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Remarks at Woodrow Wilson Center China Environment Forum

Wednesday, October 5, 2010

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Woodrow Wilson Center China Environment Forum

Thank you for the kind words.

As recently as 35 years ago, the economic and trading relationship between China and the United States was virtually non-existent.

But over the past three decades, our economic and trade ties have evolved into one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.

Since being sworn in as Commerce Secretary, I’ve journeyed to China four times. It is where both my parents were born, and I’ve frequently visited for over 20 years.   During that time, I’ve witnessed the amazing transformation of China: the rise of a robust middle-class, rapid modernization and the lifting of almost 200 million people out of poverty.

As part of this evolution, China has become our second largest trading partner and the largest export market for American goods outside of North America.

But, the growing volume and complexity of trade over the last 30 years has brought new challenges:

  • Intellectual property protection
  • Barriers to trade, including the Chinese policy of Indigenous Innovation; and
  • Currency valuation

These are concerns not just of U.S. businesses and the U.S. government, but of businesses and governments all around the world.

The U.S. has been and will continue to be frank in our discussions about these issues, because a mature trading relationship demands nothing less.

  • We will continue to use the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, or JCCT, to resolve market access issues for U.S. producers and investors;
  • We will continue to press for the adoption of market-based exchange rate mechanisms; and
  • At the G-20 and in other multilateral venues, we have joined China in committing to do our part to contribute to the rebalancing of the global economy.

We welcome strong growth in the Chinese economy.  That growth has provided unprecedented opportunities to generations of Chinese citizens that they otherwise would never have known.

And continued economic growth and robust trade between our two nations will continue to deliver benefits to the people of both China and the United States.

American companies offer world-class products and services that can help meet China’s growing domestic demand, but also meet its goal to improve the quality of life of its people:  from medicines and medical devices, to food, environmental clean-up, clean energy, high technology, financial services and education, to name just a few. 

This is trade that is mutually beneficial to both our peoples.  

At the same time, such trade opens opportunities to U.S. workers and businesses and contributes to worldwide rebalancing – in which America buys a little less and sells a little more to China and the rest of the world – helping to create a more prosperous future for everyone.

In no area is that win-win situation clearer than in the energy sector.

This industry holds incredible promise to spur innovations and create new jobs in both our nations, and to act as an antidote to our fossil fuel addiction.

China and the U.S. are the world’s leading emitters of CO2, and the leading importers of foreign oil.

These facts, if not addressed, will significantly impact our environment and our businesses, indeed our entire way of life. 

They are not, however, unexpected given China’s rapid development.

For generations, millions of Chinese lived in small one-room houses. They lacked the basic accessories of modern life: refrigerators, washing machines, computers – the list goes on. Cooking was done over small wood stoves.

But in the last decade, millions of Chinese from villages around the country have moved out of poverty and into the middle class.  Along the way, they have embraced the energy-hungry amenities that Americans and people from developed economies take for granted, from automobiles to air conditioning.

And this is just the beginning. China has 700 million rural inhabitants; many of whom will aspire to and achieve the comforts of middle-class living in the years ahead.

China is expected to spend $3.1 trillion to meet its electricity demands by 2030.

It’s critical that we seize the moment to address this daunting challenge.

In May this year, I led a successful clean energy trade mission to China to provide U.S. companies an opportunity to showcase their cutting-edge goods and services.

And the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program, which Premier Wen signed into existence with President Obama last November, is already producing results, including a biofuels project being launched by U.S. companies in coordination with China’s National Energy Agency.

President Obama has said that green jobs are the jobs of the 21st century.

But some suggest the race for those jobs is a zero sum game, saying clean energy technology development in China would be detrimental to the U.S. market.

The report we see today from Garten Rothkopf indicates the opposite: Accelerated development of energy technologies, such as those discussed in the Report, could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States and China.

Cooperative methods to implement projects in:

  • carbon capture and sequestration;
  • supercritical coal;
  • scale-able photovoltaic solar power; and
  • smart grid technology,

. . . can drive successful partnerships between our two nations.

Energy firms that are already taking advantage of opportunities in solar, wind and battery production – like Duke Energy – are benefiting from U.S. and Chinese incentives:

  • to grow their operations,
  • create new jobs,
  • and establish global supply chains that reduce costs.

We need to use models that already work and replicate their successes in critical new areas like smart grid technology and carbon capture.

Increasing our economic cooperation will enable more Chinese to buy American-made goods, and this dovetails with President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which calls for doubling our exports within five years while supporting several million American jobs.

The NEI was launched in March, but it’s already paying dividends.

Today, because of a strengthening world economy and stepped up efforts across the federal government, exports are helping to lead our economic recovery.

  • They’re up roughly 18 percent over the same period last year.
  • U.S. exports of manufactured goods have increased 22 percent, an
  • Agricultural exports are projected to total the second highest amount ever, with an expected trade surplus of $30.5 billion.

But we can do even better.

Under the NEI, there’s going to be:

  • More credit available for exporters;
  • A sharper focus on knocking down trade barriers that prevent U.S. companies from accessing foreign markets; and
  • More government trade promotion.

President Obama is committed to working cooperatively with all of our trading partners to ensure that trade is as free, and as fair, as possible.

To that end, along with my co-chair, Ambassador Ron Kirk, I will personally be working hard to resolve trade and investment issues with China at the upcoming JCCT meetings in Washington, D.C.

I’m confident that effort – along with the sustained focus the NEI places on all facets of trade – will allow the U.S., China and countries around the world to take full advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of the burgeoning clean energy economy.

I’ll close by underscoring again how the Sino-American relationship can continue to be a win-win for both our nations. 

China will continue to play a major part in a sustained global recovery that lifts all nations.

As trade and investment in each others’ economies grow, both Americans and Chinese will have better access to economical and higher quality products that can make important improvements in all of our lives. 

We’ve already seen how the incredible growth in China’s middle class has spurred demand in China for American goods and services, which have provided value for Chinese consumers, and helped create more jobs here at home. 

And high-quality, low-cost goods made in China and sold in the U.S. has meant more disposable income for Americans to be used for:

  • Retirement;
  • for college education for our children;
  • and for other necessities and leisure.

This is what a win-win relationship looks like – where our strengths complement one another’s, and where our successes amplify economic growth in each other’s economy.

I’m confident that this partnership, especially in clean energy, will only continue to strengthen over time. And we will all be better for it.

Thank you.