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U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, in Panama City to participate in the Second CEO Summit of the Americas, noted a situation “ripe with potential” on the trade front Wednesday – but he also provided a checklist of the next needed steps.
“The Chamber is pleased to have Cuba joining the summit for the first time,” he started off in his remarks as prepared for delivery to AmCham Panama. “We have strongly supported normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.
“We stand with those who believe that after 50 years of pursuing the same failed policy, it’s time to try something different. However, as I stated in a speech to the University of Havana last May, it’s imperative that the Cuban government act quickly to reform its economy and improve its human rights record.”
Donohue said there is optimism that “our trade agenda is moving forward. In Washington, Congress is preparing to renew Trade Promotion Authority, and the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are nearing their conclusion.”
He pointed out that “trade between the United States and the Americas has increased 350% since the first Summit of the Americas in 1994. Our neighbors in the Americas buy more U.S. goods than Asia and Europe combined. And the United States remains the region’s top market—not always for commodities, but certainly for the value-added products tied to innovative companies and good jobs.”
Donohue said “we need more trade and investment—operating under transparent and reliable rules—that leverages our strengths, capitalizes on our opportunities, helps us overcome our common challenges, and commits us to relentlessly pursue the one thing we need most—economic growth.”
He then offered “four concrete, practical steps we can take to fundamentally strengthen our economies, significantly increase trade and investment throughout the hemisphere, and expand opportunity for all of our citizens.”
“The first step is to ensure that the western hemisphere becomes the energy hub of the world.”
“The second step is to fundamentally strengthen each of our infrastructure networks and to help forge them into a more seamless system throughout the Americas. Doing so will facilitate trade through the more efficient movement of goods; lower costs; enhance the region’s global competitiveness; and grow economies while putting a lot of people to work.”
3. Financial Markets
“The third step is to strengthen our capital markets and expand the availability of credit to consumers and businesses of all sizes. A robust system fuels job creation, economic growth, entrepreneurship, and innovations that improve our lives.”
4. Human Capital
“The fourth step is to better develop our human capital, encourage innovation, and spur a stronger sense of entrepreneurship.”
Donohue vowed that the Chamber will ensure that those next steps are taken:
“We will never let U.S. lawmakers forget how important the Americas are to jobs, economic growth, and global competitiveness. …
“The destinies of the nations of the Americas are tied together. Now is the time to realize our potential to work together collaboratively to solve problems to strengthen our ties of trade and investment for our mutual benefit to provide new and exciting opportunities for our peoples and to raise their standards of living.”