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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the National Association of District Export Councils’ Annual Export Conference

Thank you, Jonathan, for that introduction. You, Vice-Chair Anne Burkett and your amazing team have done an excellent job putting this event together. 

It’s so great to be with you again this year to speak with you about our work at Commerce to support our exporters. It was 50 years ago that then-Secretary of Commerce Frederick B. Dent established the District Export Councils program to help government and business work together to grow the exporter base across the country, back in 1974.  

At that time, the U.S. exported $126 billion dollars of goods and services. Today those numbers have changed quite dramatically – in 2023, U.S exports topped $3 trillion dollars.  

As our partners, the DECs promote a better understanding of the value of exporting and provide counseling, education, mentorship, and vital support to our local trade ecosystems, including our U.S. Commercial Service offices across the country. Thank you for your service. Your engagement in trade promotion activities is invaluable to the Department of Commerce. 

We are transforming every touchpoint into tools and information to help U.S.  exporters succeed, much of which was made possible by your feedback. You’ll hear about those later in the day.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT’S APPROACH UNDER THE BIDEN-HARRIS ADMINISTRATION 

We’ve all experienced the challenges to trade and U.S. competitiveness in recent years. The pandemic laid bare vulnerabilities in our supply chains, and supply chain disruptions have resulted from struggles like the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.  

What’s more, our adversaries, including the PRC, are undertaking aggressive efforts to control supply chains, exploit chokepoints, and obtain dual use technologies to fuel their military ambitions and threaten our national security.  

Companies also tell us they face new and growing cybersecurity risks, theft of intellectual property, and unfair trade and investment practices by competitors both in the U.S. market and abroad. 

From day one, President Biden and Vice President Harris have been committed to strengthening our trade relationships. They recognized these threats to our economic security and have taken bold steps to address them. And they empowered the Department of Commerce to be at the center of the solution – I’d like to share two of them.  

The first is to build resilient supply chains, including with our allies. 

And the second is to ensure the safety and security of the tech ecosystems in which our companies operate, innovate, trade, and attract investment.  

Let me tell you how we’re doing it.

BUILDING RESILIENT SUPPLY CHAINS 

The Biden-Harris Administration recognized early on that our ability to ensure reliable, fair, and efficient trade requires a sharper focus on building resilient supply chains

As part of that effort, we launched the Council on Supply Chain Resilience and the first-of its-kind Supply Chain Center, which aims to be an analytic engine for U.S. supply chain resilience policy, leveraging our deep industry expertise, quantitative data, and advanced analytics to develop a rapid reaction capability to assess, respond to, and resolve supply chain crises in real-time. As a result, Americans are now better able to access the goods they need – medicines, manufacturing inputs, and other critical technologies.  

Beyond that, the Administration is eliminating America’s dependency on adversaries that could hold us hostage, threaten our national security and hinder our economic competitiveness, especially in critical and emerging technologies such as semiconductors. 

And the Commerce Department has been at the heart of these efforts.  

The Administration is making historic investments in American competitiveness, to the tune of $1 trillion, that are enabling us to compete and win in the 21st century global economy – in clean energy, place-based economic development, and  technological innovation, including in building our American chips fabrication capacity – with preliminary agreements between the  federal government and legacy tech companies like Intel, GlobalFoundries, and  Micron, to build manufacturing facilities right here on our shores. 

We are also supporting 31 newly designated “Tech Hubs” in regions across the U.S.  to increase our capacity to produce and deliver critical and emerging technologies – from renewable energy to critical minerals, from AI to bio tech.  

One component of our support for each Hub is a Global Resiliency Stress Test, a strategic framework designed to guide technology-focused regions in strengthening their position in the global market. 

But to succeed, we can’t go it alone. Even as we invest in our productive capacities at home, we are expanding government-to-government, commercial, trade, and investment linkages between the U.S. and our allies around the world, in the Indo Pacific, Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and Africa.  

I’ll give you a few examples.

First, in February of this year, as part of the landmark Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a novel Supply Chain Agreement among partners entered into force. We have already begun working with our partners to strengthen our supply chains and prevent potential disruptions. This includes identifying critical sectors and key goods to develop a shared understanding of global supply chain risks.  

Second, under the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), we are working with U.S. and European companies on legacy semiconductors, diversification of the solar supply chain, and AI risk management and standards.  

Third, as part of the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, the Commerce and Customs and Border Protection teams are working together to support Brazilian partners in improving their customs processes and facilitate expanded bilateral trade opportunities.  

And finally, I firmly believe that the U.S.-Africa partnership is critical to the success of a global economy. This partnership can create opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists, and for women and young people on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s why I announced the first-ever Department of Commerce-wide Africa Strategy, that will not only create a skilled workforce, build critical infrastructure, and support long-term investment, but strengthen and promote our supply chain resilience across the continent.

SAFETY AND SECURITY OF TECH ECOSYSTEMS 

The resilience of U.S. supply chains – especially in critical and emerging technologies – will also depend on fostering innovation ecosystems that are safe and secure. That is why we remain focused on countering malign actors that undermine our economic and national security and hamper the ability of our private sector to innovate and grow. 

We know that we must help our companies protect themselves against cybersecurity threats. Our National Institute of Standards and Technology has updated the widely used Cybersecurity Framework, a landmark guidance document for managing cybersecurity risk for all audiences, industry sectors and organization types.  

Our Bureau of Industry and Security has implemented export controls on sensitive goods, software, and technology to address threats to our national security. It’s not just strategically important to prevent transfers of sensitive technology to an adversary that threatens to use our innovations against us or our allies – it’s common sense.

Take our response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine for example. Commerce mobilized at unprecedented speed and scale to coordinate export controls with partners and allies, an alignment that contributes to a safer, more prosperous world. 

Our efforts on AI safety under President Biden’s Executive Order on AI have also expanded.  

We’re asking frontier AI developers to disclose red-teaming, safety, and cybersecurity measures taken for next-generation frontier models, because well-developed standards and testing capability will also be critical for safety. 

And we’ve launched an AI Safety Institute and a consortium to work with partners in academia, industry, and non-profits to advance its frontier AI safety mission.  

IP protection also plays a central role in our economic security. The Department of Commerce manages the interagency STOPfakes.gov program, to help U.S. exporters effectively protect their intellectual property assets from counterfeiting and compromise in foreign markets.  

As you can see, we are taking a whole-of-Commerce approach, but Commerce is also leading a whole-of-government approach to our exports. 

Last year, we released our 2023 National Export Strategy, which established U.S. trade promotion priorities and a coordinated, whole-of government framework. 

One thing is absolutely clear: This work is vast and essential – for Commerce, for District Export Councils, for the businesses you work with, and for the millions of  Americans whose lives are transformed each and every day by the strides we  make, together.  

You’ll soon hear from Isabel Guzman, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, about some of their work to promote trade. 

There is exciting, challenging work taking place to secure and forge our shared path forward. With the help of our DEC members, we hope to reach even more American companies and help them grow our economy through exports.  

And before I wrap up, I am pleased to announce to you today that Trade Winds, the largest federal government trade mission for U.S. Commercial Service staff each year, and in the 2025 Trade Winds Business Forum will be hosted in Sao Paolo, Brazil with mission stops in Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina,  and Chile.  

We hope to see you all in São Paolo next April and back here in Washington next May for the NADEC conference!

Originally posted at https://www.commerce.gov/news/speeches/2024/05/remarks-deputy-secretary-commerce-don-graves-national-association-district

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