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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Town Hall

September 24, 2009
Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Town Hall
Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*

 

Thank you all for having me today.

I'm here to talk about what trade can do, and is doing, for workers and businesses in every single one of your districts and communities.  Hard-working Americans are counting on us as leaders and legislators to bring home the benefits of trade.

They are counting on us to create jobs and restore growth in their communities.  As a former mayor, I know that's a big job.  But as United States Trade Representative, I know we can get the job done and empower more Americans to put their talent and skills to work through trade.

First things first: in order to maintain our edge, we need to get health care reform done.  Reforming the health care system is a trade priority.   American businesses and workers can't take full advantage of job-creating trade opportunities as long as our health care system drains their resources.

Those health care costs continue to go up, but Americans are no more secure in their health care coverage.  We need a health care system that works as well for you as it does for the pharmaceutical and insurance companies.  The President's plan will provide security for those who have insurance.  And it will provide insurance to those who don't. To find out more about President Obama's plan for health care reform, I encourage you to visit healthreform.gov.

At the same time, we need to talk seriously and honestly about the opportunities trade offers, and how we can help Americans to make those opportunities their own.

Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside America.  For American workers to prosper, America needs to sell our goods, services, and intellectual property to people around the world.  And when trade enables American businesses to make those sales, they can hire more workers here at home.  It's that simple.

Trade can be an invaluable part of our economic recovery.  Because we know now that the American economy cannot sustain growth through domestic consumption alone.  Trade is no longer a choice; it is an imperative.

For America's small business owners, it is an incredible opportunity.  Small and medium-sized enterprises are not only competitive in the global marketplace; they are often ideal candidates for overseas expansion.  Their agility and flexibility give them the edge in smaller countries and developing markets.

In fact, 97% of all exporters are small and medium-sized enterprises. So it should come as no surprise that in almost every community in America, big or small, a homegrown company is supporting jobs and families by engaging in trade.  And these companies are often bright spots in the overall economic picture: small businesses that make the jump to exports grow faster, add jobs faster, and pay higher wages.

USTR is working with the Commerce Department and across the government to get small business owners and entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed in the global marketplace.  Through the U.S. Commercial Center and local Export Assistance Centers across the country, this administration is making sure that when America's small business owners have questions, they will get answers.

I look forward to talking more about all of this over the course of this panel.