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Remarks by Ambassador Marantis at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies

Remarks by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis
Deputy United States Trade Representative

July 28, 2010
Institute of Strategic and International Studies
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Recently, a colleague told me of an old Malay legend, according to which, while a person sleeps, his soul leaves the body to travel abroad. A person’s dreams are the record of his soul's adventures. This story made me think that my soul must travel to Malaysia while I sleep. Because for weeks following a trip to your country, I have vivid dreams of mangosteens and nasi lemak.

“It is a tremendous pleasure to be back in Malaysia and not just for your wonderful food. Malaysia is a country whose natural beauty is matched by its economic dynamism. Here, the people embrace you with their hospitality, and never fail to inspire with their ambition and vision. I am happy to be here at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), which is dedicated to shaping Malaysia’s economic future and U.S.-Malaysian strategic and economic ties.

“We meet today at an exciting time in the U.S.-Malaysia relationship. Both the United States and Malaysia are building on our economic strengths and undertaking bold new reforms to secure a better future. These efforts promise to strengthen our economies and improve the welfare of our people. And these efforts also promise to strengthen the bonds between the United States and Malaysia.

“On the road to economic reform and greater global cooperation, the Obama Administration knows that Malaysia is a fellow traveler. We are watching with anticipation and support your country’s New Economic Model, announced earlier this year by Prime Minister Najib. We are inspired by your ambition to transform Malaysia from a middle income country into an advanced economy by 2020. Your plan holds nothing back and asks tough questions. You recognize your enormous strides in reducing poverty over the past decades, but acknowledge existing income disparities. You are facing up to questions about your workforce skills and the need to avoid shortcuts to future growth. And you set the ambitious goal of transforming your economy to one driven by higher-value added manufactured goods and important services-driven industries.

“In the United States, we are emerging from an historic economic recession. President Obama took office last year under the cloud of a financial crisis that cost too many Americans their jobs and shook their outlook for the future. Yet faced with a daunting challenge, the American people are responding.

“Under the leadership of President Obama, this Administration is working with Congress to put in place a bipartisan plan to reform America's economic present and future. Congress passed and the President signed a robust economic stimulus plan to save and create new jobs. Historic reforms are now in place that promise better health care for more Americans. Reform to guard our financial system against crisis is now law. And as our economy emerges from recession, the Obama Administration is crafting a plan to put our future on sound fiscal footing by cutting our debt and slashing deficits.

“In the United States, we recognize that our past economic policies and practices were not sustainable, and that they contributed to global imbalances. We are determined to increase savings, decrease consumer spending, and boost engagement with global markets. And we are backing that determination with policies that count. In January, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI), an ambitious plan to double American exports and support 2 million additional American jobs over the next five years. This is a White House initiative that harnesses resources across all agencies to increase the effectiveness of export promotion and export financing. We aim to get U.S. businesses that have never exported to look into the opportunities in global markets.

“The U.S. Trade Representative’s role in this effort is to do what we do best – negotiate and enforce trade agreements bilaterally and multilaterally. Multilaterally, the United States is committed to an ambitious and balanced outcome to the WTO negotiations. Key to that outcome is to ensure that large emerging economies contribute to the negotiations in a way that is commensurate with their role in the global economy. This isn’t happening yet. But the U.S. negotiating team is engaging these key WTO members with flexibility, determination, and energy.

“A number of the Administration’s most exciting trade initiatives are in Asia. The pending U.S.-Korea agreement is an great opportunity for the United States, promising to generate an additional $10 to $11 billion in annual exports and support up to 70,000 additional export-related jobs. In June, President Obama tasked the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, to resolve the Administration’s outstanding concerns with this agreement by this November’s G20 Summit in Seoul, and have the agreement ready to submit to Congress in the subsequent months.

“The United States is also pursuing negotiations with the eight country Trans-Pacific Partnership, which today includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. After a good start in Australia in March, we hosted a very successful round of negotiations in San Francisco in June, boosted by expanded outreach to U.S. stakeholders. All eight TPP countries share an ambition to create a 21st century trade agreement that can serve as a platform for economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. The talks to date have strong momentum, as the TPP countries move toward an intersessional round of talks in August and the third round of negotiations in October.

“Buttressing our initiatives with Korea and the TPP is the United States’ work in the 21-economy Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC. Two weeks ago, Ambassador Kirk joined key supporters in Congress and the U.S. business community to launch the host committee for America’s APEC host year in 2011. We are excited to welcome APEC to the United States for the first time in nearly two decades. And we are determined to make APEC 2011 a banner year for cooperation and outcomes that solidifies our regional economic engagement, and that makes it easier, cheaper, and faster for companies to do business in the Asia Pacific.

“In addition to Korea, TPP, and APEC, the United States is working with the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – all together, America’s fourth largest goods export market. In May, we welcomed representatives of ASEAN – including your distinguished Trade Minister Mustapa – to the United States for a cross-country “road show.” Ambassador Kirk hosted this trip personally, to show Americans from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D.C. the economic opportunities of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship.

“These economic initiatives promise to make America's economy more competitive and prosperous for generations to come. But these plans also have global reach, and show President Obama’s commitment to the revival of the world economy. An America that is more competitive and prosperous at home can also be more ambitious and engaged with its economic partners around the world. This, in turn, can benefit Malaysia – enhancing your exports, creating jobs and raising standards of living here.

“Malaysia is a country of dynamism, ambition, and vision, and the United States looks forward to having an even stronger Malaysia as our partner. Our partnership already has so many accomplishments to celebrate. Our common successes include our initiatives in ASEAN, where we strive to make our substantial bilateral trade and investment successes work for all ASEAN members. We appreciate Malaysia as a productive member of the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering. We welcome Malaysia’s bold action to pass its Strategic Trade Act in April. Such positive outcomes of our cooperation is seen, welcomed, and appreciated in the United States – including by President Obama when he met with Prime Minister Najib this spring.

“There are many more extraordinary opportunities to further build our bilateral trade and investment ties. We need to consider all these opportunities carefully. We are already working together in the WTO, APEC and ASEAN. And we know that you are looking carefully at possible participation in TPP. We are excited by the prospects of building this 21st-century, regional agreement and welcome other APEC members that share the TPP members’ vision and goals for a high-standard agreement.

“When I return to Washington, my nights will again be filled with visions of rambutans and curry laksa. But my days will continue to be consumed by the dreams of what the United States and Malaysia can accomplish together in trade, investment, and other areas. I hope you will join me in helping make those dreams a reality.”