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Remarks at the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors Dinner, Boca Raton, Florida

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Commerce Secretary John Bryson
Remarks at the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors Dinner, Boca Raton, Florida

Good evening.  It’s great to be here with all of you. And it’s an exciting time to be an American manufacturer.

Over the past two years, U.S. manufacturing created over 400,000 jobs–over 80,000 in the first 2 months of this year alone. You are a strong driving force behind the nearly four million jobs created by U.S. businesses over the past 2 years. 

For generations, manufacturing has built up America’s middle class.

And today, the facts are clear: Manufacturing jobs are more likely to be full-time jobs. They are more likely to have good benefits for workers. And they pay about 12 percent more than other jobs.

As you have said, and as the president said last Friday, our goal is a renaissance in American manufacturing.

As the former CEO of Edison International and as a board member for over 16 years at Boeing, I have worked with many manufacturers over the years.

In the past few months, I have traveled to manufacturers that make everything from carbon-fiber products to advanced batteries. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Miami at a furniture maker.

My message as Secretary of Commerce has been strong and focused: Let’s build it here. Let’s sell it everywhere.

President Obama came into office after nearly a decade in which one of three manufacturing jobs vanished. The recession made it even worse, but he immediately stood up for manufacturers.

For example, with more than one million jobs at stake, he ensured that our auto industry did not fail. Today, that industry is back, that industry is innovating, and that industry is creating thousands of jobs once again.

Today, we must do even more to support manufacturing overall, especially in three areas: investment, trade, and innovation.

First, investment. Any discussion of U.S. investment begins with our corporate tax code.  As you and I both know, it’s broken. The U.S. has one of the highest statutory corporate tax rates in the world. We haven’t changed it since the 1980s.

That’s not sustainable, and this Association has pushed hard for change. Last month, the president said we need to lower the rate to 28 percent, and for manufacturers, an effective rate of 25 percent. That is directly in line with what this Association asked.

This is something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. We should do it soon.

But we can’t stop there. On the domestic front, even though U.S. labor costs remain relatively high, labor costs in countries like China are increasing quickly. 

Meanwhile, the productivity of our workers continues to grow. It’s becoming clear to domestic CEOs that investments here have distinct advantages. We have the best universities, the strongest R&D, the most robust supply chains, the most powerful IP protections, a patent process that we are streamlining more each day, and the most talented, entrepreneurial workforce in the world.

It’s clear that several industries and manufacturers have reached a tipping point in regards to whether it makes sense to continue outsourcing. We want to help them make the right choice to keep jobs here or even bring them back. Right now, we are working on a way to help CEOs see more clearly the costs and risks of outsourcing versus insourcing. Stay tuned.

Turning to foreign direct investment, we saw a big drop in FDI during the recession, but now it’s coming back. Our question today is this: How can we build on this momentum in a space where the federal government hasn’t been involved?

SelectUSA is the answer to that question. This is the first, coordinated federal government-wide effort to aggressively pursue and win new business investments in the U.S. Other countries have been doing this for years. 

As part of SelectUSA, we just finished training commercial service officers in ten fast-growing markets, including China. Later this year, we will expand to 25. This is becoming a key part of what we do.

We will serve as an information clearinghouse for businesses looking to invest. We will help them navigate our rules and procedures. And we will advocate for the U.S. when they decide where to put their next facility.

In addition, we are excited to be hosting the first annual SelectUSA Investment Summit this fall. We are inviting companies from around the world to meet with our state and local officials. We want to tell the story of why America is the best place to invest, to hire, and to build the future of their businesses. I want to invite all of you to come.

Let’s turn to a second area–trade. With U.S. exports hitting a record $2.1 trillion in 2011, Made in America has never been stronger. And we’re going to get another boost from today’s news. I’m very pleased to say that–after many years of hard work–the Korea trade agreement is now in effect.

Korea is the world’s 12th-largest economy. Under the new agreement, about 80 percent of Korea’s tariffs on U.S. industrial products are now dropping to zero. Nothing.

