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Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the 2019 National AAPI Business Summit

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Introduced by Henry Childs, National Director of the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency

Thank you, Henry, for that kind introduction, and for your hard work and dedication to the economic development of America’s minority communities.

Welcome, everyone, to the 2019 National AAPI Business Summit. It is great to see such a large turnout.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining President Trump in the Oval Office for the signing ceremony of the Executive Order on the Economic Empowerment of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I was especially gratified by the ceremony because in my former private-equity firm, we had Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, and Indian Americans in executive positions.

And my first Chief of Staff at Commerce was a Japanese American woman, the first ever for a Cabinet Secretary. So, I personally understand the outstanding qualities of your community.

The Executive Order signed by the President establishes the President’s Advisory Council on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as well as the White House Initiative on A-A-P-I. The Advisory Council will be established here at the Commerce Department, and I look forward to being a co-chair with Elaine Chao, our esteemed Secretary of Transportation.

Our joint intention is to do exactly as the President’s Executive Order states — that is, to develop, monitor, and coordinate all of the government’s efforts to empower the growth of this dynamic segment of our population and business community.

We will develop strategies to increase participation of AAPI enterprises in partnerships between the public and private sectors. We will train a new generation of skilled workers who are in demand throughout every industry sector. And we will conduct an analysis of the United States Pacific Island territories to help them diversify and grow their economies.

Stay tuned: We will soon be issuing a notice seeking private-sector members of this Commission.

Holly Ham, the Executive Director of the White House AAPI Initiative, will be closing our Summit today, and we are honored to have her here.

Today, there are 23.8 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who call the United States their home. The number of AAPI residents will soon eclipse 25 million, and will grow to more than 40 million over the next three decades. Asia accounts for six of the 10 largest countries for American immigrants. Of the 22.2 million Americans of direct Asian descent, 12.6 million — or more than half — were born in their home countries. And, according to the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau — which loves to count everything — Asian Americans drive 6,487,806 vehicles.

Among the Asian Americans in the workforce, 53.5 percent are employed in occupations involving management, business, science and the arts. But only 62.5 percent of Asian Americans of working age are in the workforce; though that number is much higher for Pacific Islanders, whose workforce participation rate is 68.5 percent.

Increasing the workforce participation rate is a challenge we face across our entire economy, and we will be addressing it with the new Commission, as well as with the National Council for the American Worker, which I co-chair with Ivanka Trump.

Of the 1.1 million minority-owned firms with paid employees, more than half, or 560,000 are owned by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This entrepreneurial drive is essential for the continued dynamism and success of American capitalism.

The Commerce Department is helping AAPI-owned companies succeed here in the United States and in every major market abroad. We have Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers assisting manufacturers in every state. We have U.S. Export Assistance Centers located in 106 American cities, staffed by export specialists helping companies penetrate new markets.

The Commerce Department also runs the Foreign Commercial Service, with offices in 119 foreign cities, and 78 countries. In China alone, we have outposts in six major cities, along with one in Hong Kong, employing 120 professionals working with American companies to break down barriers to our products.

These diplomats have one primary task: To increase commercial opportunities in foreign markets for American companies. These markets are home to billions of consumers ready and willing to buy the great products made by AAPI-owned firms.

Please, utilize these resources: mostly they are free, so it’s a pretty good bargain.

But the United States is committed to free, fair, and reciprocal trade and is working to open markets across the globe to your products and services.

The most recent “Foreign Trade Barriers” report, from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, lists an astounding 517 pages of trade barriers erected by various countries against American exporters.

However, the Trump Administration has finally, and firmly, told our trading partners that we will no longer allow them brazenly to break the global rules of trade, discourage U.S. imports, and flood our open markets with government-subsidized products. Our trade policy toward China, for example, is not about a clash of civilizations.

It is a matter of fair versus unfair.

It is about addressing mercantilism, and fulfilling the promise President Trump made in his campaign to put America First.

Our trade dispute with China is also about making sure that our companies’ most precious assets — namely, your intellectual property — is not stolen through cyber attacks, forced technology transfers, or state-sponsored industrial espionage.

We do not want to see one American company have to fight the scourge of reverse-engineered, mass-produced counterfeits that are replicas of the real products. We want to ensure that you have affective rights to pursue administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement remedies to protect your IP in foreign markets.

Virtually every important U.S. industry is being targeted: From software, to pharmaceuticals, telecom, electronics, robotics, advanced materials, electric vehicles, processed foods, and every category of consumer goods. Worse yet, fakes and counterfeits are now exploding onto e-commerce marketplaces, making it even harder to enforce our laws and eliminate bad actors. For decades, the U.S. government allowed these illegal foreign trade practices to flourish.

Now, we are confronting them and insisting that they be addressed. And while a period of confrontation is always uncomfortable, in the end, everyone is better off.

China announced yesterday that they were imposing retaliatory duties on the remainder of our exports to them. They had already assessed retaliatory duties on something like 90 percent of their American imports.

But, in view of the fact that we have raised tariffs on more than $500 billion in imports from China, this was a relatively restrained response.

Because we export so little to China compared to what we import from them, the impact of the Chinese tariffs is a very small fraction of 1 percent of our total $18 trillion economy. Rest assured, that our current trade issues with China or other countries in the region will not spill over into attitudes regarding the AAPI community.

While we are addressing these trade practices with China, we are also currently engaged with Japan in developing a trade agreement. And we have concluded successful renegotiations of the Korea Free Trade Agreement and transformed NAFTA into the United States Mexico Canada Agreement.

Our administration has also broadened our strategic engagement with Asia to include the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Last week, I was in New Delhi meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi, along with his Finance and Commerce Ministers, and with more than 100 U.S. companies wanting to gain a foothold in the massive Indian market place.

We are committed to opening these markets, to breaking down barriers, and insisting on fairness in our trading relations.

And we believe our efforts will pay off.

Through changes in our tax code, and our approach to smarter regulations — along with a dedication to training the next generation of skilled workers — we have put in place the conditions needed to make the United States the best place in the world to produce goods and services.

We have experienced extremely positive economic results from these efforts, and we are proud of what we have accomplished so far.

We hope that you can take advantage of the opportunities in our growing economy, and that you will utilize the services offered by the Commerce Department to expand into foreign markets.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to be here with us, and we at the Commerce Department look forward to serving your needs in any way possible.

 

Leadership