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Commerce Secretary Says U.S. Seeks To Boost Economic Ties In Asia

Published on 19 April 2014

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by Jane Morse


Washington, D.C.

Greater economic engagement is among the Obama administration’s priorities in its effort to “rebalance” U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific region, says U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Outside of the United States, the Asia-Pacific region will be “the engine of global growth during the next decade,” Pritzker said in a speech delivered April 17 at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

Nations in the Asia-Pacific region generate nearly 60 percent of world gross domestic product and 40 percent of global trade, she said. In 2013, U.S. exports to the region supported more than 3 million U.S. jobs, and investment from Asia to the United States now supports more than 970,000 U.S. jobs, she said.

As impressive as these statistics may seem, there is still enormous untapped potential for economic growth, the secretary said. By 2022, the Asia-Pacific will be home to 54 percent of the world’s middle class, and the region will account for 42 percent of global middle-class spending, Pritzker said. In 2012, Asia-Pacific countries imported roughly $4 trillion of goods and services. By 2022, that number is expected to increase to nearly $10 trillion, she said.

“For our [U.S.] businesses and workers to thrive in the 21st-century global economy, we must create an environment that makes it easier to capitalize on these opportunities,” Pritzker said. “One of my core missions as secretary is to help American businesses navigate new markets, reach new customers and develop new opportunities in existing markets.”

Pritzker lauded the work of the U.S. Commerce Department’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, which has 75 officers and nearly 300 locally engaged staff in Asia. She announced that the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service will open new offices in Wuhan, China, and Rangoon, Burma. “In addition, we are putting more resources at 10 other posts across the region,” Pritzker said. “This expanded team will now be able to do even more to promote U.S. exports, while also helping attract inbound investment,” she said.

According to Pritzker, a successful economic strategy requires building a strong regional economic architecture that provides opportunity for all. “Broadly speaking,” she said, “our economic strategy has three pillars — all of which are predicated on consistent, multilateral engagement.”

These three “pillars,” she said, involve the following:

• Using creative and energetic commercial diplomacy to strengthen U.S. partnerships with long-established trading partners.

• Encouraging fast-growing and emerging Asian economies to enter the global, rules-based trade and investment system by developing the necessary infrastructure. This includes both the physical infrastructure for moving goods and the legal and regulatory systems that provide clarity and predictability to transactions.

• Building and strengthening regional mechanisms like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the Association of South East Asian Nations to establish and maintain rules that promote a level playing field.

The Asia-Pacific region and the United States, Pritzker said, are at a “moment of opportunity.”

“The U.S. economy has become inextricably linked to the Asia-Pacific region,” she said. “More than ever before, governments, companies and people throughout the region want to do business with American firms, which offer the world’s best technology and innovation, a powerful ability to mobilize capital, a commitment to good working conditions and training, a business culture that values transparency and ethics, and, of course, a spirit of entrepreneurship.”

The Obama administration, Pritzker said, is committed to helping American businesses and workers thrive while working with friends across the region to bring greater prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific.

“The United States is — and will always be — a Pacific nation,” Pritzker said. “We want to establish a stable security environment. We want to create an open and transparent economic environment. And we want to ensure a liberal political environment that respects the universal rights and freedoms of all.”


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Posted 2014-04-19 12:20:00