Vice President Mike Pence Addresses the Department of Commerce

On July 16, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks to U.S. Department of Commerce employees.

  • [Under Secretary Kelly]

    Good afternoon everyone and welcome. I am so glad you could join us today for this very momentous day for the Department of Commerce. It has been 15 years since a Vice President has addressed the Department of Commerce. I am Karen Dunn Kelly, the Under Secretary of Economic Affairs, performing the nonexclusive duties and functions of the Deputy Secretary. It is my privilege today to introduce our Secretary, Wilbur Ross. The mission of the Department of Commerce is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. There is a lot packed into that statement. We are the premier source of data and information about our people, our society, our economy, and our environment. We foster innovation by setting standards and conducting foundational research. We enable commerce and save lives by predicting weather and mapping oceans. We analyze and examine exports and imports to ensure a level playing field and reciprocal trade. We protect our technologies and our  intellectual properties, and so much more. That is a lot. It's a formidable task. A job that directs and touches every single life in America. Throughout the offices and the bureaus of our Department, over 46,000 of our employees are hard at work every day advancing that mission. It is in every state, in every territory, as well as 86 countries around the world. I am very honored and privileged to be part of that great team.

    Leading this big, broad, and complex organization is an enormous job. We are fortunate to have a secretary that truly understands the mission of economic growth and opportunity as well as how to execute on that mission. Secretary Ross was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as the 39th Secretary of Commerce on February 28, 2017. In this role, Secretary Ross is the primary principal voice of entrepreneurs and businesses in Washington, ensuring they have the tools, the information, and the level playing field that's needed to create jobs and economic opportunity. Secretary Ross brings to the Department of Commerce 55 years of experience driving growth creation and jobs managing and advising businesses of all sizes and sick years. He was named by Bloomberg one of the 50 most influential people in the global markets and Secretary Ross is the only person elected to both the Private Equity Hall of Fame as well as the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame. The Department of Commerce as well as the people, the households, and the businesses we serve are fortunate to have such an experienced leader at our helm. Mr. Secretary, we are all honored to serve with you and we thank you for your service. Please join me in welcoming the United States Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.

    [Secretary Wilbur Ross]

    Thank you, Karen, for that kind introduction. I am honored Vice President Pence is joined us here this afternoon. His interest in our department means a lot to the 47,000 people who work here. He is on track to being the most impactful vice president in our nation's history and he has major roles in diplomacy and congressional relations, executive branch reform, trade, and economic policy as he helps us to achieve President Trump's vision for our country. He earlier succeeded mightily as governor of the state of Indiana and before that for six terms as a member of the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    You do know that vice president hails from Indiana but you may not know that he is no longer just an Indianan. On January 17, 2017, federal government change the official nickname of Indianans to Hoosiers. That name was inspired by John Finley's 1830 poem which included the famous line, "blessed Indiana, in thy soil are found the sure rewards of toil." Farming is still very important to Indiana but manufacturing has grown to one third of the state's economy, the highest ratio in the nation. High tech also grew enormously under Mike Pence's term as governor of Indiana. Economic development and job creation have always been his high priorities. I saw firsthand the vice president's diplomatic skills when he led the economic dialogue to Japan.

    President Trump named him chairman of the Space Council with the mandate of making the United States the unquestioned leader in space. He is doing so at the speed of a rocket launch. Upon his recommendation, the President has issued three space directives to establish the Commerce Department as one-stop shop for the commercial aspects of space. The vice President may have a special affinity to the American space industry since both the first person and the last person to walk on the moon were both graduates from the University of Indiana. The vice president is also a devotee of the Indianapolis 500. Since I had been stationed as an Army officer at Fort Benjamin Harrison, I know firsthand that it is the greatest spectacle in racing. As an IndyCar fan, he has often commented on the incredible technology that supports the racing industry. From composite materials to sensors to safety systems. Many of the high-tech companies that supply our aerospace industry literally got their start making parts and components for vehicles traveling at 230 miles an hour around a two-mile track at Indianapolis. We are honored the vice president has chosen to help make space a $1 trillion industry and the flag of choice for launches.

    Let us now give a huge round of applause for Vice President Pence.

    [Vice President Mike Pence]

    Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary. And it is an honor to be here today with so many dedicated public servants, who work every day to help America economy grow. It is an honor to be here at the United States Department of Commerce. (Applause.)

    And before I get started, let me bring greetings from a great champion of American jobs and workers and American commerce. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

    As you all know, our President is now on his way home from a historic trip to Europe. The truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world. (Applause.)

    As evidenced over the past week, our President concluded a highly successful meeting in Brussels, where he called on our NATO Allies to uphold their commitment to our common defense. And thanks to the President’s leadership, NATO is stronger than ever before.

