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Remarks at Singapore University of Technology and Design

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
Remarks at Singapore University of Technology and Design

Thank you, Mr. Poon, Mr. Albrecht, and Ambassador Chan. 

It’s great to be at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, which is linked to one of America’s great universities – MIT. 

I have seen the renderings for the permanent campus.  As someone who has a deep appreciation for architecture and the built environment, it looks to be spectacular.

I want to thank our other hosts, the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, including Mr. Ortega.  Both of them have been key partners to the Commerce Department – dramatically strengthening our ties to this region in recent decades. 

Before I begin, I know many of you are wondering about the government shutdown in the United States. 

Suffice it to say that every country has its domestic political challenges, and this is temporary.  I am an optimist and believe that we will be back in business soon. 

The real reason I’m here is to discuss the U.S.-Singapore relationship and how we can, together, take the next steps toward a more integrated Asia-Pacific region.

On the long flights to the region, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my family’s own connections to this region, which stretch back to my childhood.

My father was stationed in Japan from ‘54 to ‘56.  He fell in love with Asia. When he returned, he bought a hotel located at Los Angeles International Airport.  

That was the first Hyatt Hotel.  I grew up in the hotel business and as a child, I would tour the property with him and help with inspections.

Even then, that airport was a hub for travel and tourism with Asia.  And today, LAX and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain the primary entry point for trade, travel and tourism aross the Pacific.    

I saw first-hand the interconnections – like President Obama did in his youth – that the U.S. is a Pacific nation.  That left a deep impression.  The Asia-Pacific is part of our history and culture, and we have an important role to play as part of this community.

Of course, all of you here today know that.  You are evidence of the powerful ties that have grown between the U.S. and the Lion City. 

Today there are nearly 2,000 U.S. businesses with a presence here. 

Our bilateral relationship is one of the most crucial links across the Pacific Ocean – a link from which other friendships throughout this region have flourished.

On January 1st, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of free trade between our countries.  Ours was the first free trade agreement that the U.S. had with any Asian country. 

Since 2003, two-way trade of goods between the U.S. and Singapore has increased 60%.  Two-way trade of services has more than doubled.  

Singapore remains the largest ASEAN market for products Made in America (capturing 40%).  And Singapore also remains the largest destination for U.S. investment in Southeast Asia.

Moreover, we know that Singapore is a major hub of global trade.  It has a state-of-the-art port.  Flights from every corner of the globe land here each day. 

And I should note that the U.S. is thrilled to be the only “featured country” at next year’s Air Show here.  I am honored that we have this privilege, and I will see to it that we are well represented.  

So – overall – when President Obama talks about our long-term commitment to the Asia-Pacific, it’s clear that Singapore is a cornerstone of that.

As part of this rebalancing, my Department’s goal is to work with leaders like you to ensure that trade and investment can flow freely and fairly between the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific.  We want to achieve the President's vision of deeply integrated economies spanning the Pacific.

Today, I will talk about some of our commitments on this front:

  • concluding the negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership
  • increasing our engagement with ASEAN
  • and helping more globally-competitive firms as they look to invest in the United States. 

But first, let me highlight the APEC meeting that just concluded in Bali. 

As you know, the APEC region has nearly 3 billion people.  It represents more than half of global GDP and nearly half of global trade. It is the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing economic region. 

Transaction-by-transaction, deal-by-deal, joint ventue-by-joint venture, American companies are contributing to the region in so many ways.  

They are actively partnering with other businesses and governments… They are supporting everything from infrastructure to R&D… And they stand ready to help catalyze the full economic potential of the Asia-Pacific. 

Through APEC, governments are fostering an environment for businesses to do even more.

At the APEC leaders meeting, we made steady progress on a number of issues that are of importance to U.S. business in the region.  We moved the ball forward by advancing a few key objectives.  This included:

  • an agreement to promote best practices for domestic growth without resorting to trade-distorting local content requirements…
  • a commitment to strengthen supply chains and logistics, in an ongoing effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency...
  • a continued effort to implement tariff reduction commitments on the environmental goods list… and…
  • a continued push to harmonize regulations across the region to reduce cost and increase efficiencies and competitiveness.

