Good morning and thank you President Alberto de Armas for inviting me to your annual meeting. I am excited to be back here in Monterrey, after so many years.
You meet at a crucial time – a time of testing, a crossroads where it will become clear whether we’re going to move forward in this great bilateral relationship and North American experiment, or fail to achieve what we can be together.
I’ve been in Mexico 3½ months, and even for someone working on the bilateral relationship for over a decade, it’s been a revelation.
The revelation is just how much there is going on that is exciting, positive, productive and transformative. So I’ll talk about just a bit of that, and hopefully motivate all of us – who are already leaders I realize – to up our game even more in the face of challenges, entropy and the worst enemy of all – inaction.
We are here for the 43rd annual meeting of the Monterrey Chapter of AmCham, in part, because we all want to promote innovation, connectivity, and entrepreneurship in our countries. To take this to the next level, and truly make North America the economic powerhouse of the world, the Obama Administration remains committed to ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this year. As President Obama said last week at the G20 meetings, the TPP will deepen partnerships, boost economic growth, and strengthen trade and investment across 12 countries that make up 40 percent of the world economy. TPP will improve labor and environmental standards, promote a free and open internet, protect intellectual property rights, and encourage transparency and accountability in Asia and Latin America.
But the TPP, at its base, will improve people’s lives. This often gets lost in political discussions and in the multitude of trade and investment figures – but this agreement is about helping small entrepreneurs just starting out to find new export opportunities for their businesses. It’s about helping families struggling to get by to save money on the food and consumer products they need to improve their quality of life. And it’s about making sure that our people are protected by high health, safety and environmental standards built into the goods we produce, trade and consume.
The depth and breadth of our bilateral economic integration – our 1.6 billion dollars in daily trade in goods and services – are truly amazing, but there are many other examples that show the complexity, diversity, and richness of our economic relationship. For example, the John Deere tractors assembled here in Nuevo Leon make essential contributions to the agricultural productivity we have achieved both here in Mexico and in the United States. Farmers – big and small – use those tractors to assist them in the planting and harvesting of corn and wheat. The economic benefit of those tractors does not stop when they are first sold to the farmers. The tractors keep on helping people, when farmers use them to produce more and higher quality food, at a lower price, for all of us. This is the type of benefit we need to celebrate and encourage.
Another example of the deep supply chain linkages we enjoy is in the area of information technology. Here in Monterrey, look at Softtek – recipient of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce’s Good Neighbor Award, and the largest private IT vendor in Latin America. President and CEO Blanca Treviño said it best upon receipt of the award: “Softteks’ contribution to the creation of digital platforms in Mexico’s foreign trade has created more agile processes for trade with the United States and the world, contributing to the competitiveness of North America.”
I would also highlight Blanca’s personal efforts in fighting for inclusion and integration by removing labels from business groups. Her leadership and advocacy changed the name of the Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios to the Consejo Mexicano de Negocios, but also let girls and women throughout Mexico know they have a critical role in business, technology, and development. This is something we should recognize, celebrate, and encourage.
As we work together to create an integrated North America that is the most competitive, dynamic, prosperous economic region in the world, we need to deepen and expand educational exchanges. These exchanges are a critical tool to achieve this greater competitiveness and productivity, by improving educational outcomes and training better workforces. The United States has worked hard to increase access to educational resources through programs like President Obama’s 100,000 Strong for the Americas initiative, which promotes academic mobility across borders. Here in Nuevo Leon, Tec de Monterrey has played an innovative role as well, in obtaining seed funds to promote sustainable binational academic partnerships. Their efforts have been so successful that Tec was recently invited to train other Mexican and U.S. universities on creating such programs.
We are also very proud to support English language training for thousands of deserving youth across Mexico – from Durango to Matamoros – through the State Department’s English Access program. In Monterrey we support an innovative English program for a group of ingenious women at our binational center. I was pleased that Governor Rodriguez recently created opportunities for promising students from Nuevo Leon to study English in Kentucky.
