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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the Meridian 12th Anniversary Global Leadership Summit


Hello everyone! It’s so great to be here today, joining this distinguished group of leaders and innovators. I want to thank Meridian International Center for hosting this important event, and for their longstanding commitment to advancing global cooperation and understanding.

As we speak, we are facing unprecedented global challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities in our global system and has also accelerated the digital transformation that is reshaping our world. Climate change, inequality, and geopolitical tensions, too, are posing serious threats to our collective security and prosperity.

At the same time, we are witnessing remarkable advances in science, technology, and innovation that have the potential to solve some of the most pressing problems of our time, but pose their own risks in turn.

Despite all of this, we know that the Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Commerce is uniquely positioned to lead the way on tackling these challenges head-on.

Firstly, the United States recognizes that our success depends on our ability to engage with our partners around the world, and to use our collective strengths and capabilities for good.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Commerce is committed to fostering innovative partnerships for impact in trade and development. We also have or participate in a number of initiatives and programs that support our innovation partnership agenda, such as:

  • The Prosper Africa Build Together campaign, which aims to increase two-way trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa by facilitating business transactions, providing technical assistance, mobilizing financing, and advocating for policy reforms.
  • The Standards in Trade workshops, which provide training and capacity building for developing countries on international standards development and conformity assessment procedures, to facilitate their integration into global value chains and markets.
  • The Global Innovation Forum series, which brings together stakeholders from different regions and sectors to exchange ideas and best practices on how to foster innovation ecosystems that support inclusive and sustainable growth.
  • Lastly, we have several long-term dialogues with key regional partners that include engagement with a variety of stakeholders to ensure communication and joint problem-solving across a range of trade issues.

In the Western Hemisphere, for instance, we are in the midst of a very active period, with the Secretary’s recent participation in the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue last month and the launch of the Carbon Capture and Storage Action Committee of the U.S.-Brazil Clean Energy Industry Dialogue earlier in October. Secretary Raimondo also plans to travel to Brazil in early December to co-chair the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum.

In Europe as well, Commerce has been working to develop and promote new export markets through initiatives to further develop trade ties and help U.S. companies compete in non-EU markets throughout Central and Southeast Europe—with a focus on the Western Balkans and Moldova as they stay on their path to European integration and membership in key European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Our approach is designed to do three things:

  • Deepen Commerce engagement through more robust, frequent, and targeted interactions in developing European markets;
  • Highlight new commercial growth markets for U.S. industry and promote their goods and services; and
  • Work with the EU and European stakeholders to improve the business climate and address activities that threaten trade and regional development.

Closer economic integration within the Western Balkans would make the region more attractive for U.S. trade and investment in energy, information technologies, manufacturing, digital services, infrastructure and other sectors to a market of 20 million educated workers and clients in the heart of Europe. 

Secondly, the United States is willing to take on a leadership role while being open and adept with coordinating and considering multi-stakeholder input. We are known for our open, transparent approaches to addressing developmental challenges.

For example, for the past several years following the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S government has mobilized efforts alongside our allies to address the health-related supply chain challenges that emerged, such as with Americas RISE for Health.

Americas RISE for HEALTH is an annual multisectoral forum with the aim of bolstering resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and equitable health economies and ecosystems across the Americas. This initiative was developed at the recommendation of the region’s private sector and announced on the eve of the Ninth Summit of the Americas last June.

Finally, U.S. firms tend to focus on high-quality, technically advanced, innovative products and tend to seek partnerships in foreign markets with local companies, communities, and workforce. 

Countries want more choices from the private sector. More choices for quality goods and services. More choices for commercial partnerships that offer access to innovative ecosystems, trusted capital, and transparent financing. More choices for commercial partners, big and small – that prioritize the development of local talent.

Put simply: we seek to leverage the strength of our private sector to offer partnering countries high-quality, transparent alternatives to financing, goods, and services to help meet their economic development needs.

This, in my view, is at the heart of the Biden-Harris Administration’s initiatives such as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI).

PGI is an infrastructure partnership to meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low- and middle-income countries, offering those countries a positive alternative to models of infrastructure financing and delivery.

PGI is also focusing on addressing the conditions that prevent private sector investment in these emerging markets, and advancing reforms with multilateral development banks to implement new approaches to leverage private capital more effectively.   

We’ve done this with Costa Rica, where we are working to enhance their government’s digital security and connectivity in the country – including financial and technical assistance to strengthen Costa Rica’s cyber defense capabilities and the expansion of its 5G network, among other high-impact projects.

All of this is why we are deeply excited to be here today at this summit. We believe that by working together in innovative ways, we can overcome the challenges we face today, and build a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.

Thank you very much, I look forward to the discussion.