Well it is truly my pleasure to join you. I regret very much that I was unable to be with you at dinner last night, but I thank the hosts for being willing to let me come this afternoon to congratulate you on this, the 17th U.S.-Spain Council Forum. I’ve been given an excellent report about all the activities by His Royal Highness. And I welcome him and Her Royal Highness here back to the United States. Also, all of our guests from the Spanish Government, including the Spanish Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Development, Ana Pastor, and all of our colleagues. Let me certainly thank my colleague in the Cabinet, Secretary Ray LaHood, who has brought his experience and his passion to the work of transportation and infrastructure to our country’s leadership, and I’m very grateful to serve with him.
I also want to thank my long-time friend and former colleague – I think it’s fair to say that Senator Bob Menendez is truly one of the most effective, determined, dedicated public servants in our country. He grew up not far from here, the son of immigrants, and now serves representing this great state of New Jersey. And he certainly deserves a lot of credit for the rise of Jersey City as a financial center. I can’t say I was always pleased about him being successful in convincing my constituents to set up shop across the river, but I certainly admired his results. And he has led on so many of the important economic issues on finance and foreign relations. And he truly has his heart in strengthening the relationship between the United States and Spain. So thank you, Bob.
Thanks also to Juan and Pedro for their co-chairing and presidency of the U.S.-Spain Council. And I understand that during the course of the meetings, you had my other friend and another one of our former colleagues, Secretary Ken Salazar, along with Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard, and Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez, who works with me at the State Department in this area of economic and business that we call economic statecraft.
This, for me, is a great personal honor. I believe so strongly, as does the Obama Administration, that the relationship between Spain and the United States is a vital one – vital to our economies, vital to our security, vital to our joint efforts to advance stability and prosperity around the world. And I am also personally very grateful for the excellent working relationship that we have from Afghanistan to Latin America. There has been an increase, a deepening, and broadening of our engagements in areas of concern to us both, and we see the results of that.
Now we know that our ties date back centuries. His Royal Highness and I were just discussing that next year will be the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s historic voyage to Florida. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to take stock of this 500–year-old relationship and all that Spain and Hispanics have contributed to the growth and success of our own country here in the United States. We have the benefit of millions of people traveling back and forth as tourists, as business leaders, as part of student exchanges, or simply to visit family and friends. And for the many millions of Americans who seek Spanish, Spain stands out as a favored destination to do business, to learn, to really revel in the culture that is so highly regarded.
So the bonds are strong, and I think it’s in our interest to do all we can to make them even stronger. And I don’t say that lightly. I say it with great conviction that the central focus of the U.S.-Spain Council on expanding our economic relationship is critical to us both. And it is also true that the deeper we go into cooperation on security and in other areas, we will draw even closer together.
Now I don’t have to tell any of you – and having been at the G-20 earlier in the week in Mexico – that we meet at a time that is critical for Spain, Europe, the United States, and the global economy. The United States is following events in Europe very closely, first and foremost because you are our allies and our partners. And we care deeply about your prosperity and your security, your social fabrics. We want you to thrive, but also because what happens in Europe has major consequences for what happens here in the United States. After all, Europe is our largest trade and investment partner. And Americans know that when demand for our products drop in Madrid or Barcelona, that has effects in places like Milwaukee or Baltimore.
So we stand firmly with the people of Spain and Europe during this financial crisis. We fully recognize that the decisions have to be made in Europe, but we have tried to be not only concerned friends, but active partners in helping all of us navigate through these challenging times. Let me also say that the United States supports the Spanish Government’s approach to restoring confidence in your economy through the recapitalization of the banking sector, fiscal consolidation, and labor market reforms. We think these are all key to achieving a more dynamic economy now and into the future. And we highly commend Spain for beginning down this difficult path.
We know that this crisis forces Europe’s leaders to make difficult choices, and to balance short-term and long-term priorities, which are not always perfectly aligned. And we have no doubt that Europe’s leaders understand full well the seriousness of the choices they face and the urgent need to act. We are looking forward to the European Council meeting in a few days. And as Europe acts, the United States will have your back. We will do all we can to evidence our strong support for these difficult decisions.
Now this forum, obviously, is not the place where a lot of these difficult decisions will be made. You cannot solve the challenges that we face. But I do think that this council meeting, coming at the moment that it does, can have a positive effect on the economies of both our countries by, number one, raising the profile of Spain and all that is right about and working well in and from Spain; by demonstrating conclusively that a strong relationship between our two countries; and by bringing together business leaders and top investors and government officials who help shape the day-to-day economic relationship between our two countries. We need to make a very clear message through the media, through the meetings you’ve been having, that we already are connecting by a rich flow of trade and investment. And we’re looking to make it even more so.
I mean, just looking at the numbers tells the stories. Since 2000, Spain has been one of the fastest-growing sources of foreign direct investment in the United States. In 2010, that investment stood at nearly 45 billion, making Spain our 11th largest investor. Now much of that investment has been in the green energy sector. Spanish companies are involved in a number of significant green energy and infrastructure projects in the United States, including a power company in Maine and a rail project in New York. These projects will provide valuable services to Americans and they also create jobs for Americans. As of 2008, which is the year for which I could find the most recent employment data, more than 66,000 Americans were working for U.S. subsidies of Spanish-owned firms. So as the Obama Administration works around the clock to create jobs for American workers, Spain is a valuable contributor to that. And we are glad that so many Spanish companies have already invested in the United States, and we want more companies to do the same.