This is America’s most significant trade agreement in nearly two decades. It is estimated to increase U.S. exports by $11 billion, supporting tens of thousands of American jobs. 

This week is also the second anniversary of the National Export Initiative. 

On Monday, we announced that 1.2 million more Americans have export-supported jobs due to our exports increasing by one-third from 2009 to 2011.

This is particularly great news because export-related jobs–like manufacturing jobs–pay higher than average.

But today, we can’t rest on our laurels. The fact is, many countries are now facing their own economic challenges. This could result in decreased demand for goods from countries like ours.

Let me give a few examples of areas where we need to push forward.

I know that this Association has called for continued support for the Export-Import Bank. Both small and large manufacturers rely on Ex-Im to make deals happen.

We’ve made it a top priority to work with Congress for long-term reauthorization of Ex-Im.

Thank you for continuing to raise awareness about why this must happen–and why we should act now.

And we need to make sure that businesses like yours are getting a fair shot. I strongly believe that when American businesses have a level playing field. American businesses can compete and win.

Here’s a quick local story. Recently, a foreign government had proposed certain design standards for elevators that would have completely excluded a Miami manufacturer from competing.

We recognized this as an unfair technical barrier. So we engaged in heavy diplomacy and we brought to light international trade laws. We convinced the country to modify their rules to adopt a performance-based standard instead of a design-based standard. That company can now compete.

Over the past few years, we’ve resolved about 170 cases like this. Today we want to do even more through the new Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

Through the new Center, we will link, leverage and align all of the trade enforcement resources across government. We are asking Congress for more experts, analysts and foreign-based staff to help with this cause.

We want to hold World Trade Organization members accountable to their commitments. After all, we have all agreed to certain rules. Now, we must all play by them.

Finally, a third area where we need to focus is innovation.

The president made a big announcement about this last Friday, with $1 billion in next year’s budget for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

He gave that speech at an important place. It’s a Rolls Royce facility where they make advanced components for airplane engines and wings.

At that location, eight manufacturers, several colleges, and the federal government are all pulling together. With $4 million from our Economic Development Administration, they will open a center for advanced manufacturing later this year.

This new center will help bridge the gap from research to product development. It will also support the skills that workers need to get good jobs in advanced manufacturing in that region. 

The president pointed to this as a model for what he wants to replicate with 15 new Institutes around the country. These Institutes will serve as hubs of manufacturing excellence–drawing on the particular strengths in each region.

Our vision is that this Network will help manufacturers become more innovative at home and more competitive abroad.

We’re not going to wait. 

This year, the Commerce Department and several other departments will hold a competition for a Pilot Institute, which will be awarded $45 million.

I strongly believe that when everyone in the manufacturing community comes together and increases their interaction–innovation happens. Ideas get pushed more quickly from concept to commercialization.

If we foster that, I’m confident that American manufacturing will continue to out-compete the rest of the world.

Before I close, I have one specific request, and it’s also directly related to the future of U.S. manufacturing.

It used to be pretty easy for a student or a recent graduate to get an internship or job in the summer. But it has become much tougher in recent years, as evidenced by the high youth unemployment rate.

This summer, we can help change that. We’re asking employers to make specific commitments to hire young people nationwide.

We need help from America’s manufacturers. Maybe you’ve seen an uptick and you’re looking to bring a few more workers on board. Maybe you have retirements looming. Or maybe you just know it’s the right thing to do for our youth.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to hire young people this summer, please contact Matt McGuire or one of my other staff members here today. 

I’ll close by saying this: Almost a year ago, I was nominated to be Commerce Secretary. I felt deeply honored to be asked to serve as the voice for business in the president’s Cabinet–because I know that companies like yours have built America over the past century and beyond. 

It’s exciting to play a role in helping American firms build their businesses and create jobs. For example, next week I will lead an infrastructure-focused trade mission to India with about 20 American businesses, one of which I’ll meet tomorrow in Miami.

As we continue to move forward together, my commitment is this: The Commerce Department and this administration will work with you as a more effective and strategic partner than ever before.

Thank you for all that you have already done, all that you are doing now, and all that you will continue to do to ensure that America is indeed built to last.