    Our President then met with Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom, where he opened the door to a free-trade deal with our closest ally.

    And earlier today, President Trump completed what he described as a “direct, open, and deeply productive” dialogue with President Putin in Helsinki.

    As the President said, it was a constructive day, but it was only the beginning, adding, in his words, that diplomacy and engagement is always preferable to conflict and hostility.

    Disagreements between our countries were discussed at length, but what the world saw, what the American people saw, is that is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first. (Applause.)

    And American prosperity is what brings me here today. Since the outset of our administration, we’ve been busy getting this economy moving again. We’ve been rolling back red tape at a record pace, unleashing our nation’s boundless natural resources. And, just before Christmas last year, this President signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history.

    The results have been remarkable. Since our election, 3.7 million new jobs have been created by businesses large and small across America. Unemployment has fallen to lows not seen in nearly 20 years. And the President and I are particularly proud of the fact that we have now set a new record — the lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans and Hispanic Americans all across this nation. (Applause.)

    The truth is, under President Donald Trump, jobs are coming back, confidence is back. In a word, America is back. And we’re just getting started.

    But I came here today, first and foremost, to express the gratitude of your President and the American people for the work that each and every one of you do to strengthen American prosperity here at the United States Department of Commerce.

    This year, this department celebrated its 115th anniversary. As history records, in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt recognized the need to create a new agency capable of identifying and unlocking the unlimited potential of the new American era. And this department exists because of his far-sighted and quintessentially American leadership.

    And just as President Roosevelt had a vision of a boundless American future in his time, so too President Trump has been busy since the first day of our administration, charting a new course for American prosperity in our time. And the Department of Commerce has been playing a vital role in this exciting and prospering new era.

    So before I go further, let me say that we’re grateful to the work that each and every one of you do, but we’re especially grateful for the leadership here at the Department of Commerce. This department is today led by a leader of extraordinary experience and accomplishment, who was willing to come in to federal service to bring greater prosperity to every American. Will you all join me in thanking the 39th United States Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross. (Applause.) Thank you, Wilbur.

    Just as our nation’s economy has grown and changed over the past 115 years, this department has evolved to address the ever-changing needs of free enterprise in this country.

    In these halls, the International Trade Administration is hard at work promoting free, fair, and reciprocal trade, opening new doors to American exports and investment, and promoting American products on the world stage.

    The Bureau of Industry and Security is defending America’s national security and taking strong action to prevent countries like China, Russia, and Iran from stealing sensitive technologies developed by the American people.

    Across the river in Alexandria, the Patent and Trademark Office works with American innovators and entrepreneurs to protect their inventions and brands at home and abroad. And just over one month ago, President Trump was particularly proud to sign American patent number 10 million — a testament to the boundless ingenuity of the American people. (Applause.)

    And as a part of the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitors our nation’s fisheries, waters, and winds. With hurricane season already underway, let me say that the work done by the dedicated team at NOAA has never been more important to the safety of the American people, and we are grateful to all those who work at NOAA for the work you do every day. (Applause.)

    And there’s the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of America’s oldest physical science laboratories. And countless components of the American economy depend on its research and publications.

    And, of course, the United States Census Bureau is gearing up for the 2020 Census, which will be the most accurate Census yet. And together with the Bureau of Economic Analysis, it will be providing findings, facts, and figures that policymakers will rely on at every level of government.

    Over the past 18 months, you’ve provided the data that proves that, under President Donald Trump, the economy is booming. The truth of the matter is, the Department of Commerce is that source for the American people that shows that the American economy is rolling once again. And we are just getting started. (Applause.)

    But let me also say that today, as never before, the Department of Commerce is playing a leading role in unleashing America’s space enterprise. Under this President, this department has taken historic steps to empower the innovators and entrepreneurs who are creating the jobs of the future and forging a new era of American leadership in space. And the President and I are both truly grateful.

    President Trump made commercial space development a top priority for our administration, and he asked me to serve as Chairman of the newly reconstituted National Space Council. It’s been my great privilege to work with Secretary Ross to make the President’s vision for a renewed American leadership in space a reality.

    Earlier this year, the President signed Space Policy Directive-2, in which he ordered the Department of Commerce to eliminate and streamline the burdensome regulations that stand in the way of space pioneers.

    And as we speak, through this department, we’ve been working to reform the obsolete rules that have stifled massive demand for up-to-date satellite images and live video of Earth. We’re reforming the byzantine licensing requirements that have prevented American companies from using cutting-edge satellite technology that has already been launched into orbit.

    And today, the Department of Commerce is even building a one-stop shop for commercial space policy to give the space economy a voice and a seat at the table, and to save our most innovative trailblazers from endless bureaucracy and regulatory limbo.

