U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks on America’s Economic Engagement in the Asia-Pacific Region


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

As part of her commercial diplomacy mission to the Asia-Pacific this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks today on the United States' commitment to Asia, at an event in the Philippines hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Management Association of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club. In her remarks, she described the United States’ enduring friendship with the Philippines and the greater Asia-Pacific region, noting that President Obama has made a deliberate decision to deepen U.S. engagement with Asia. Secretary Pritzker elaborated on the economic dimension of this commitment, which includes deepening trade and investment ties with existing partners, building the soft and hard infrastructure necessary to support the growth of emerging partners, and taking the steps necessary to level the playing field for commerce across the region.  Acknowledging that the Asia-Pacific will be an engine of global growth over the next decade, Secretary Pritzker noted that American firms are eager to do business in the region and help Asian countries reach their development goals.

Remarks As Prepared for Deliver: America’s Economic Engagement in the Asia Pacific Region

Good afternoon everyone. Kumusta kayo. It is an honor to be here in the Philippines at this wonderful event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Management Association of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club. 

For nearly a century, AmCham Philippines has built vital bridges between our businesses and governments, creating prosperity for the people of both our nations.  We thank you for this very important work. 

I would like to recognize our U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Phil Goldberg. Both he and his team are doing a great job in representing our country.  We are also joined by John Negroponte, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines and Deputy Secretary of State -- thank you for being here. 

Also here today are top executives from a number of America’s finest companies—ACE Limited, AES Corporation, Marsh & McLennan, UL, Chevron, General Atlantic, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Qualcomm, and Rio Tinto.  I particularly want to thank Evan Greenberg, Chairman of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council for his terrific leadership.

We are traveling across the region—from Vietnam to the Philippines to Burma—with this U.S.-ASEAN Business Council delegation to reinforce two of the central messages that President Obama delivered on his recent trip: the United States’ commitment to Asia is enduring and deepening our economic and commercial ties to this region will generate shared prosperity.

With the Philippines in particular, the United States has a long and deep history.

One only needs to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial – to bear witness to this fact. Our soldiers shed blood together to halt the tide of tyranny during World War II. 

Today, approximately 4 million people of Philippine heritage contribute to the fabric of America, and more than 160,000 Filipino-owned businesses help drive our economy every day.

For me, I am incredibly blessed to have a number of dear friends of Filipino descent. This includes Rhoda and Manny Valdez, who we have known for decades, and who are as close as family to us. (Plus my good friend Jaime Zobel and his family -- Jaime and I went to college together and remain in close contact. Of course those college stories will remain in college.)

Yet every now and then, events beyond our control prove the bonds of friendship.  The human and economic devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda was one such event. 

As President Obama noted during his recent visit, the United States was here to help in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Americans and Filipinos worked side by side to rescue victims and deliver lifesaving aid.

We are still here—and will continue to be—as the Philippines rebuilds. 

All told, the United States provided nearly $90 million in assistance and our military airlifted nearly 20,000 survivors and delivered more than four million pounds of relief supplies. 

Millions of Americans and hundreds of our businesses both large and small donated and contributed to the relief effort.

The United States’ partnership with and history in the Philippines ranges far beyond disaster relief, however.  During President Obama’s recent visit, our two presidents announced an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that underscores the strength of our alliance.

The agreement supports regional stability, which has underpinned Asia’s economic growth for six decades.

President Obama also highlighted the Philippines’ growing economic dynamism.

President Aquino's administration has made good progress in implementing economic and institutional reforms, notably achieving remarkable improvements in intellectual property protection and enforcement, collection of tax revenues, and the country’s sovereign debt ranking.

Not only are America’s bonds with the Philippines truly special, our presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region is longstanding.

Yet, in the first decade of this century—as we fought two wars— the diplomatic, economic, and strategic resources of the United States were over-invested in certain areas of the world and under-invested in others.

During the early days of the Obama Administration, the President made a deliberate decision to correct this imbalance and to deepen U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.

  • We are determined to build and expand partnerships across the region. 
  • We are working to establish a stable security environment. 
  • We are working to create an open and transparent economic environment.
  • And we are working to foster a liberal political environment that respects the universal rights and freedoms of all.

