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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Lunar New Year Celebration


Introduced by Tina Wei Smith, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

I am happy to participate in today’s Lunar New Year celebration with everyone involved in the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

I am also pleased to co-chair this initiative with our esteemed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. This initiative aims to positively impact the lives of the fastest growing minority population in America.

Many thanks also to Vice President Mike Pence, Labor Secretary Scalia, USPS Chairman Mike Duncan, and the Initiative’s new Executive Director, Tina Smith, for joining us here today.

A warm welcome to each member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and congratulations on your appointment.  We will work with you to develop actionable recommendations for President Trump and his team. We also will join you at the A-A-P-I Business Summit during Asian American Heritage Month in May.

Finally, thank you Henry Childs, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, for spearheading today’s ceremony.

Before I begin, I suggest we pause for a moment in sympathy of the coronavirus victims.

The Lunar New Year celebrates the lengthening days, the warming sun, and the prospects for a new season of growth.  It is observed by many Asian countries and cultures, and by millions of Asians throughout the world, and especially here in the United States.

Americans have a special reason to like the Year of the Rat, because our Founding Father, George Washington, was born in an earlier Year of the Rat.The new postage stamp commemorating the Year of the Rat is beautiful.  I’ve never seen a better-looking rat.

I am told that one myth says that the Jade Emperor staged a race to his party among the zodiac animals, which the rat won by tricking the ox.  That is why the rat is the first zodiac animal, and ox is the second. 

The Year of the Rat is regarded as a year of renewal.  That is certainly the case this year, as we celebrate new chapters in our economic relationships with China, Japan, Korea, Canada, Mexico, and hopefully others.

The new U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement both became effective on January 1st. They will create new jobs, expand two-way investment, and promote fairness in our trade relationship with Japan.

The Phase One China trade deal signed earlier this month, and the renegotiated trade agreement with South Korea, are part of President Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.  The deal with China impacts our more than $2 trillion in bilateral trade.

The United States also has renewed its commitment to supporting our Asian and Pacific Island communities within our borders.

Last May, 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.  That Executive Order re-established the White House Initiative on A-A-P-I, along with the Advisory Commission, and an Interagency Working Group.

We are developing strategies for new private- and public-sector A-A-P-I partnerships.  And we are analyzing the economies in the U.S. Pacific Island Territories and providing recommendations to help them diversify and grow their industries and their communities.

Since the President was elected, more Asian Americans are working than ever before, with unemployment touching an all-time low of only 2.1 percent last year, far below the nationwide average for all Americans.

That is amazing, isn’t it?

A-A-P-I people are famously entrepreneurial.  More than a third of all institutionally funded venture capital investments have an Asian American founder.  Of the 1.1 million minority-owned companies in the United States, more than half — 560,000 — are owned by Asian Americans.  A-A-P-I - owned businesses employ 3.6 million Americans and contribute over $700 billion annually to the U.S. GDP.

But our work isn’t done.

Increasing workforce participation is a focus not only for the Advisory Commission, but also for the White House’s National Council for the American Worker, which I co-chair with Ivanka Trump.
Currently, only 63.6 percent of working-age Asian Americans are engaged in the workforce, a slightly higher number than the overall rate of 63.2 percent.  That’s not enough, and we hope to improve it.

There are 6.8 million jobs that are vacant throughout the country, and we need good people to fill all of them.

This year’s Decennial Census will better demonstrate the increasing size and scope of the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations in our country.

The Census Bureau is doing more than ever to ensure everyone in the A-A-P-I community is fully and accurately counted in the upcoming Census.  We will be running Census ads in the following Asian languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.  We will also have additional language assistance guides in almost two dozen Asian languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Tamil, and Thai.

Already, the Census Bureau’s partnership program is working with more than 6,000 Asian American community organizations.  Additionally, we have onboarded more than 85 partnership staff to engage directly with Asian American communities in their native languages.

Multicultural experts and public relations firms have helped the Census Bureau create culturally specific, English and non-English promotional tools to build awareness and encourage A-A-P-I participation in the 2020 Census.

To illustrate, let’s now watch a short PSA that is currently being viewed in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

This video can also be seen nationwide, so that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, no matter where they live in the United States, will be encouraged to participate in this year’s Census.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also becoming politically active, as demonstrated by the huge Howdy Modi event in Houston recently.

Thank you, again, Vice President Pence, Secretary Chao, leaders and staff of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Advisory Commissioners, and the Interagency Working Group — for your leadership.  Thank you, also, to everyone from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and business groups joining us today.

We will work with everybody to build a prosperous future for all of you.

Thank you and may you all have a joyful and successful New Year.

2020 Census PSA: Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander

This video is a calling and helps inform all Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders to participate in the 2020 Census, no matter where you live.

  • Pacific people have the power to shape our own future and contribute to a greater cause. The 2020 Census is coming soon. It's a populations count that happens every 10 years. It recognizes everyone in your home including children of all ages! It informs how billions of dollars in public funding are spent each year. It's confidential. You can respond online, by phone, or by mail. It's our right to be counted. Shape our future! Start here. Paid for by the U.
    S. Census Bureau.