    President Trump and I expect great things from the new Director of the Office of Space Commerce and from all the great work of this space initiative here at the Department of Commerce. I understand Kevin O’Connell is with us today, and I want to thank and congratulate Kevin for stepping forward to lead in this vital moment in the life of America’s leadership in space. (Applause.) Thank you, Kevin.

    So whether it’s in space or here in our economy, or whether it’s our Patent Office and the rest, you all are doing incredible work every day to support American prosperity. And I’m really here just to thank you. Thank you for the work that you do. But I’m also here to say that your work has maybe never been more important — and that’s especially true when it comes to the topic of American trade.

    I’ve already mentioned that the Department of Commerce promotes American exports and breaks down barriers to trade, attracts foreign companies to invest in American jobs and workers, and defends innovators and technologies, even while you’re defending our national security.

    The truth is, you deserve credit for your record in all these areas, and you should know with confidence that you have a champion in President Donald Trump.

    As the President has said definitively, in his words, “We want more trade.” In this White House, we know that trade means jobs, it means higher wages, a brighter future for the American people.

    But this President and this administration also know that, for too long, in our relations with too many countries, trade hasn’t been a two-way street. The truth is, real, balanced trade means that all of our trading relationships need to be free, fair, and reciprocal. But too often — too often we’ve been at the short end of the trading stick.

    As the President said for years, in his words, “We opened our country to their goods,” but for many other countries, they “put up massive barriers to keep our products and our goods out.”

    I know many of you work every day to break these barriers down, and we’ve got more work to do. You know well the obstacles that stand in the way of free and fair trade for American businesses. But I’ll just recount a few for you. For instance, the European Union puts a 10 percent tariff on American-made cars. That’s four times higher than the tariffs that we place on their cars.

    Our neighbor to the north, Canada, imposes a 270 percent tariff on many American dairy products. And across every industry, China’s average tariffs on American goods are three times higher than our tariffs on their goods. And that doesn’t even count the many American products that China bans outright from being sold in their country.

    But as you well know, in many industries, it’s not just tariffs, but non-tariff barriers that even do more to distort and disrupt trade than the tariffs themselves. And the examples of these barriers are too numerous to count.

    And, of course, there’s the area of intellectual property. When it comes to businesses’ intellectual property, the truth is, many countries either fail to protect American intellectual property, or in some cases allow their businesses and bureaucracies to steal it, literally robbing American innovators of the results of their creativity and investments.

    And as our administration demonstrated in March in the findings of our recent 301 investigation, no China — no nation does this more, when it comes to intellectual property, than China.

    The evidence is clear: China is implementing a sustained, centralized, and strategic effort to undermine America’s global economic leadership. The Chinese use ownership and investment restrictions to force American companies to hand over technological blueprints. China imposes licensing requirements that unfairly favor its own businesses. And China has enacted long-term industrial plans that prop up state-owned companies with massive government subsidies, and enable them to overwhelm American companies with an over-supply of underpriced goods.

    And then there are the Chinese spies who pilfer American innovations, like the time when Chinese company officials conspired to steal genetically modified seeds worth tens of millions of dollars from Iowa cornfields.

    The truth is, as the President has said, America has been losing at trade far too often, not only with China, but across the wider world. And yet for far too long, our nation’s leaders refused to admit this fact, even as American workers struggled in the wake of it.

    The truth is, America has lost too many jobs, we’ve lost too much wealth. We’ve lost too many trade battles without putting up so much as a fight. But in this White House, those days are over. (Applause.) Under President Trump, America is fighting back and we’ll break down barriers to free and fair reciprocal trade. The American worker is going to win again — and win as never before.

    As President Trump has said, in his words, “The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to the theft of American jobs, wealth, and intellectual property.” And I can assure you, our administration is also going to continue to take decisive action to protect our nation’s industries and our workers.

    At the President’s direction, last year, the Department of Commerce began investigating the consequences of imported steel and aluminum to the safety of our nation. And in January, you determined that steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair our national security.”

    And that’s why President Trump levied tariffs on a number of countries, and we’ve reached deals with several others to reduce the amount of steel and aluminum that they sell to the United States.

    As the President likes to say, “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.” And this action by this Department of Commerce and the President of the United States have put American steel, American aluminum, and American national security first. (Applause.)

    And it’s working. Later this week, I’ll be in the St. Louis area, where U.S. Steel recently announced plans to hire back 800 workers and re-open a mill. Thanks to your findings and the President’s action, American steel is coming back.

    And the Department of Commerce has also worked with the United States Trade Representative to respond to nations like China that have unfair trade practices and that literally steal our businesses’ intellectual property.

    Earlier this month, our administration began implementing up to $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. And last week, at the President’s direction, we began the process of imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports.

