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Remarks at U.S.-Poland Business Summit Closing, Warsaw, Poland

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at U.S.-Poland Business Summit Closing, Warsaw, Poland

Thank you. And a special thanks to Deputy Prime Minister Pawlak. It has been wonderful to meet with you and to strengthen our partnership today through the
U.S.-Poland Economic and Commercial Dialogue.

I also want to thank the organizers of the Summit–including the American Chamber of Commerce, the U.S.-Poland Business Council, and the Polish Confederation of Private Employers. These groups did much more than just organize the logistics of this conference. They also helped frame the issues through a White Paper and other efforts.

I also want to thank the numerous corporate sponsors of the Summit and Roundtable, which are listed in your program. Please help me thank them for their support of this event and of U.S.-Polish commercial relations.

And thank you to Ambassador Feinstein. Your track record of strengthening U.S.-Polish relations–especially our economic and commercial cooperation–is widely known.

The events and discussions over the past day have been interesting and fruitful. And I look forward in a few moments to fulfilling President Obama’s promise to Prime Minister Tusk to hold a roundtable with business leaders of both countries.

Let me begin by saying that President Obama himself understands the strong relationship between our people and our countries. For example, President Obama has awarded only one honorary U.S. citizenship during his administration. This is a special honor, and it was bestowed–posthumously–on someone born here in Warsaw, Casimir Pulaski.

As you know, in the 1700s, General Pulaski fought for freedom and independence for both Poland and the U.S. In the U.S., we know him as the Father of the American Cavalry. In fact, the president has called for Americans to celebrate General Pulaski Memorial Day every October.

Since General Pulaski’s days fighting in the American Revolution, U.S.-Polish relations have endured. And in the past two decades–and especially in recent years–this relationship has grown stronger than ever.

The increase in our economic and commercial ties has been particularly dramatic. After communism fell in 1989, the U.S. was proud to stand with Poland as you embraced democracy and free markets. The results have been nothing less than extraordinary:

  • U.S. companies led the way to invest billions of dollars in Poland;
  • Over the past ten years, our bilateral trade has nearly quadrupled;
  • And, now today, Poland is the EU’s fastest growing economy, and we are doing more than ever to link it the world’s largest economy–the United States.

Today, we must build on the success and the momentum we see in our relationship. We can do that in a number of ways.

First, trade.

Poland is America’s largest trading partner in Central Europe, and our trade relationship is becoming stronger each day. From 2010 to 2011 alone, U.S.-Polish bilateral trade jumped 25 percent to $7.5 billion. U.S. exports to Poland were over $3 billion while Polish exports to the U.S. were over $4 billion.

We have come a long way, but we have only scratched the surface of our potential. Increasing U.S. exports have been a top priority for President Obama. In 2009, he set a goal of doubling U.S. exports in five yearsthat is, by the end of 2014. Since then, U.S. exports are up 36 percent and we hit an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in exports last year.

At the Department of Commerce, we’ve been leading the effort to double exports, working to identify markets with the greatest opportunities to expand exports of U.S. goods and services. We are particularly pleased to be helping meet the growing needs of the Polish people, and we want to do even more to meet Polish demand in a number of areas. U.S. companies are eager to offer their unique products and services  ranging from consumer goods for Poland’s growing middle class, to cutting-edge products in fields such as aviation, information technology, and medical equipment and–of course–energy, including energy efficiency technologies, renewable energy, civil nuclear energy, and more.

Today at the Economic and Commercial Dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Pawlak, our teams recommitted ourselves to building on our strong trade relationship. So, I look forward to our signing ceremony later with an agreement to increase trade promotion in both directions.

And we look forward to future, broader steps, such as the possibility of a U.S.-EU trade agreement.

A second area where we can build our relationship is investment.

The United States and the EU are each other’s primary source of Foreign Direct Investment. And today, there is significant potential to strengthen bilateral investment between the U.S. and Poland. Already, U.S. companies have played a key role in fostering Poland’s market-driven economy. They were among the first and strongest business investors in Poland–and, to date–some estimates say they have invested as much as $30 billion. In fact, today, about 180,000 Polish citizens are employed by U.S. investors and businesses.

American companies are proud to have helped Poland become a critical part of the global supply chain in fields such as chemicals, the automotive industry, and more. In addition, some U.S. firms are now exploring how to bring key services to Poland, such as engineering firms that want to help develop infrastructure 

And, as Poland grows and expands, U.S.-Polish bilateral investment is slowly becoming more balanced with dollars flowing both ways. An increasing number of Polish businesses now see investment in the U.S. as a way to build on their own growth and success. This is a sign that our economic relationship has matured.

So let me be clear: America welcomes Polish investment with open arms. President Obama and the Commerce Department launched SelectUSA to encourage even more investment from overseas in the U.S. SelectUSA is already working with our commercial service officers here in Poland to reach out to local businesses that are interested in investing in U.S. facilities and workers. I look forward to witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Poland’s Information and Foreign Investment Agency and SelectUSA after our Roundtable.

So we are trading more with each other than ever before. We are investing in each other more than ever before. And today, I believe it is time to add a third dimension to our economic and commercial relationship. It is time for us to lead together in driving global innovation. The U.S. has built its reputation as a global leader in innovation over the past century:

  • by providing excellence in higher education;
  • by supporting research and development, and 
  • by fostering a climate that incentivizes entrepreneurship.

Poland–with its educated workforce, strategic location, and other key assets–is poised to be one of the next great global hubs of innovation. To help unleash the full innovative potential of both countries, we must do more to foster market environments that reward risk-taking and creativity, and we must support regulatory practices that give new ideas as much room as possible to grow and flourish.

Truly, we can and must continue to build even more bridges among U.S. and Polish entrepreneurs and businesses. But we can’t stop there. . .

  • We also need more partnerships among our university leaders and researchers, as we see today with a new agreement between the Ohio State University and the Warsaw University of Technology;
  • We also need more collaboration between our governments–not just at the national level–but also at the regional and local levels;
  • And, yes, we need more opportunities to exchange ideas among our people, especially among our youth.  I’m pleased that the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary Michael Camunez had the opportunity yesterday to congratulate a group of Polish interns who are headed to some of our top U.S. companies through the support and hard work of the Polish American Freedom

In closing, as Poland’s economy continues to grow at a rapid rate and as U.S. economic growth deepens, building on 4.3 million jobs we have created over the past two years we will continue to have new opportunities to build even deeper ties in trade and investment in the months and years ahead.

I’m confident that we can achieve that vision. And I’m reminded of that vision every day.

Across the street from the Commerce Department building in downtown Washington, D.C., is a small park called Freedom Plaza. The main statue in that park is of General Pulaski on a horse in the traditional uniform of a Polish Cavalry Commander. The inscription below the statue has two titles, each given equal weight and prominence: “Brigadier General U.S.” and “Marshal General Poland.”

No one could have imagined in 1910, when that statue was erected, that our relationship would have come this far to the point where a business in the U.S. would be selling its goods every day in stores here in Poland, or a business in Warsaw would be hiring Americans to build its products.

But we have indeed arrived at this important moment. So let’s build on the strong ties we have created. Let’s look for new ways to expand our relationship. And together, I know we can ensure greater prosperity for the people of both the U.S. and Poland.