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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the 2020 National Asian American and Pacific Islander Business Summit


Introduced by White House AAPI Commissioner Prem Parameswaran, Group Chief Financial Officer and President of Eros International Plc’s North America Operations

Thank you, Prem, for the kind introduction, and for your steadfast leadership of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I am honored to join Secretary Chao as co-chair of this important commission. And it’s been my pleasure to participate in what has been a lively week of webinars celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Today, more than ever, we pay tribute to the tremendous contributions of the AAPI community to every aspect of American society. My thanks to Secretary Chao, Deputy Secretary Pizzella, and SBA Administrator Carranza for their keynote remarks this week. And a warm welcome to the AAPI Commissioners and everyone joining this teleconference.

It is especially important to thank all of the front-line workers in the battle with the coronavirus, including hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are employed in our healthcare industry. Through their commitment to their communities and their fellow citizens, they are putting their lives at risk ─ and some of them have given their lives ─ to save others. They contribute every day to making America a caring, and exceptional nation.

We also thank the many AAPI-owned companies for activating their personal and business networks around the world to secure and donate PPE to our nation’s hospitals and to our frontline healthcare workers. We could not be fighting this horrific foe without the contributions of the AAPI community of some 22 million Americans. Thank you.

For these and many other reasons, it is important to re-iterate comments from President Trump, Secretary Chao, and others, that our Administration will not tolerate any instances of racial prejudice or crimes of hate. The Department of Justice has been aggressively pursuing all such cases, and we applaud them for it.

I was honored to join many of you at the White House in January with Vice President Pence and Secretary Chao for the Lunar New Year celebration. The world, unfortunately, has changed dramatically since we last met. With there being so many AAPI entrepreneurs and small business owners, this community has suffered disproportionately due to the lockdowns.

As Secretary Chao pointed out on Monday, New York’s Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate for Asian and Pacific Americans in New York has risen by more than 6,900 percent since the pandemic began.

The Department of Commerce is deploying all of its resources to address the economic ramification of the COVID-19 epidemic. The initial $2.2 trillion CARES Act contained provisions for workers, families, large and small businesses, and communities.  It also provided the Department of Commerce with more than $1.8 billion to help companies mobilize the U.S. industrial base, and assist communities in their recovery from the economic disruptions caused by the virus.

Moreover, the Commerce Department has dedicated significant resources to ensuring everyone in the AAPI community is counted in the 2020 Decennial Census. This is an extremely important endeavor since the results of the 2020 Census determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal resources and representation in Congress for the next 10 years. 

The Census Bureau’s partnership program is working with more than 6,000 organizations across the country that serve AAPI communities. And we have hired more than 85 partnership staffers to engage directly with AAPI communities. Americans can self‐respond to the Census in 12 non‐English languages including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and Tagalog. 

In addition, video and print language guides and glossaries are available in 59 non‐English languages, with 21 of them spoken by AAPI audiences. And for the past two weeks, I have been phoning mayors of medium-sized, and large cities that have lower than average response rates. We are asking these mayors to engage their communities to complete the Census, since so much rides on the outcome. We also ask all of you to remind anyone you know who has not responded to do so by going to the website. That’s

The Trump Administration remains committed to implementing strategies that will reshore essential industries back to the United States. The AAPI business community will be instrumental as our country strives to rebuild our domestic supply chains, our industrial base, the workers they employ, and the communities they enrich.

So much of our future success depends on our ability to train the next generation of STEM workers. With the engagement of the AAPI business community, we must develop and deploy the most advanced automated and robotic manufacturing technologies; and digitize every aspect of our economy.

As bad as this crisis is, we are beginning to see our country ─ slowly and carefully ─ open back up for business. The entrepreneurial spirit of the AAPI community will lead to new innovations that will save lives, capitalize on market opportunities, and return our country to prosperity.

In the meantime, the Department of Commerce is doing everything it can to ensure that businesses owned by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remain viable during this global health emergency. Thank you, again, for your devotion to the United States of America.

God bless those in your community who have sacrificed so much during these difficult and dangerous times, and for their families, and their loved ones.

By working together, I am confident we will recover from this crisis, stronger and more unified than ever before. Thank you and keep well.