The United States is committed to its commercial relationship with Asia. The U.S. economic engagement strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has three key pillars: strengthening partnerships with long-established trading partners, helping develop the “hard” and “soft” infrastructure that moves goods and people, and building and strengthening regional mechanisms that promote a level playing field for all of our businesses. Recognizing that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, the Commerce Department is focused on strengthening the trade relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN, and encouraging even deeper business-to-business ties.
As part of these efforts, next week U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will join a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council on a trip to Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines. These economies present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, and the trip is a huge step not only in furthering commercial ties, but also in advancing our overall relationship.
The delegation will stop first in Vietnam, where Secretary Pritzker will meet with government leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region. Vietnam’s economy is experiencing sustained growth following a rapid rate of expansion in the last decade. Energy is one industry sector with a number of opportunities for U.S. businesses in Vietnam. An upcoming reverse trade mission with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will connect U.S. companies with leaders in Smart Grid development and implementation. General Electric is already finding success in the country, signing a $94 million contract to bring 52 wind turbines to the Mekong Delta. This deal will support 245 U.S. jobs, and was supported by the International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center
From Vietnam, the delegation will head to the Philippines, where Secretary Pritzker will deliver remarks on America’s economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region, as well as meet with government and business leaders. The economy in the Philippines has shown much resilience despite tragic natural disasters and volatile financial markets. Economic growth has been consistent during the last two years and is projected to remain so through 2016. Reconstruction efforts could lead to acceleration in the economy and present business opportunities for American companies with experience in sectors like construction and infrastructure.
The trip will wrap up with a final stop in Burma, where Secretary Pritzker will affirm the United States’ support for positive political and economic reforms in meetings with civil society leaders, government officials, and the Burmese business community. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. Business confidence also is improving, as reflected in a rapid increase in new business registrations – both domestic and foreign-owned. As the country develops, it is well positioned to leverage modern technology available from U.S. firms. U.S. exports to Burma have ranged from electrical machinery, optical and medical equipment, vehicles, and other machinery. As the economy continues to open in Burma, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for Burmese citizens.
In addition, Secretary Pritzker recently announced the expansion of our Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) on the continent, with new offices opening in Wuhan, China and Rangoon, Burma. Asia is already home to the largest concentration of FCS officers in the world, and this expansion shows the Department’s commitment to supporting U.S. businesses in the ASEAN region.
Secretary Pritzker’s trip is another way to deepen the partnerships between our governments and our businesses. It demonstrates the importance of the region to the Obama Administration and the U.S. business community, and our shared commitment to increasing U.S. commercial activity with ASEAN. U.S. businesses can help create shared prosperity and deepen the economic connections that increase opportunity for all. U.S. businesses 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.