U.S. Department of Commerce
Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
2012 U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum
Plenary Opening Session
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Friday, July 13, 2012
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much, Myron (Brilliant), for those kind words of introduction, and for the work the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has done, in partnership with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, to help put this event together.
It’s an honor to be here, and share the stage with these distinguished individuals.
I want to thank Senior Minister Sun Chanthol for his leadership, and for the great job Cambodia has done as host.
And of course I want to thank my colleague, Under Secretary (Robert) Hormats, for all his outstanding efforts to enhance U.S. engagement with ASEAN.
The three of you have provided insightful thoughts. And I’m proud to call you partners and friends.
This morning we are embarking on an important journey together. This opening session is the beginning of something quite special. That’s because this first U.S.–ASEAN Business Forum is more than just a dialogue.
It’s an opportunity. An opportunity to build our partnerships. An opportunity to exchange ideas. And an opportunity to move closer to our goals of shared progress and prosperity.
These goals — shared by our ASEAN friends — are important priorities for us in the United States. And our commitment to them starts from the very top.
As all of you know, for a short time during his childhood, President Obama called this region of the world home. So he carries with him unique perspectives about the great possibilities that exist here. And during his time in office, the United States has significantly increased its engagement in the Asia-Pacific.
The Administration initiated its pivot towards this region, ensuring that the U.S. will continue to play a leading role in its development. We did so because we share a deep and rich history together, and want to build on this history to ensure our futures are even brighter.
That’s why Secretary Clinton is coming here today.
It’s why Under Secretary Hormats, and so many colleagues in government, traveled thousands of miles to be here.
And it’s why the U.S. Department of Commerce has been more actively engaged in Southeast Asia than ever before.
As Under Secretary for International Trade, I have made five visits to this region.
This area of the world is full of great promise, bolstered by a rising middle class.
And we want more U.S. companies to do business here, generating benefits for both sides.
For American firms, ASEAN represents:
• more markets to explore;
• more customers to reach;
• and more opportunities to provide products and services.
In turn, U.S. products and services — and the technologies that accompany them — will continue to contribute to the ASEAN region’s dynamic economic development.
So strengthening ties between the U.S. and ASEAN nations is a win-win partnership.
And the good news is that trade between the U.S. and ASEAN member nations has increased significantly in recent years.
Last year, U.S. exports to ASEAN countries exceeded $76 billion — the most ever — and are up 42 percent since 2009.
Again, this progress is generating benefits on both sides of the ocean.
And it’s important that we keep this momentum going.
That’s what today is all about:
• removing the obstacles that prevent a richer trade and investment relationship;
• and helping each other make the most of the opportunities before us.
There is a full agenda today, addressing everything from:
• improving supply chain efficiency;
• to building promising growth industries like renewable energy;
• to creating a more attractive business environment in this region by increasing transparency and speeding information flows.
One area of particular interest to me is infrastructure development because the Commerce Department will be leading a trade mission to Indonesia and Vietnam later this year, focused on this important sector.
And in doing so, we want to do more than just build roads and bridges. We want to build new opportunities across the region. We want to build on old alliances. We want to build new partnerships. And we want to build a better future for all ASEAN member countries.
This Business Forum is an important part of this work. By talking together, we can better work together, and grow together, and prosper together. There is a Cambodian proverb that says that “best friends help each other in a time of need.”
Recent years have been challenging for all of us across the region. However, we have helped each other rebound and recover. Now it’s time for us to go even further. I look forward to our dialogue today. And I look forward to our progress tomorrow and beyond.
Once again, my thanks to all of you for participating. Enjoy the forum.