Remarks at the Second Worldwide Symposium of the Foreign Trade Advisors of France

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Miami, FL
May 7, 2015

Thank you, Paul, for that kind introduction.

Mesdames et messieurs les parlementaires, mesdames et messieurs les ambassadeurs… Messieurs les chefs d’entreprise, et les entrepreneurs, tous ceux parmi vous qui aspirent à créer des entreprises et à investir aux Etats-Unis…

C’est pour moi un honneur de participer à ce forum et d’avoir l’opportunité de m’adresser à une assemblée aussi prestigieuse de femmes et d’hommes politiques, de chefs d’entreprise qui viennent de cinquante pays différents, et aussi d’entrepreneurs, un mot d’origine francaise qui fait aujourd’hui partie intégrante du vocabulaire américain et de notre ADN.

Le mot “terroir” est un mot francais qui n’a pas d’équivalent en anglais. Mais après avoir parcouru les 22 régions francaises – en tant qu’ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en France – j’ai pu pleinement appréhendé le sens de ce terme: l’histoire, la culture, et la fierté qui émanent de ces territoires et qui donnent à vos regions leur identité. J’ai pu réaliser à quel point ce pays se caractérise par sa richesse et sa diversité.

C’est un honneur pour moi de me trouver aujourd’hui avec des représentants de ce pays que j’affectionne tant.

Today, in English, I will briefly explore the question that the organizers of this conference have asked me to address: “The United States in 2025: first economic and political power?” Of course, the title is intentionally a little provocative. But while we cannot claim to predict the future, we can follow the wisdom of a previous American president – Abraham Lincoln.

He once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

“Le meilleur moyen de prédire l’avenir est de le créer.”

Under President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s leadership, I am fortunate to be in a position where we are working to do just that.

We do this by following two key principles.

The first is that “economic policy is foreign policy, and foreign policy is economic policy.” Secretary John Kerry has not only recognized the inextricable link between foreign policy and economic policy, he has made it central to everything we do.

The majority of challenges we face are economic in nature and, very often, those challenges have security implications for the United States of America. In a world where countries like the BRICS nations are already using their economic clout to punch above their weight, it is clear that economic power is no longer an option. It’s an imperative.

The second principle recognizes the strategic value of a shared economic future. The world has become flatter, more connected, and therefore more interdependent. There is no realistic scenario for an aspiring world power to try and create its economic, or any kind of, success in individually directed ways.

In the 21st century, the ones who earn the most economic power will be those who are smart enough to share it with key partners. This is central to what the Secretary calls the shared prosperity agenda.

As Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, we are working to make that agenda real in many ways, including through two ongoing multilateral trade deals, which will not only benefit 12 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including the United States, but all 28 of our friends and allies in the European Union.

The deal that is closest to conclusion is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP, which would bring the United States into free and open trade with Canada and Mexico; Chile and Peru; Australia and New Zealand; Japan, Malaysia and Singapore; Brunei and Vietnam.

Our hope is that this partnership will be followed by a second transformative trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or T-TIP – which we are currently negotiating with the European Union.

These deals – together – would account for the greater majority of the world’s trade, GDP, and future economic growth. Not only that, these ambitious, comprehensive, and high-standard trade and investment agreements would allow us to create enforceable labor, consumer and environmental standards that will establish a high bar for the rest of the world.

TPP alone, if concluded, would connect Americans with 40 percent of the world’s GDP – and 50 percent of its projected economic growth. In Asia, there are currently 525 million middle class consumers. That number is expected to grow to 2.7 billion by 2030. For the United States, that’s a market that’s projected to be six times the size of our domestic one.

T-TIP is equally important to us. The transatlantic economic relationship is already the world’s largest, accounting for one third of total goods and services trade and nearly half of global economic output.

It will not only boost economic growth in the United States and the EU. It will add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment. We will also build on the transatlantic ties that undergird our national security.

I know that, in the audience today, there are many companies, most of them French, that either have a presence in the United States, or are strongly considering investing here.

This brings me to a third component of the shared prosperity agenda that I would like to briefly talk about. As Assistant Secretary, everywhere I travel, from Mumbai to Mexico City, from Bangkok to Beijing, I meet with investors and other business people who tell me just how much they love investing in the United States – and how they plan to invest even more. They recognize – as we do – that the U.S. is the world’s most attractive and stable market for high-quality goods and services.

Maintaining a strong and vibrant business climate that is built on innovation, strong intellectual property rights protections, a transparent legal system and a stable regulatory environment is central to the American economy and to our way of life. And we have a consumer market, workforce, advanced technology and resources that are, frankly, second to none.

The sheer diversity of the U.S. economy means that there are opportunities for nearly every company – from start-ups to medium-sized enterprises to multinationals.

Through SelectUSA, a joint initiative with the Department of Commerce, we work to promote, increase and support inward investment in the United States. We know that foreign companies will create jobs and innovation in the U.S., and also generate profits and exports for their home countries. Not only that, these companies bring back home technology, management expertise, cultural understanding, innovative products, and access to new markets. They increase prosperity, as well as economic and political stability, for nations and workers alike.

That’s the underlying wisdom of global prosperity. It’s not a “zero sum game,” but one of mutual gain.

As Victor Hugo also said: “There is nothing in the world – not even mighty armies – as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

“Rien n’est plus puissant – pas même les plus grandes armées - qu’une idée dont le temps est venu.”

Economic power, based on two-way trade and investment, is one of those ideas whose time has truly come. The kind of 21st century, high standard and ambitious free trade agreements that we seek will bring shared prosperity, and so much more.

As Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently said – and I quote: “Passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier. It would deepen our alliances and partnerships abroad and underscore our lasting commitment to the Asia-Pacific. And it would help us promote a global order that reflects both our interests and our values.”

These two trade deals, ladies and gentlemen, are as much strategic as they are economic. They will solidify relations with our friends and allies around the world.

And by embracing this idea of shared prosperity, we are not only embracing the future, we are helping to write it as well.

Merci, thank you – I enjoyed having the chance to speak with you and would be pleased to answer any of your questions.