In addition, you will be interested to know that there were significant discussions on the Information Technology Agreement, and I am hopeful that the negotiations will be back on track soon. 

You may also be interested to know that the APEC economies remain committed to promoting business transparency.  The Commerce Department itself has taken a lead role in an initiative to promote business ethics. 

We worked with APEC and the private sector to develop principles of ethics in construction, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals.

Then, domestic industry groups took these principles and disseminated codes of conduct in their countries. 

This is leading to more harmonization across borders, which makes it much easier for small and medium-sized businesses to grow and expand throughout the region.

Today, we continue to train officials throughout the region who are teaching and implementing these codes.

We are doing this because when everyone plays by the same rules, we all benefit.  We create a climate where businesses of all sizes can compete fairly. 

Also at APEC, we issued a joint statement on our progress toward completing the Trans Pacific Partnership – which is the Obama Administration’s top priority for the region. 

  • The TPP is an ambitious trade agreement that will help boost multilateral trade, including U.S. agricultural, industrial, and services exports. 
  • It will help strengthen transparency, intellectual property protections, and anti-corruption efforts. 
  • And it will provide more opportunities for firms across the region in areas like government procurement and investment. 

For the U.S., the TPP will knit together and expand the trade rules with our existing six free trade agreement partners in the region, including Singapore.  At the same time, it will open new markets for both the U.S. and Singapore in Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Japan, and New Zealand.  We will all gain from completing this agreement.

Our vision is that TPP could eventually lead to a broader free trade area throughout the Asia-Pacific.

We can, must, and will work through the tough issues that remain – and, last night, we agreed that negotiators must continue to work toward our shared goal of completing a comprehensive and balanced agreement this year.

It’s time to bring TPP across the finish line.  In Bali, we made progress on all the legal text and annexes.  We have momentum, and we are on track to finish by the end of the year. 

But as Ambassador Froman said, “It is an ambitious goal, but there still remain a number of outstanding items and, ultimately, the substance will drive the timetable.”

I encourage you to continue to make your voices heard as we go into the TPP end game.   

Before I move on, let me say just one more thing about APEC. 

During the CEO Summit, I met many U.S. CEOs who, like me, have done business around the world.  Again and again, I heard about their strong, continued interest in investing in this region. 

They want to be part of the community.  They want to invest here, bring new technologies, and help develop the Asia-Pacific.  They recognize the hurdles, but I’m pleased that their commitment remains very strong.

Of course, as everyone here knows, another crucial goal of the President’s rebalance to the region is to strengthen the U.S.-ASEAN relationship.

The President has taken clear actions to show his support for ASEAN, including for the first time stationing the U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN in the region.

The U.S. is deepening our economic ties with our strategic partners in ASEAN… while also building stronger ties with the least developed economies in ASEAN.  We support ASEAN as an organization and we are working hard at the bilateral level with each ASEAN member. 

Due to commitments from each side, the U.S.-ASEAN commercial and economic relationship has never been stronger.  Investments in both directions now total more than $180 billion.  Two-way trade is nearly $200 billion, supported in part by our work at the Commerce Department.

We embrace the fact that our economies and our futures are increasingly tied.  And we are building on this through efforts such as the President’s Expanded Economic Engagement initiative – E3.

And this commitment to ASEAN is Administration-wide.  All of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies are working together to strengthen our relationship with ASEAN. 

In June, my Department welcomed economic ministers from ASEAN to the U.S. as part of E3. 

The ministers went to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to visit companies like Mattel, Fox Studios, and Google.  They also saw first-hand how America’s infrastructure and customs are building blocks of a strong economy.

Another example of our work is our partnership with Singapore’s government on what we call the Third-Country Training Program.  Through it, we are jointly helping ASEAN officials as they build foundations for more infrastructure, trade, and investment.

Together, we held the first workshop on trade facilitation for officials from less developed members of ASEAN last year.  We hope to hold a second workshop next year. 

We are also working closely with the State Department on the Lower Mekong Initiative – directed at Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.  Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are clearly developing nations, but they have tremendous potential for American companies.   

One of our primary objectives is to help these countries create better conditions for private sector investment into Southeast Asia’s infrastructure.  The Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation are excellent partners in this effort. 

