The United States and APEC Partners in Global Trade Today
Singapore, 14 November 2009
Thank you to Peter Loescher for that kind introduction. Thank you also to the Chair of this CEO Summit, Ms. Chong Siak Ching, to all business leaders in attendance, and to the ministers from my fellow APEC member economies for a productive week. It is great to be here with you today, and I bring you greetings from President Barack Obama.
Although the United States began as a small collection of Atlantic colonies, it didn't take long for even the earliest Americans to sense the promise of the Pacific. At the turn of the 19th century, America's third President, Thomas Jefferson, commissioned a Corps of Discovery to map a route across the vast expanse of the continent - all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The Corps was a success, and soon a stream of pioneers followed in its footsteps, coming together in new towns that quickly grew into port cities and commercial centers.
America's ships left those ports laden with lumber and citrus and returned heavy with raw materials for America's growing manufacturing sector. As the 20th century progressed, technology and services joined the flow of goods between America and Asia-Pacific economies.
For the past 200 years, trade across the Pacific has brought opportunity and prosperity to America's western shore. Today, it supports jobs and businesses in every community in the United States.
Americans have never taken our eyes off the Asia-Pacific. We have not only engaged commercially, we have also become diplomatic partners and allies. We have worked together to support global security, and we continue to work together to advance freedom and tolerance around the world.
It is clear that Asia-Pacific economies are critical partners - in security and development as well as in commerce and trade. But it is our trading partnership I am here to discuss today.
Four out of five of America's largest export markets are APEC members. Last year, two way trade between the United States and APEC economies totaled more than $2.3 trillion. And when American manufacturers, service providers, farmers, and ranchers do business with Asia-Pacific companies and customers, all of us benefit.
As we move forward, we must look for new ways to increase trade both within APEC and around the world. During this time of global financial crisis, we cannot afford to underestimate the necessity of cooperation.
Our economies are all connected. That is true in good times as well as bad. When things are going well, we can combine our skills and knowledge to bring products, services, and prosperity to all our economies.
And when things are not going well, we cannot forget that synergy. As the African proverb says, you should take no comfort from the hole in my end of the boat. We must continue to nurture our partnerships.
To bring the world back from the economic brink, we must all work together. Already, many of our trading partners have started down the path to recovery.
Some, like China, never stopped growing, even when the crisis was at its worst. And others, like New Zealand, have recently returned to positive growth.
In the United States, we are confident and comforted by the reality that we are slowly turning the corner on the crisis, but we are sobered by the reality that we still have challenges ahead. Many Americans are still looking for jobs. We believe that every American who wants a job should have the opportunity to find one.
In order to achieve that goal and maintain the momentum of recovery, we are focused on shaping a stronger, more open trading system that will create additional well-paying jobs at home. As I think about what that will require, another proverb comes to mind: a rising tide lifts all boats. If we work together to rise above this downturn, we can lift up all our economies and all our peoples.
Taken as a whole, APEC economies have both the trading power and the collective potential to stimulate recovery and move global trade in the right direction - away from protectionism and toward a stronger, more open rules-based system.
APEC itself is a model for global trade done right. Although APEC's trade liberalization process is non-binding, APEC has become a highly integrated trading community.
APEC members are more likely to export to other APEC members than to non-members. In fact, 61 percent of total American manufacturing exports are destined for APEC economies, and roughly 3.7 million American jobs are supported by those exports.
The economic benefits of APEC extend throughout the region. For the last 20 years, per capita GDP growth throughout the APEC region has beat the world average, and even those who have never worked as part of the export economy have reaped rewards.
The potential of the Asia-Pacific region is great, and the Obama Administration is committed to making the most of our relationships throughout the region.
To that end, I am here along with three other Cabinet officials, and tomorrow President Obama will be here as well. We have all come to Singapore to represent the United States at APEC, because we recognize the extraordinary role and potential of this region as a catalyst for global recovery and growth.
Our decisions and actions together will have a real impact on the flow of global trade and investment, and on the well-being of our people. And it is important that we make those decisions and act with an eye to near-term cooperation and long-term growth.
