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Remarks by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the 3rd Annual Cleveland Sister Cities Conference


Hello everyone! It’s great to be here with you at the third annual Cleveland Sister Cities Conference.

Thank you, Joe, for that kind introduction and thank you, Elizabeth, for organizing this important event. I also want to express my gratitude to Global Cleveland and the Cleveland Public Library for co-hosting today.

As many of you know, I lived in Cleveland for three years before I moved to Washington.

Out of habit, I still find myself looking out for Luna’s café for my daily coffee and to Johnny’s for a drink after work! Today I want to talk about what the Biden-Harris Administration is doing to facilitate our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with all of you.

So many lives and livelihoods around the world have been devastated by the pandemic. But our Administration is committed to getting the economy back on its feet. I know that’s a goal you share.

A big part of that effort involves doubling down on our exports and increasing foreign direct investment – two areas I know you’re all focused on at Global Cleveland.

When it comes to exports, we know that that 95% of consumers are based abroad. And today more than 70% of the world’s purchasing power lies outside of the United States.

We also know that companies that export are more productive, profitable, and competitive. 

Many overseas markets are experiencing double-digit growth, offering tremendous business potential for American companies.

At the Department of Commerce, we promote American exports through our specialists across the U.S. and our Commercial Service staff at more than 70 embassies around the world.

We also remove barriers to foreign markets, tackle unfair trade practices, and support U.S. companies bidding on contracts with foreign governments. 

And to position our economy for a strong recovery, we’re creating a National Export Strategy for the first time since 2016. 

For Cleveland in particular, we know how vital exports are to your local economy. In 2019, over 230,000 jobs in Ohio were supported by exports. In 2020, Cleveland was ranked the 42nd largest metropolitan area in exports, with over $7.4 billion-worth of exported goods.

And to date, almost 200 companies in Ohio have received the President’s “E” Award − the highest award an exporter can receive in the United States. 

In fact, the Secretary will be hosting the next President’s “E” Award ceremony on November 5th, and I know for a fact that Ohio has another winner. 

These remarkable successes make clear how vital exports and international markets are to Cleveland’s economy − and your “Ambassador and Diplomat” series underscores how deeply you appreciate that.

But there’s more you can do to encourage international trade, like partnering with the Northern Ohio District Export Council.

And trade isn’t just about exports – it’s about foreign direct investments, or FDI, too.

Central to our FDI efforts at Commerce is SelectUSA – the only federal program dedicated to promoting business investments in the U.S. 

Ohio has been such a strong supporter of SelectUSA – at this year’s Summit, JobsOhio was once again a Diamond Sponsor. Since 2011, SelectUSA has helped bring $1.46 billion-worth of investment to Ohio.

And in 2019 alone, foreign-owned firms employed over 300,000 people in Ohio! 

At the end of the day, more foreign direct investment leads to more jobs, profitable companies, stronger partnerships, and a healthier economy. 

I hope that each of you take advantage of the many local, state, and federal organizations that make up the Northern Ohio area trade ecosystem.

And I hope that you stay in touch with us at the Department of Commerce – we’re here to support you every step of the way.

With that I’ll turn it over to Joe for Q&A.