We have made a long-term commitment to the region, and no matter what crisis or opportunity may emerge, our expanded presence here will remain a cornerstone of our foreign and economic policy.

The United States is – always has been, and always will be – a Pacific nation.

Fundamentally, this U.S. government-wide commitment is comprised of four distinct areas: 

  1. Enhancing security;
  2. Expanding prosperity;
  3. Fostering democratic values; and,
  4. Advancing human dignity.

I will focus today on the economic dimension of the rebalance: expanding our shared prosperity. This effort means deepening our trade and investment ties with existing partners. It requires working multilaterally to build both the soft and hard infrastructure that is necessary for the growth of our emerging partners.  And it demands building new tools—such as the Trans Pacific Partnership—to initiate a level playing field for commerce across the fast-growing region.

The U.S. has been actively trading throughout the Pacific since the first American vessel "Astrea" reached Manila in 1797.  Today, the United States and the Philippines share a $24 billion per year trade relationship. And more broadly, American exports to the region now support more than 3 million U.S. jobs.

The Asia-Pacific region has become a significant market for American products and services – and sales to and investments in the region by U.S. companies serve as the foundation for good jobs here and in the United States.

Let me try to capture the power and potential of our economic ties to this region with a story.

It was a recent agreement between an American company named Pangea Motors, its Philippine affiliate Global Electric Transportation (GET), and PasangMasda, an association of Filipino Jeepney drivers.  With assistance from the Commerce Department’s Foreign Commercial Service and embassy staff here in Manila, PasangMasda agreed over the next three years to purchase 10,000 electric vehicles from Pangea Motors and GET.

PasangMasda will replace the aging Jeepneys that clog Manila’s streets with zero-emission, cutting-edge COMETs as they are called (or City Optimized Managed Electric Transports).  Filipino GET and Pangea Motors seized on a major opportunity in a new market and won a significant sale that drives job creation both here and at home in America.

What’s more, this innovative technology will help to reduce pollution and fuel costs, and many of the COMETs will be manufactured here in the Philippines.

This is the very definition of a win-win for both of our nations in our modern global economy.

But exports to and investments in Asia do not tell the whole story.  Inbound investment to the United States is also growing fast. Just from the Philippines’ alone, foreign direct investment in the United States more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. And foreign direct investment from Asia now supports more than 970,000 U.S. jobs.

Last year, 180 unique companies from across the Asia-Pacific region came to the Commerce Department’s first-ever SelectUSA Summit.  The goal of the summit was to promote additional foreign direct investment INTO the United States.

One of those companies from the Asia Pacific was Singapore-based Keppel Offshore and Marine, which employs about 1,500 people in the oil and gas industry in Brownsville, Texas.  The Export-Import Bank recently approved a loan of $172 million to help Keppel export.

As with Pangea Motors and PasangMasda, these deals represent wins for the businesses, and for both Asian and American workers.

These are just a few examples of how integrated our economies have become. Given the remarkable growth we have seen here in the Philippines under President Aquino and across the region, there remains untapped potential for us to do much more together in the years ahead.

Consider this:

  • By 2022, the Asia-Pacific region will be home to 54 percent of the world’s middle class;
  • By 2022, Asia-Pacific nations will import nearly $10 trillion of goods and services, nearly two-and-a-half times more than they do today;
  • And through 2020, more than $1 trillion of infrastructure investment is needed in ASEAN to meet the demands of a growing population.

The Asia-Pacific region will be an engine of global growth over the next decade, which will have a profound impact on how—and where—the world does business. American firms want to be part of the solution as countries across the region look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures. Our firms are also here for the long-term and want to help you reach your goals.

One of the core missions of the Commerce Department is to assist American businesses as they navigate new markets, reach new customers, and develop new opportunities in existing markets – which is why I have been spending so much time in Asia.

In fact, this trip is my third to the region since I began my tenure as Secretary last year.

But far more important than my own travel is the day-to-day work of the Commerce Department’s Foreign Commercial Service.

