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Remarks at the National Council of the Americas

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Monday, August 10, 2009

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at the National Council of the Americas
Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Susan. I’m delighted to be here. Mr. Ambassador, I’m pleased to see you again and look forward to working with you in the months ahead, especially at the Americas Competitiveness Forum.

The ACF is the preeminent commercial forum in our hemisphere—and the U.S. government takes its participation very seriously.

In today’s uncertain economic environment, the forum’s focus on promoting prosperity and opportunity throughout the region could not be timelier.

More than most, the people in this room have seen the role that economic freedom and vibrant, open markets plays in elevating the lives of our people.

But as economies have teetered across the globe since last fall, we've seen a troubling rise in protectionist sentiment that threatens to undermine any potential recovery.

That’s why it’s incumbent upon us to push back against those voices who advocate turning inward and closing off markets to say that trade can:

  • Create jobs and growth;
  • Speed the delivery of transformative ideas and technology; and,
  • And hasten democracy and the spread of freedom.

As you know, expanding trade – specifically the expansion of U.S. exports—is one of my top priorities as secretary.

The United States may have a large trade imbalance with the rest of the world right now, but the answer is not to reduce our imports. It’s to make and sell more products and services that the rest of the world wants to buy.

The bottom line is that so long as we’re all operating on a level playing field, everyone benefits from opening up and competing.

The ACF will be a key vehicle for getting that message out and for discovering new ways to work together.

I know that the Council of the Americas helped make the two previous forums a success, so I’m anticipating many of the guests here today will also be there. Private sector participation is critical.

This year’s forum is shaping up to be just as successful, if not more so than the last two, which is a significant accomplishment.

We launched the ACF a little over two years ago in Atlanta, Georgia and it attracted nearly 1,000 participants each in 2007 and 2008.

Last year, the Forum welcomed three heads of State, ministers from some 25 countries, and hundreds of business executives.

In 2009, the Chilean government has created a thought-provoking program informed by their own success opening up their economy. Last year, Chile was ranked as the number one Latin American country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

Attendees at this year’s conference will have an opportunity to talk about issues such as financing, entrepreneurship, workforce development, and supply chain strategies.

This is a chance for business leaders from throughout the Hemisphere to share ideas and best practices with each other—and with senior government officers whose policies directly affect your day-to-day operations.

As in previous years, ACF organizers will help arrange meetings between public and private sector participants.

So the trip to Chile is also an opportunity to meet with officials from several countries in one location.

And if past history is any guide, concrete, positive results will emerge from the forum. We’ve already seen countries’ cutting the time it takes to start a business or register a property as a direct result of work at the ACF.

The Americas Competitiveness Forum is simply a great opportunity to exchange ideas, to establish links, and to expand alliances that will make our country and our Hemisphere stronger and more prosperous.

I hope to see all of you in Santiago in September.

Thanks for sharing this time with me, and now I’d like to hear from you.