The United States knows that engagement in the Asia-Pacific region is vital to America's trading future. If we want to create the jobs Americans need, we must gain access to Asia-Pacific markets.
For the sake of all our economies, we must break down long-standing barriers to trade and investments as well as newer impediments that obstruct trade and slow economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. This has become even more imperative as we seek to create a global economy based on balanced and sustained growth.
Within APEC, this means that the United States needs to consume less, and produce and export more, while APEC members with surpluses should seriously consider the need to increase their consumption and imports. On that basis, we can put our economies on a more sustained and balanced growth path, and help to avoid the boom and bust cycle that has plagued us.
Ensuring that we maintain a rules-based approach to trade is one dimension of helping to make this growth model work. Let me turn to some of the concrete steps we are taking in APEC to improve our trading system, specifically in services and trade facilitation.
One of our top priorities this week was to develop principles on the treatment of cross-border services, and to agree on a plan for our future work in the services sector. Many of you know in particular how important this is. You have pioneered and reported back to the APEC members the grand potential of a sustained effort to boost trade in services.
APEC is also demonstrating progress on environmental goods and services this week, as we launch the Environmental Goods and Services Information Exchange. That exchange is a new website designed to promote Asia-Pacific collaboration and cutting-edge environmental technologies, and to promote the global distribution of those innovations.
We are working with our partners across the Asia-Pacific to make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of market opportunities.
We are working together to reduce red tape, improve transparency, and simplify customs documentation and procedures in order to reduce the costs of doing business and the time needed to make trade happen in the Asia-Pacific.
These steps will help all businesses, but they will be of particular importance to small and medium-sized enterprises. These enterprises are the backbone of our own economy, and they are the incubators for talented individuals and good ideas around the globe. And the United States is looking for every opportunity to help these businesses and their workers succeed.
Continued integration of the economies in this region will benefit workers, consumers, and businesses where each of us live.
To that end, I am pleased to report that just this morning in Tokyo, President Obama announced that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will be done in close consultation with the United States Congress and with stakeholders at home. We will seek with current and future Trans-Pacific Partnership participants to shape a platform with the scope, coverage, and standards to successfully integrate the Asia-Pacific economies.
As the Office of the United States Trade Representative approaches this effort, we recognize that American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers face different challenges today than they have in the past. Therefore, further engagement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership gives us the opportunity to address gaps in our current agreements, and to set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.
A high-standard regional trade agreement under the Trans-Pacific Partnership could help bring home to the American people the jobs and economic prosperity that are the promise of trade.
To fulfill the full promise of APEC, we must look not only at what we can do for ourselves in the region, but also at how we can work together to demonstrate leadership on trade for the entire world.
This week's APEC meetings featured frank and productive sessions on the Doha round of world trade negotiations. Every single one of the 21 APEC members stands to benefit from a positive conclusion to the Doha round, and every single one has a stake in a successful outcome.
To the United States, success means a balanced, ambitious agreement with meaningful new market flows for all. APEC members should contribute to the effort to build on the progress that's been made, increase multilateral and bilateral engagement, and consider new ideas to move these vital talks into the endgame as soon as possible.
Looking around us at the pain caused by the economic crisis, it is clear that we must work together for stable, balanced growth. And a Doha round that secures new economic opportunities worldwide can be a key element in that effort.
We have many opportunities before us in the months and years to come. In 2011, the United States will host APEC, and we are already looking ahead to that meeting.
As the Asia-Pacific region rises economically, so does the potential for APEC to make its mark. And we look forward to working with you and with our APEC partners to strengthen APEC and make it ever more relevant on the world stage.
As history has demonstrated, it is never too early to plan for the future, and small steps can yield big gains. Had President Jefferson not sent the Corps of Discovery across the continent to the shores of the Pacific, the United States might not be a member of APEC today.
When the Corps set out into unknown territory, they had no idea what their journey might bring. Today, we have the benefit of decades of engagement and economic achievement. And we know the benefits trade can bring. It is up to us to seize the opportunity.
I invite you all to join us as we work to do so. Thank you all.