Now of course, we want direct investment to grow in both directions. In 2010, U.S. foreign direct investment in Spain reached nearly $60 billion. And now, because of the reforms the Spanish Government is adopting, including labor and financial sector reforms, a recent law cracking down on internet piracy, progress on a new bilateral agreement on double taxation, we think this will attract even more American businesses and even more American direct investment.
Meanwhile, trade between our countries is strong. The United States imported $11 billion in goods from Spain last year. We exported nearly the exact same amount, 10.8 billion, which is up nearly 25 percent since President Obama launched the National Export Initiative in 2010. We did that with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. If we were doing as well everywhere else as we are doing with Spain, we would be even further along toward achieving that goal.
But it is important to recognize, as His Royal Highness and I were just discussing, there is tremendous opportunity for Spanish firms, particularly in consumer goods, in the U.S. market that is not being exploited. So I am strongly urging all of you, especially with our large Hispanic population, to take advantage of what we think could be a win-win for us both. And with the 500th anniversary coming up, it would be, it seems to me, a perfect opportunity for Spanish businesses to join together to do some joint advertising about what Spain already is doing in the United States, introduce some products, and make a case that this 500 years of history has an equally bright future.
We want to make sure everyone hears the message that we both are open for business. And we know that the headlines out of Europe tend to inspire more questions than confidence, but we think that confidence is well-merited. And yet, we can’t just expect that to happen on its own. There had to be a concerted effort to make the case. And the Spanish and American Governments are committed to deepening our economic cooperation, making it even easier to invest and trade. This is a top priority for me as Secretary of State, and now one of our highest priorities in U.S. foreign policy. More broadly, we’re focused on advancing what we call economic statecraft, an effort to place economics at the heart of our foreign policy, our priorities, our tools, and our strategies.
Now, the reason for me is very simple. Our diplomacy must succeed in a world where states increasingly exercise power in economic terms, and diplomacy must do more to tend domestic economic sources of our leadership abroad. Spain has great influence in Latin America. The United States obviously has great influence in many places in the world. But if we’re not strong at home economically, and if we don’t pursue smart global economic policies, both of us will not have the same level of influence in 10 years that we have today. And speaking from my perspective, when I look at the need for democracy to spread, of our values to be adopted and embraced around the world, what we can bring to security and stability and prosperity, that would be a loss not only for Spain and the United States, it would be a loss for the entire world.
So our economic statecraft agenda includes working with all of you, because we think that it’s not just between governments; it is with our private sectors, our civil societies, academia, and other strong pillars of both of our countries. We are elevating commercial diplomacy, directing our embassies worldwide to focus more on developing trade and investment. Through the new Select USA Initiative, we are attracting more inbound foreign investment, and I know that our ambassador, Ambassador Solomont, just recently held an excellent program in Madrid to try to highlight this.
We’re also working closely with the European Union. I think there is much more that the EU and the U.S. can do together to unlock economic activity. The U.S.-EU High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth just issued its interim report a few days ago. It included an analysis of the benefits of opening our markets to more goods, services, and investments; and crucially, it spoke to the importance of promoting compatible regulations, tackling behind-the-border barriers, and consulting on possible approaches to intellectual property rights. A strong outcome to these discussions, if achievable, can enhance not only transatlantic economic ties, but also address shared market access challenges in third countries and strengthen global rules and norms around non-tariff barriers and other competitive issues, which are the most pressing challenges to maintaining level playing fields worldwide.
In the meantime, we are continuing to work through the Transatlantic Economic Council to expand economic opportunities between the U.S. and the EU. When you look at the money and effort both the U.S. and EU spend on regulation, harmonizing regulatory regimes would save us both time, money, and effort. Figuring out how we could agree on certain phytosanitary standards; for example, the U.S. has a different way of testing shrimp from Asia than the EU has. I would think there’s got to be a way we could collaborate so that we both wouldn’t have to send out inspectors, and we could have a standard that we were holding the world to anybody who wanted to get into either of our markets would have to meet. So these are the kinds of nitty-gritty practical issues that we are now finally discussing with the EU that we think hold great promise for us both economically.
And I want to also highlight another program of Ambassador Solomont. Two months ago, he sent a letter to every U.S. governor encouraging them to bring trade delegations to Spain. And already Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico have taken him up on the suggestion, and Illinois will be sending a trade delegation to Spain next week. And Spain has shown a similar reciprocal commitment. Just this week in Boston, at BIO 2012, the world’s biggest biotech trade show, Spain had the largest delegation of any foreign country. And I have to tell you that that was really an exciting change for our biotech companies to see what was happening in Spain and to have His Royal Highness there along with the Royal Highness really highlighting the advances Spain is making in its own biotech industry.
So the interest is there, the ingenuity is there, the strong businesses, the fundamental cooperation. Now we have to do our part by advocating for smart policies, finding and forging more business partnerships, working together more closely on relevant issues like harmonizing regulations and protecting intellectual property, and telling everyone that will listen that Spain and the United States are working together and open for business.
This is a long-term effort. We think it bears fruit immediately, but the real harvest will take some years to see. And we’re working not only for this generation of leaders in both the public and the private sector, but for those who will follow after. And it is exciting to me to be here to thank all of you who understand the importance of this relationship, are committed to furthering it, see over the horizon what is possible, and will work together to realize the very best possible outcome from this level of very high, important cooperation. Thank you all very much.