Remarks With Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the Opening of the Small Business Development Center

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Valparaiso, Chile
October 5, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Muchas gracias, buenos dias. I’m happy to be here – very, very happy to be here. Madam President, Minister Cespedes, and my friend – where are you there, there he is sitting here, thank you, Heraldo – my ambassador, Mike Hammer, who’s been engaged in this and our Under Secretary of State Cathy Novelli, who is over here.

Let me – first of all, this is a beautiful center and it’s a great privilege for me to have taken part in unveiling the plaque. And I’m very, very happy to be here. I want to begin by thanking the president for her visionary leadership, particularly when it comes to economic development. Today, small businesses employ half of the workers in both the United States and Chile. And I had the privilege of serving as chairman of the Small Business Committee in the United States Senate for a number of years. I know very, very well how critical small business and small business assistance is to creating jobs, to creating economic power, and to helping people who might not otherwise be able to get into business to find the way in and to get the assistance they need with either the early formulation of a business or the early finance choices.

But so many businesses are startups by people who never had a sense of how to do it, and suddenly, the small business becomes a big business. I’ll tell you that some of the greatest companies in the United States started in a garage or started in somebody’s car, and for months, their car or their garage or their basement was the beginning. And this is true even of something as incredibly accepted today as Apple Computer or something – began with a simple piecing together, no finance, nothing, and off it goes.

This morning is particularly exciting and propitious for us to be here because the Trans-Pacific Partnership is now a reality at least in terms of the agreement – it has to be finalized in the language. But this is the first trade agreement with a chapter dedicated to small businesses. And that is precisely the guarantee that they get the same benefits out of this agreement as big businesses.

So last year during President Bachelet’s visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Munoz and I had the privilege of signing a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation on promoting small business growth and entrepreneurship as well as women’s economic empowerment. We know from experience that empowering women is an investment that is absolutely guaranteed to pay enormous dividends, and not just in the corporate bottom line, but because of the positive impact that it has on communities, and ultimately – believe me – in the peace and the stability of communities, the ability of communities to work through and resolve. No country can succeed, I’ve said many times, like no team in football can succeed, if you leave half your players on the bench. So it’s critical that this empowerment take place.

So I am really very, very privileged to be here and happy to be here at the opening of one of Chile’s first – (applause) – the translation’s running behind. (Laughter.) I have to speak slower. (Laughter.) Now, what was so exciting about today? I’m happy. (Laughter.) But I am; I’m actually very excited to be here, and I’m not kidding you. I’ve had such a long period of engagement with small businesses; I believe in them. And I know what this can do. This first opening of one of Chile’s first of 50 small business development centers.

And the reason I know it is because we in the United States have seen this model that works, and President Jimmy Carter created the first small business development center network almost four decades ago. And that network now serves nearly 1 million small businesses every year, and it creates three new businesses and eight new U.S. jobs every hour. That’s what this can produce. And one of our very best centers is operated by the University of Texas in San Antonio; it is going to be working directly with our Chilean friends in helping to ensure that your centers do exactly the same.

So these centers help people to improve management, operations; to access financing, access the markets; and adjust to disruptions of all kinds, including natural disasters. And they help give local entrepreneurs the guidance that they need to get up and get running early so that they’re actually growing and thriving as rapidly as possible.

So my friends, this is just the start. President Obama launched the Small Business Network of the Americas in order to specifically connect thousands of small business service providers just like this one, and to do it not just in one country but throughout the hemisphere. Together, I am absolutely confident that we are going to give more small business owners, more individuals the opportunity to be able in both of our nations – in all of our nations through the hemisphere – the tools that they need to be able to create jobs locally and explore trade globally.

In today’s world, you’d be amazed how one simple product produced by three people in their home in the beginning can actually reach the global marketplace now. That’s what this is all about. And when we look at the hundreds of millions of people in country after country – China alone, 400 million; you can go around the globe – most of the planet has yet to develop. And what we can do with this is accelerate the ability for everybody to do well, for citizens to have a chance to take part in a global enterprise they never imagined, and we will help the life of all of our economies at the same time.

So congratulations, Madam President. Congratulations to Chile for once again being ahead of the curve. I’m proud to be here. Thank you. (Applause.)