And, with the start of the Young Leaders of the Americas program, we have added new depth and breadth to these exchanges. President Obama launched this program to build linkages among young leaders across the hemisphere and to expand opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and civil society leaders. This year, we are fortunate Mexico will be represented by 14 young leaders, three of them from northeast Mexico. Yolanda Cantu Garcia is a child welfare advocate from Monterrey; Jesus Leyva, from San Luis Potosi is a “techie” who is focused on improving training for public school teachers; and Frissia Monsivais, who represents Coahuila, is an emerging entrepreneur promoting women’s empowerment. This Fall, these fellows will join over 250 other young leaders for five weeks to learn and share experiences in start-ups, small businesses, and non-governmental organizations in cities throughout the United States, in partnership with community groups and universities. We now support a deeper spectrum of youth leadership activities – from high school students to university exchanges, post grads and now entrepreneurs and all of us benefit!
As you know, increasing our competitiveness requires making it easy for businesses to invest, trade, and engage in strategic partnerships with others throughout the continent, without undue bureaucratic restraints. The U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) has been a great framework to advance this relationship, to continue integrating our economies. Much like the CEO Dialogue, which provides important input and feedback from Mexican and U.S. companies to our economic leaders, the HLED focuses on strategic economic and commercial priorities central to promoting economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness.
Among the HLED’s top achievements have been major infrastructure projects which help to facilitate greater, secure, legitimate trade and travel along the border. We inaugurated three such projects last year, and continue to develop new ways, such as Cargo Pre-Inspection pilot programs, to manage our shared border. I’m sure you also know about our new Air Transport Agreement, which took effect August 22 – this will increase travel and shipping options between the U.S. and Mexico and lower costs.
Beyond these areas, and perhaps one of the most exciting areas of all – energy policy continues to be a priority for both our countries. Developing and securing affordable, clean and reliable energy supplies will drive economic growth and support sustainable development, as we shift towards a low carbon future. Mexico’s energy reform will have a significant effect on growth not only in Mexico, but for all of North America. This fall, we expect to hold the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council, which will bring together the public and private sectors to discuss energy priorities.
Major Monterrey businesses are leading Mexico’s green energy revolution right here in Nuevo Leon. For businesses seeking green energy opportunities, our Commercial Service offices in our embassy and consulates is helping U.S. and Mexican firms “hook up” helping cut your energy bills, decrease pollution, and fight climate change. You may be surprised to know the U.S. government joined private American universities and firms to invest in Nuevo Leon’s engineers who built the “Eólica Santa Catarina” wind farm, which has saved consumers money and cut pollution in the Monterrey area for the past three years.
All of these programs enhance our integration and competitiveness, but there are other steps Mexico can take to grow faster. Reforms here to strengthen the rule of law, fight corruption, and build institutions are essential to make Mexico even more competitive, more attractive to investors, and more prosperous in the future.
But that’s nothing new for you in Monterrey – you have been at the forefront of U.S.-Mexico economic innovation, integration, and cooperation for more than 150 years. As I understand it, Monterrey’s famous, ground-breaking brewery – Cuauhtemoc — was founded with the help of a man born in St. Louis, Missouri, Joseph Maria Schnaider – perhaps he was the most interesting man in the world- who provided the recipe to launch the beer industry here in the 1890s. And, ultimately, the Cuauhtemoc brewery helped turn Monterrey into the industrial center of Mexico it is today.
I’d also like to compliment Monterrey’s industries for setting a global standard for corporate social responsibility. Each of you today represents a business that embodies entrepreneurship, cross-border partnership, and hard work. Your efforts show what industry can accomplish on everything from water and sanitation, security, environmental and green energy innovation, and university education. In support of such efforts, USAID is partnering with Monterrey’s businesses through a new public-private partnership with Red Sumarse. AmCham Monterrey has a proud history of helping businesses invest in their communities. I am told 127 of you raised a record 427,000 pesos through this year’s annual golf tournament, to provide educational materials for kids, scholarships, and support for children with Down’s Syndrome! Bravo!
AmCham members around the world make us proud: you invest in the local community, your customers, and your employees, wherever your business takes you.
Thank you again for inviting me to participate in this great event and giving me the opportunity to return to your wonderful city for the first time in almost a decade.