José, Thank you for the kind introduction and thank you to the great staff who put together this event.
Ambassadors, Congressman Curbelo, who I am honored to follow, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a native Floridian, I always look forward to coming home. However, this time I do so with a heavy heart due to the tragic loss of lives in Parkland. I offer my condolences to all those who have been affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and my prayers are with you.
I would like to share with you some of my perspectives in this – the Year of the Americas.
Esta ciudad y su gente son muy especiales para mí. Siempre ha sido un portal importante entre los Estados Unidos y la gente de América Latina y el Caribe.
[ENGLISH TRANSLATION: This city and its people are special to me. We have always served as an important gateway between the United States and the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.]
Neil and José, muchas gracias por su invitación a este evento y por darme la oportunidad de conocer nuevos amigos en mi estado de origen.
[ENGLISH TRANSLATION: José, thank you for inviting me to be a part of this event and for providing the opportunity for me to meet new friends in my home state.]
Although I live and work in Washington DC, Florida will always be home to me. One of the priorities I’ve established after being confirmed and sworn in to my current position as Assistant Secretary of State is to better connect the State Department to you. And that’s one of the reasons I’m here – to discuss what we do for the people.
From economic partnerships to open skies agreements, from development finance to the digital economy, from intellectual property enforcement to global entrepreneurial ecosystems, we work to promote opportunities for U.S. businesses overseas and secure economic prosperity at home.
I lead a team of over 200 talented men and women based in Washington in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, with the support of 1500 economic officers posted around the world. One of my great team members from the bureau, Raffi Balian is here with me. I hope you have the chance to meet him. Our bureau is the State Department’s gateway for American business to reach global markets and economic opportunities abroad.
We aim to ensure that U.S. private sector perspectives are heard and included when shaping and developing our global economic policies.
I would like to share with you some of our key programs and initiatives that support U.S. business.
Through our Direct Line to American Business Program, we connect U.S. companies to our Ambassadors and commercial experts based at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. The goal is to provide insights and assistance through a webinar or teleconference moderated by department officers in Washington and abroad who can answer questions for American companies about particular markets. We want to facilitate solutions for the challenges you face and ensure that you are able to access global markets.
The State Department has a Business Information Database System, or BIDS, to inform U.S. companies how to participate in projects funded by the multilateral development banks–another way in which the department aims to connect U.S. companies to commercial opportunities which will help them expand and prosper.
We also supports the Select USA Investment Summit, a U.S. Government-wide initiative that promotes foreign investment in the United States. In the past seven years, it has facilitated over $25 billion in investment here. As President Trump recently stated, “American is open for business.”
Our mission is defined by three core pillars – security, prosperity, and democratic governance.
These pillars are the foundation of this Administration’s engagement and strong partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Beginning with the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America that Secretary Tillerson co-hosted here in Miami last year to his recent trip visiting several countries in the region, he has emphasized the department’s strong commitment to the Western Hemisphere.
He has stated the region is a priority for the United States– we stand with all people who seek to eliminate tyranny and to further political and economic freedom throughout our hemisphere.
Turning again to The Year of the Americas—(as we’ve heard from earlier speakers) there are several important events that will take place in our hemisphere this year. These include the Summit of the Americas in Peru, the Group of Seven, or G-7 meetings in Canada, and the Group of Twenty or the G-20 meetings in Argentina. I hope to personally participate in each of them.
These summits provide opportunities to strengthen partnerships and address challenges ahead together. They also present the chance for the countries of the Western Hemisphere to demonstrate our leadership role in solving complex global problems.
The Government of Peru has chosen “Democratic Governance against Corruption” as the theme for the upcoming Summit of the Americas. We look forward to working with our neighbors across the region to implement an ambitious agenda.
It is vitally important for governments to hear from the private sector about this year’s theme. Rooting out corruption by encouraging transparency and increasing accountability will promote greater security and freedom through the region. And security and freedom will help build stronger economies contributing to better lives for everyone.
We’ve made great progress and we need to continue our forward trajectory.
In 2016, two-way trade in goods and services for the United States within the Western Hemisphere totaled $1.7 trillion. The United States is the top trading partner for over half of the 37 countries in this hemisphere, and we sell more to the Western Hemisphere than we do to all of Asia combined.
The United States has outlined key priorities for the Summit of the Americas:
Our first priority is security for our people. We would like to work with our neighbors to make our communities safer. Violence that threatens the public safety of all of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable groups such as women and children, hinders the ability of societies to move forward—to grow, to prosper, achieve.
Next, we have to work together to build economic relationships that enable our companies and workers to innovate and grow. This Administration has made it a priority to ensure fair and reciprocal trade and investment. Ultimately, a level-playing field that enables the private sector to compete on commercial terms benefits us all.
And finally, we have to prioritize accountability and transparency in government. The ability to attract and sustain private sector investment in our economies hinges on maintaining government policies built on the rule of law. Opaque government process and regulatory uncertainty can limit economic growth and competition.
By working toward these priorities, we can create better functioning societies and more open economies. We can promote new opportunities for American companies in sectors that show great promise such as energy, information technology, communications and infrastructure.
American companies that take advantage of new opportunities will be catalysts for economic growth and job creation. There is no question that with the right leadership and determination we can make great progress. Look at how far we’ve come in the last several decades. The Western Hemisphere is better off for our countries collaborating on our futures together.
Whereas average inflation across the region in 1980 was 18 percent, now it is just above 4 percent.
By 2012, 90 million people entered the middle class and the poverty rate fell to about 24 percent in the hemisphere.
Finally, and very importantly, today, women represent nearly half of the workforce, whereas four decades ago, we represented only 30 percent.
Much of this success is a result of the men and women in this room, and the hard work of your organizations.
The 24 American Chambers of Commerce throughout the region are some of the most active in the world. You have played a critical role in the success of American companies.
Your partner American Chambers around the world understand this, and you have all been crucial partners for the State Department in promoting U.S. economic and commercial interests abroad. We truly value your input and insights on how to better shape economic policy.
Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are outside the United States and over one-third of the revenues from our largest firms comes from overseas.
With U.S. firms continuing to increase their reach abroad, international business, exports, and investments are an essential part of a thriving American economy.
In Fiscal Year 2016, State Department advocacy efforts around the world are estimated to have contributed to $50.9 billion worth of foreign government contracts being awarded to U.S. companies, supporting more than 175,000 American jobs.
With your help, we hope to do even better this year.
I congratulate the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean for 50 years of partnership and service to the mission of promoting open markets.
You play a critical role in advancing our broader objectives of security, prosperity, and democratic governance for all the people of our hemisphere.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible and to hearing about the good work you are doing throughout the region.
Muchas gracias/Thank you.