expanding export opportunities through events like Trade Winds, and building on our bilateral and multilateral trade relationships. 

Forging closer ties with partners like the UAE is essential to advancing the Administration’s priorities, including on climate. The Commerce Department is developing and implementing a Clean Technologies Export Competitiveness Strategy to combat climate change globally, while creating good-paying jobs at home. This includes collaborating with the UAE on its climate programs as we look ahead to the UAE hosting COP 28 next year. 

The UAE’s pledge to achieve Net Zero by 2050 is impressive, and American companies are eager to help meet that ambitious goal through innovative technologies. To help drive this cooperation forward, we will be bringing a Clean Tech Trade Mission to the UAE and the region next year.  

Innovation is a key theme here at Trade Winds—as it is in the UAE, as the country transforms into a knowledge economy and digital hub. We are deepening cooperation with the UAE under a recently renewed Innovation MOU with the Ministry of Economy. The MOU will help spur greater cooperation in areas such as the digital economy, intellectual property, clean tech and healthcare innovation, and it will help more companies in both of our countries to connect and collaborate.

We are also expanding U.S. companies’ partnership opportunities globally through Build Back Better World, which we colloquially call B3W. Launched last summer, B3W aims to tackle the developing world’s immense unmet infrastructure needs, which have only grown since COVID-19 emerged. ITA is excited to work with the UAE, other partners throughout the region and the American private sector to help the world rebuild more strongly and more equitably after the pandemic. 

Ensuring that the benefits of investment and economic development are equitably shared is not only key to B3W—it is also central to the Biden-Harris economic agenda and our work at ITA. We have a duty to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly felt, and this means expanding opportunity for those who have too long been underserved, including rural communities and minority- and women-owned businesses. 

As Under Secretary, I am passionate about ensuring that equity underpins everything that ITA does and that our activities work to expand trade opportunities for underserved communities. I am particularly delighted that our women’s empowerment initiative is hosting its inaugural summit here in Dubai alongside Trade Winds. Called Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment, or WELLTI for short, this initiative is connecting entrepreneurs and businesswomen across the Middle East and Africa with those in the United States and providing them with tools and resources to grow their businesses through new trade relationships. This initiative underscores the importance of women’s empowerment in economic development. And—talk about propitious timing—this groundbreaking WELLTI Summit coincides with International Women’s Day tomorrow. 

Beyond our WELLTI Summit, last year ITA launched the Global Diversity Export Initiative, which aims to spread the benefits of exporting more broadly by promoting international opportunities and trade resources to underserved communities. ITA trade specialists located in over 100 U.S. cities are undertaking intensive outreach to those communities, including recruiting for ITA’s first trade mission focused on minority businesses, which will be held this coming May.

I am so glad to see our nation’s historically underrepresented communities be well represented here today. ITA will work hard to get even stronger participation next year. 

I will reiterate my thanks to our gracious UAE hosts. And to my private sector colleagues who made the trip, thank you for joining us, and for seeking ways to expand your businesses and create more jobs at home. I look forward to advancing our priorities together and seizing the opportunities available here in the UAE. I cannot wait to see what you accomplish. 

Thank you, Shukran, and now back to you Thomas.