According to the Asian Development Bank, the Asia-Pacific region will need more than $8.3 trillion in infrastructure investments by 2020. As you know, much of that will be needed in the ASEAN region.

The need is so vast that the LMI and other public sector funding won’t be enough. 

We must think more creatively about procurement and financing.

I believe that mobilizing private capital and public-private partnerships must be part of the answer (and I should note that we need this is the U.S., too.)

There is enough private money to fund these projects, but we need legal, regulatory, and policy environments that can unlock those funds.   This leads to several questions:

  • How do we reform and strengthen bidding processes in the region?
  • How do we help investors get a transparent view of the challenges and opportunities in this part of the world?
  • How do we apply a comprehensive approach to infrastructure development – from bridges to broadband and everything in between?
  • And what kinds of mechanisms need to be in place to catalyze these investments? 

I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I hope we can answer them together as ASEAN moves toward a common market in 2015.

And while the ASEAN area certainly needs more infrastructure investment, it is equally true that the United States does as well.  Like Singapore, we benefit from significant foreign direct investment.  

And, frankly, we are looking to grow investment from Singapore into the United States.  It is significant at $22 billion, but it could be so much more.

And now is a great time for businesses to invest in the U.S.

  • We have abundant, low-cost energy.
  • Our labor productivity has grown 9 percent since the depth of the recession.
  • Our rule of law and intellectual property protections are strong.
  • Our universities are the best in the world – as evidenced by the partnership here with MIT.
  • Our R&D investments and supply chains are powerful.
  • And, of course, our large, consumer-driven economy is showing signs of growth once again.

In order to help foreign investors identify business opportunities and navigate the U.S. legal and regulatory systems, President Obama created a program called SelectUSA, run by the Commerce Department.

We will be holding our first SelectUSA Summit at the end of this month in Washington, D.C.

I’m thrilled that our new Ambassador, Kirk Wagar, plans to lead a delegation of Singaporean businesses leaders to the Summit.

At the Summit, top experts will provide information about the U.S. business climate… the latest trends in specific sectors… and much more.

So far, business leaders from more than 70 countries are attending.  In addition to Singapore, this includes Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Economic development officials from across the U.S. will be there to explain why their communities are primed for investment.

In sum, all under one roof, investors will be able to get their questions answered and meet the people they need to know.

I will be there, along with Secretaries Kerry and Lew, and Ambassador Froman. 

We will also hear from the CEOs of Walmart, Caterpillar, BlackRock, Dow, Siemens, Bloomberg, Sasol, BMW North America, Tsuchiya North America, and more. 

The overarching message will be simple: There has never been a better time to invest in the U.S.  I want to personally invite all of you to attend, and I ask you to help spread the word to others who might be interested.

Before I close, let me touch briefly on two areas that directly relate to what is happening here at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

First, I think it is wonderful that this university has a stated goal of “harnessing the best practices and values of both the East and the West.” 

I understand that it has partnerships with MIT as well as Zhejiang University in China. 

Working closely with China is a strong commitment of the U.S. Commerce Department and the Obama Administration. 

We particularly look forward to working closely with the Chinese during their host year.  

And I think it is wonderful that this university is helping to build bridges between the world’s two largest economies.

Secondly, I will be leaving tomorrow to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur.  I will be joined by counterparts from across the region, including Minister Lim, who I met with this morning.

Just as MIT has served as a major driver of entrepreneurship in the U.S., Singapore University of Technology and Design has supported entrepreneurs in Singapore.

This builds on Singapore’s well-known legacy of investing in areas such as education and training – helping create the environment where new ideas and startups can thrive.

The U.S. and Singapore can and should continue to collaborate and innovate together at places like this university… and we should find even more ways to jointly foster a culture of entrepreneurship across Southeast Asia.

My personal commitment is that I will continue to build bridges for U.S. entrepreneurs and business leaders to succeed in Singapore and throughout the Asia-Pacific. 

Underscoring the importance of the region, I’m pleased to tell you that President Obama has asked me to lead a business delegation back to Southeast Asia next year.

Our goal will be to increase trade and build stronger commercial ties between our economies. 

We will continue to integrate, drive trade, deepen investment, and foster greater prosperity for the U.S., the Lion City, and people across the region.  Thank you all very much.