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Remarks of United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the U.S. Mayors Winter Meeting

January 20, 2010
U.S. Mayors Winter Meeting
Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*

 

Thank you all for having me this evening.

I'd first like to offer my congratulations to Houston's newest mayor Annise Parker. And I'd also like to thank your director, Tom Cochran, as well as your president, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, for the invitation to come and speak with you tonight.

Mayors are at the forefront of job creation because we are at the forefront of economic development in our cities. And we've got our work cut out for us -workers and businesses in all our cities are full of potential and they are clamoring for opportunity. The challenge is to generate the kinds of opportunities that will allow them to flourish.

In order to meet that challenge, we're going to have to work together. In my job, I am always keeping tabs on the direction of the American economy - I am constantly looking at the latest export numbers, recovery figures, and jobs reports.

Here's what I know: 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside America. And by selling our goods and services to those customers, we can grow American businesses and create high-quality jobs for American workers.

Because companies that export are more likely to grow faster, add jobs faster, and pay higher wages, and Americans who work in export-sector jobs are paid up to 18 percent above the average.

But I can't know how best to support Main Street exporters in your cities unless you tell me. Every city is different, and every city has the potential to grow through trade.

In the first half of 2008, the New York metropolitan area packaged exports worth $50 billion dollars. That same year, Chicago exported more plastics and rubber products than any other city. And the Miami area accounted for more than half of all Sunshine State exports.

Each of those cities - and every one of your cities across the country - can succeed by developing its own global niche and helping its citizens sell what they make best.

Many of you have traveled around the world to seek out job-creating trade opportunities for your cities. I have done the same, traveling across the country to talk to you, so that I can learn how our trade policy can better support those opportunities.

I have spoken with many of our mayors already, men and women like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Former Mayor Shirley Franklin in Atlanta, and of course your president, Mayor Kautz. They have told me about their cities. I have heard their ideas, and I want to hear yours too. That's why I'm here today, because I know that mayors know how to get things done.

The Obama Administration is working to reshape America's trade policy to better reflect the needs of your neighborhood businesses and empower those enterprises to seize on job-creating opportunities, and we're going to need all the help we can get.

In this, local elected officials like you may be our greatest allies. In many cases, you know about the local family business that's ready to go global. You know about the local entrepreneur with an international business plan. You know about the local start-up company that's doing business around the world.

And USTR is seizing every opportunity to hear your insights, so that we can make sure our trade policy meets the needs of every American entrepreneur, every small business owner, and every worker.

For the last fifteen years, small- and medium-sized businesses have been America's biggest job creators. As my police chief used to say in Dallas, that's a clue.

We are rethinking our approach to small- and medium-sized exporters, and we're asking ourselves - and you - how we can better help them to grow.

That's why, this week, we are bringing together small- and medium-sized business leaders from across the country for an in-depth discussion on trade. At this conference, we hope to hear how we can better shape our trade policy to set smaller exporters up for success. But the conversation won't end there.

Just this week we received the first results from a USTR-requested International Trade Commission study of small- and medium-sized exporters.

You might be surprised to learn that in 2007, America's smallest exporters sold more than $300 billion worth of goods in the global marketplace. And your communities reaped the benefits.

Six million Americans in your cities and towns owe their jobs to manufacturing exports. And even in these difficult times, millions more Americans are earning a living by selling other products and services abroad.

Increasing American exports can jump-start economic recovery and stimulate job creation. You know where we can target our trade policy efforts to create the best opportunities for the most businesses and workers in your cities and towns.

And when we create that trade policy, more Americans will be able to find jobs and more American families will be able to get back on their feet.

I urge you to share your ideas with me today, and with USTR going forward. And I encourage you to follow our progress on www.ustr.gov.

And, as I continue to travel across the country, I look forward to visiting you, to seeing your home towns, and to learning more about what we can do at USTR to boost exports from your cities and create jobs for your citizens.

Thank you all. I look forward to working with you.