Each day, this team works out of our U.S. embassies to help American companies sell their goods and services – thereby increasing opportunities globally for our businesses and yours.

The largest footprint of the foreign commercial service is here in Asia.  And, as part of the Department’s emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, we are opening new offices in Wuhan, China and Rangoon, Burma.

In addition, we are putting more resources at ten other posts across the region. This expanded team will now be able to do even more to promote partnerships in the region.

I am thrilled to recognize our excellent team here in Manila, led by Senior Commercial Officer Jim McCarthy. If anyone in this room is looking for a U.S. partner, our Commercial service staff at the embassy should be your first point of contact. 

But the economic goal of the rebalance – achieving long-term, shared prosperity across the Asia-Pacific region and at home – demands much more than simply selling American products to new customers and increasing investment at home.

It requires building a strong regional economic architecture that provides opportunity for all.

Broadly speaking, our economic strategy has three pillars—all of which are predicated on consistent, multilateral engagement:

  • First – we must use creative and energetic commercial diplomacy to strengthen our partnerships with long-established trading partners.
  • Second – we must help dynamic, fast-growing, and emerging Asian economies to enter into the global, rules-based trade and investment system by developing the necessary infrastructure, both “hard” and “soft.” By “hard” I mean the physical infrastructure that helps efficiently move goods and people from point A to point B. (Just yesterday, I participated in an infrastructure roundtable here in Manila to explore how U.S. companies can help fulfill the tremendous demand for hard infrastructure across the country.) And by “soft,” I mean the legal and regulatory systems that provide clarity and predictability to transactions in the region.
  • And third, we must build and strengthen regional mechanisms like TPP, APEC, and ASEAN to establish and maintain rules of the road across the region—rules that promote a level playing field for all of us.

I would like to take a moment to focus on the third pillar: building regional mechanisms to develop rules and principles of commercial behavior.

Of course, the successful completion of the TPP is a central economic priority of the Obama Administration because opening markets across the Asia-Pacific region will help promote growth and jobs here and in the United States.

Once completed, TPP will help provide greater regulatory coherence for all the countries involved, protect intellectual property, and establish rules to better link companies with production and distribution networks across the Asia-Pacific region.

We certainly welcome the expressed interest of the Philippines in joining this important agreement.

We are also focused on other important regional mechanisms such as ASEAN and APEC.

As our economic ties to Southeast Asia grow, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—ASEAN—has blossomed into an integral partner for the United States.  Today, our country is one of the top global investors in ASEAN, and the region is the United States’ fourth largest export market globally.

The United States and our companies have a long-term stake in ASEAN’s economic prosperity. Our businesses want to be part of the solution, and that is why we are here in conjunction with a number of America’s top business leaders.  They are eager to make the investments in areas such as information technology, infrastructure, clean energy, telecommunications, financial services, healthcare, education, and more.

We support the goal of forming an ASEAN Economic Community and urge the member countries of ASEAN to keep up the momentum. However, it is important that ASEAN’s efforts toward economic integration reduce barriers for all companies, both those in ASEAN and those outside of ASEAN, so that we can all benefit from freer flows of trade and investment.

While the United States is not a member of ASEAN, we are of course an active member of APEC.  We continue to work with the 20 other APEC economies to build a highly competitive, vibrant, open, and transparent regional economy that is an engine for global growth.

Looking forward to your APEC host year in 2015, the United States is ready to work with you to achieve your APEC goals.

Recently, Alfred Romualdez, the mayor of the hard-hit city of Tacloban, spoke about how -- in the response to the typhoon’s devastation -- the strength of the friendship between the United States and the Philippines was on display, much as it had been more than a half century before when our soldiers fought side-by-side.

The Mayor said, and I quote: “Then, as now, you came full force to lift us from ground zero.”

I want to echo that sentiment.  As true partners, the United States and the Philippines lift each other.  Our commitment remains steadfast and our fortunes will rise together. 

On behalf of the Obama Administration, our pledge is to partner with you and the many dynamic nations of the Asia Pacific to help bring greater prosperity to millions across this region, in the United States, and throughout the world.

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Last updated: 2015-10-06 17:44

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