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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Third Quarter Meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Filipino American History Month Celebration


Introduced by Herman Martir, President of Emerging Leaders International, and Commissioner, President’s Advisory Council on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Thank you, Herman, for the kind introduction, and for your leadership on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. And a special thanks also to Secretary Elaine Chao. I’m pleased to co-chair the White House Initiative on AAPI with you and am grateful for your thoughtful steerage.

This important initiative seeks to positively impact the lives of the fastest growing minority population in America, as well as the 1.9 million companies large and small headed up those in your community.

Thank you also to the commissioners joining together today virtually for your third open meeting. Your continued service on behalf of the entire AAPI community is commendable, and so necessary as we advance through the economic recovery period.

I also extend a warm welcome to those joining us from the Filipino American community. I am pleased to celebrate Filipino American History Month with you. We are especially thankful for the hundreds of thousands of Filipino Americans who are on the front lines of this battle, taking personal risks to save so many lives. They contribute every day to making America a caring, and exceptional nation.

Filipino Americans are famously entrepreneurial. From Pedro Flores’ invention of the yo-yo and incorporation of the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara in the 1920s, to the many enterprises and initiatives headed by Filipino Americans today, I am delighted to join with you in commemorating the history and commercial achievements of the more than 3.4 million Filipino Americans living in our nation. You may know that the first female AND first Asian American White House Executive Chef, is Filipino-American – Cristeta Comerford, appointed by First Lady Laura Bush.

Your community’s innovative spirit is a model for what is needed as we continue to emerge from COVID-19’s impact to our economy.

I am encouraged that our business community continues to make progress through economic recovery. We’ve seen reassuring changes in the financial markets, in real GDP projections, and in the workforce. These are important indicators that we are holding to a standard and steady pattern of economic recovery.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that 661,000 workers returned to work last month across multiple sectors, with the highest gains in the hospitality, retail, professional and business services, transportation, and warehousing industries. In total, 11.4 million Americans have gone back to work over the last five months.

As we sustain this progress, the Administration is continuing to deploy resources that address the impacts of COVID-19 on minority businesses. Under the President’s CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program provided more than $525 billion to more than 5 million companies with fewer than 500 employees.

And the Administration continues to work with Congress on quick passage of another stimulus bill. I am hopeful that we will see additional relief soon.

In the meantime, the U.S. Government is putting its resources behind rebuilding the U.S. economy and strengthening our global commercial ties. Your community’s exporters have much to gain from the newly entered-into-force U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement.

When President Trump successfully negotiated USMCA, he leveled the playing field for your companies to do business with Mexico and Canada. And the agreement will generate even more economic growth while the pandemic subsides. Specifically, the new rules of origin will help re-shore production and re-establish domestic supply chains in many industrial sector

Since USMCA went into effect in July, the U.S. Government has been busy implementing this ground-breaking trade deal. We have:

  • Published rules for dispute settlements;
  • Issued new tariff schedules and duty rates;
  • Released guidelines to administer the high-wage component of the labor-content requirements;
  • And put in place labor enforcement provisions that are written into the agreement.

We will continue to engage closely with Mexico and Canada as we fortify the world’s largest trading block under this agreement.

In addition to his success negotiating and implementing USMCA, President Trump is making U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region a top priority of this Administration. Indo-Pacific nations account for two-thirds of all global trade. And our country has a strong history of collaboration with the region.

In 2019, the United States conducted $1.89 trillion in two-way trade with Indo-Pacific nations. And U.S.-source FDI in the Indo-Pacific region at the end of last year was valued at $955.4 billion – an increase of 7.6 percent from 2018. The stock of Indo-Pacific-source FDI in the United States was valued at over $969 billion. FDI from the United States to the Philippines was led by the manufacturing, wholesale trade, and professional, scientific, and technical services sectors, and totaled $7.1 billion in 2017 (latest available) up 12.5 percent from 2016. Philippine-source FDI in the United States was $750 million the same year, up 1.4 percent over 2016.

I am pleased that we continue to strengthen our bilateral commercial ties with this important Indo-Pacific partner. Since the President’s launch of the Indo-Pacific Strategy in July 2018, the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has facilitated commercial partnerships for more than 11,000 U.S. companies to doing business in the region. ITA’s work resulted in $62.3 billion in U.S. export volume and $21.3 billion in inward foreign investment, as well as support for more than 354,000 American jobs.

The Commerce Department plays a leading role in strengthening our commercial ties in the Indo-Pacific region by working on behalf of U.S. companies to:

  • Identify project procurement opportunities;
  • Find reliable partners for outward exports and inward investment;
  • Secure access to financing;
  • Reduce market access barriers;
  • And look for good business climate conditions across Asia.

One example of such endeavors is the Asia EDGE Initiative, an interagency effort designed to grow sustainable and secure energy markets throughout the Indo-Pacific. Starting in June this year, the Department began hosting a series of Asia EDGE online workshops, collaborating with eight other U.S. Government agencies to highlight federal resources for American energy companies working in the Indo-Pacific region. These workshops will run through the end of 2020.

ITA is also organizing the Asia EDGE Market Development Forum on Energy Digitalization in Southeast Asia on October 6th. The goal of this multi-day online program is to enable increased U.S. exports of energy resilience, cybersecurity, and digitalization technologies and services to Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I invite you to participate in these virtual discussions.

Later, in November the U.S. Commercial Service in Vietnam will partner with the U.S. Trade & Development Agency and the American Petroleum Institute to engage with in-country public and private sector LNG industry leaders. Together, we will craft internationally recognized standards, as Vietnam builds toward a future utilizing LNG to become a more resource-rich and energy-secure country.

Finally, in 2021, armed with what we learned in our workshop sessions, the Commerce Department will participate in the first Asia EDGE trade mission to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand next March.

I am also pleased that the meeting of the third Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF) will held this month on October 28th and 29th.

At last year’s IPBF in Bangkok, I was fortunate to sign agreements with countries that opened the door to billions of dollars of U.S. exports. Our new commercial ties have strengthened multi- and bi-lateral relations with all nations in the region. Together with our partner USG agencies, and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the Commerce Department will host high-level discussions with officials from the United States and Vietnam.

There will be opportunities for participants to network with potential business partners and officials, and participate in panel discussions on:

  • Financing energy projects in the Indo-Pacific region;
  • Developing trust principles in digital communications technologies;
  • Investing in health-care opportunities that will spur post-pandemic economic growth;
  • And connecting to exciting growth markets throughout Southeast Asia.

I welcome you to attend this year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum to be held virtually, and in Hanoi. My department will continue to make resources like these - that encourage expanding trade and investment, drive American innovation, and spur economic and job growth - available to your businesses. In doing so we ensure a healthy business climate where your companies can compete and thrive as we make progress through the economic recovery.

I am eager for our discussions today to that end. And I am also looking forward to reviewing this Commission’s recommendations on how the federal government can better assist AAPI-owned businesses through the current challenges and the future of business. We need them, and I encourage members of the five subcommittees to craft them as soon as possible. Your report to the President is critical to creating policies that will further benefit your community.

Thank you once again and have a great third meeting.