    Let me be clear: This is not the first blow. In fact, these and future tariffs are commensurate to the damage that China has done to the American economy through forced technology transfers from our businesses to theirs, as well as their broader trade policies.

    If China refuses to level the playing field, and continues to retaliate against American manufacturers and American agriculturalists, their leaders should know: America will not back down. Our resolve will never break. And we will keep taking strong action to protect American workers until China changes course. (Applause.)

    As the President has said, “The era of economic surrender is over.” Across the wider world, we’ll also continue to fight for trade deals and agreements that are free, fair, and reciprocal, because American jobs depend on it.

    This is especially true when it comes to our farmers. Last week, while the President was in Europe, he was still thinking about the American farmer. In fact, he said so in a tweet that he released from Brussels. As he pointed out, other countries’ trade barriers and tariffs have been destroying agricultural businesses. It’s been a tough decade, or more, for the American farmer. But as the President promised, we’ll “open things up,” and our farmers will start winning again.

    I was in Iowa and Missouri just last week, talking with men and women who depend on trade for agricultural goods. I told them this President has taken decisive action to lower trade barriers for American agricultural exports already. That being said, as I’ve told many businesses in the city and on the farm, it’s important to remember, as the President takes decisive action against trade barriers that hurt American jobs and American workers, with this President, everything is a negotiation. And with that negotiation approach, we have made significant progress.

    For instance, after more than a quarter of a century, this President managed to open Argentina’s market to American pork. We’ve forged new deals to re-open Vietnam to American corn and wheat. And for the first time in 13 years, we’ve opened Brazil’s market to American beef. And as we speak, we are making meaningful progress toward renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. (Applause.)

    The President even announced at the close of the NATO Summit, that the United States and the EU will meet later this month, on July 25th, to begin negotiations to reduce barriers to American goods and open up the opportunity for more American commerce with our EU partners.

    Across the wider world, whether it’s our farmers, our ranchers, our producers, or our manufacturers, we’re going to continue to fight to bring “Made in America” and “Grown in America” to every corner of the world.

    President Donald Trump believes in free trade. Last month, as evidenced at the G7 Summit in Canada, the President actually laid out a new vision for trade among those allies. It didn’t get as much press as other aspects of the summit but it sure caught the attention of many. The President actually proposed to our G7 partners that there would be a free trade zone among the G7 members where there would be no “no tariffs,” “no barriers,” and “no subsidies.” No unfair trade practices of any kind among the seven largest advanced economies in the world.

    It was a powerful and a compelling vision. And it expresses the core of the President’s view of trade that it be free, that it be fair, and that it be reciprocal. And with the leadership of this President, I can assure you, our administration will continue to stand with nations who share that vision and want to work toward it. And we will continue to stand up to nations who take undue advantage of the American people and American workers.

    As the world has already seen, in this White House, we’ll use the stick and the carrot to make progress toward a level playing field. And when the playing field is level, American businesses and American workers will win even more than we’re winning now. (Applause.)

    So we’ve made great progress over the past 18 months. So let me just again take this opportunity to say “thank you.” Thank you to all of you at the Department of Commerce for all that you’ve contributed to advancing the policies and the conditions that are encouraging this extraordinary growth in the American economy.

    And you can be assured of this — you can be assured in the days ahead that we will not rest. We will not relent in the fight for trade that’s free and fair. We will not rest in our commitment to see this economy reach its full potential. And under President Donald Trump and with your continued work, I know that the best days for American workers, for American commerce are yet to come.

    So thank you for the opportunity to address you today. Thank you for your commitment to strengthening commerce in America. Your duties all differ greatly, but your purpose and calling are one in the same. Each one of you have made a real difference, not just in this administration but in the lives of millions of Americans. You have an important role to play in the days ahead, make no mistake about it.

    And the President and I are counting on you — counting on each one of you to continue to do your work with great diligence and great energy and great creativity in the days ahead, to work without ceasing. Whatever your role, fortify the foundations of our nation’s economy, open new doors of opportunity for the American people and for their prosperity.

    You know, I can’t help but think of a speech that was given many years ago by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925. He’s often quoted from that speech, his words, where he said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” And in many ways, it is, in this great free-market economy.

    But what’s less widely recognized is that in that very same speech, President Coolidge also said these words. He said, and I quote, “We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more.” President Coolidge said, “We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization.” And then he closed by saying, “I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists.”

    And so just know that the work you do here is about Commerce. It’s about creating the conditions where wealth can be created in this, the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. But also know here, the men and women of the United States Department of Commerce, that it’s also about advancing the ideals that have made that prosperity possible that is at the core of our national success.

    With that renewed idealism among our people, with your continued service, with President Donald Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, I know we will make America prosperous again — more prosperous than ever before.

    Thank you very much. God bless you. (Applause.) And God bless the United States.