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Secretary's Speech


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Thursday, June 12, 2008


Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez
Remarks to U.S.-ASEAN Business Council
Washington, D.C.

Thank you for the kind words, Matt (Daley), and for your leadership of this important organization. I also want to thank the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council for hosting this event.

And I want to join in welcoming all of our special guests this evening, including our Ambassadors to Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Deputy Chief of Mission to Indonesia. We appreciate your participation in the 2008 Ambassadors Tour.

I understand that since the tours began in 1992, U.S. Ambassadors have visited more than 30 major American cities and metropolitan areas and met with over 10,000 U.S. companies.

It’s a special pleasure to see Ambassador Michalak again. We met when I led the first-ever Secretarial business development mission to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam last November. And I want to thank him again for helping to make that mission a success.

Tonight I want to talk about deepening cooperation between ASEAN and the United States, and the benefits of trade, which one American philosopher called the principle of liberty.

Before I begin, however, I want to say how saddened the United States is by the large number of deaths and injuries and the devastation suffered by the Burmese people as a result of Cyclone Nargis.

The U.S. Government has provided more than $35 million in humanitarian assistance. We will continue to work with ASEAN countries, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to provide relief assistance to the many victims of this disaster. I also applaud the significant contributions of the U.S. business community to relief efforts in Burma.

As you know, for more than three decades, the United States and ASEAN member countries have been working to build strong, committed partnerships bilaterally and through a more robust relationship with ASEAN. This is a priority for the United States.

It’s no secret that Asia is the source of tremendous economic growth.

While much of the world’s attention is focused on China’s growing footprint, ASEAN has been wise to not only take part in regional growth, but also diversify by strengthening ties to the United States.

We want to see freedom and prosperity expand. And, as President Bush said when he met with Asia-Pacific leaders in September, one of the best ways to do that is through increased trade and investment.

In the last six years alone, we’ve seen:

  • The Enterprise for ASEAN initiative, a roadmap for closer trade relations (2002);
  • The launch of the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership, which includes support for economic integration (2005);
  • The signing of the ASEAN-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (2006); and, most recently,
  • The nomination and appointment of the first U.S. Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs (2008).

ASEAN’s 10 member nations represent an important and dynamic region with a combined population of nearly 600 million people.

U.S.-ASEAN trade is flourishing. U.S. goods exports are up 44 percent and imports are up 42 percent since 2002.

Overall trade in 2007 was more than $170 billion. Taken as a whole, ASEAN is our sixth largest goods export market.

And let me take a moment here to recognize the business leaders who have made the contacts, met the challenges and helped to drive these numbers.

I want to thank you. And I want to suggest this evening that we could be doing even more business together.

ASEAN’s rapid economic development, growing middle class, and combined total trade of over $800 billion speak to the tremendous enterprise and potential of the region.

Singapore was our 11th largest goods export market in 2007; Malaysia was 20th. And our two-way trade with Vietnam has increased by more than 700 percent since 2001.

In April, Under Secretary for International Trade Christopher Padilla traveled to Bangkok for the celebration of the 175th anniversary of U.S.-Thai relations and to emphasize our interest in re-energizing our economic relationship.

We believe ASEAN’s progress toward establishing an ASEAN Economic Community, which the United States supports, will have a strong impact on our trade and investment relationship.

An integrated ASEAN will lead to greater economies of scale and lower costs. It will also spearhead economic reforms that will heighten the region’s competitiveness in trade and investment. And ASEAN’s profile will certainly continue to grow.

We are working to strengthen the ASEAN-U.S. relationship and U.S. relationships with individual ASEAN member countries through collaborative discussions, and, in the case of some countries, free trade agreement negotiations.

Of course, we already have an agreement with Singapore, our first FTA partner in Asia. Clearly, it’s been a success.

Look at the numbers: Two-way goods trade has increased 41 percent since the agreement was implemented in 2004. And U.S. goods exports to Singapore have risen nearly 60 percent over the same time period.

We believe that open markets help build more hopeful and secure societies. Trade and investment create growth, jobs and opportunity for both partners.

As countries have integrated into the global economy, they’ve seen their economies become more efficient and living standards rise. And this has led to increased demand for U.S. goods and services.

The Bush Administration has implemented free trade agreements with 11 countries since 2001. These FTAs have contributed to record high exports.

There are currently pending in Congress FTAs with two Latin American countries and one Asian country. The U.S.-Korea FTA would be the most commercially significant we’ve concluded in the past 15 years.

The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the reduction of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quota provisions on U.S. goods alone would pump $10-$12 billion annually into our economy.

Our nation is in the midst of an economic transition: exports are now playing a larger role than ever before in sustaining U.S. economic growth.

It is in our interest to open markets and liberalize trade and investment through as many avenues as possible, including business development missions, implementation of FTAs and support for a successful Doha Round, which will lower barriers and help millions rise out of poverty.

Trade is not a zero sum game. We can all be winners.

Let me close with this: When I was in Vietnam, I noted that when President Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from colonial France, he quoted almost verbatim the immortal words in America’s declaration of independence from Great Britain.

The opening paragraph of his speech was: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We look forward to working with the ASEAN countries to build a world of peace and prosperity in which all enjoy the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you.