Mayor Paulo Vicente, it is an honor to be here with you and the leadership of Marinha Grande here in the heartland of Portugal. And I understand it is thanks in no small part to this region that I am here today as U.S. Ambassador, as timber from your forests formed the caravels of the Age of Discoveries.
Thank you, President Faustino, for your words, and for introducing me to both Marinha Grande and the industrial mold industry today.
Mr. Mayor, thank you also for hosting me this morning and introducing me to your fine city. I have been so impressed by this region, and not just because you are the capital of European industrial mold making. I read just the other day a story of a refugee family from Iraq that moved to Marinha Grande to start a new life. They began learning Portuguese and now work in a local clothing factory. In my mind, this is a great example of what is so good about Portugal, how communities have opened their arms – rather than closed their hearts – to those in the greatest of need.
Madame Secretary of State, I see why you are so proud of your region. I applaud the approach the government and the people of Portugal have taken towards the refugee crisis, and I am very pleased that I am able to join you here today.
And thank you to Dr. Oliveira and Dr. Tocha, and to all the members of CENTIMFE for making it possible for us to gather and discuss the opportunities for transatlantic business in the coming years.
When I was a young man, there was a movie – “The Graduate” – where a young Dustin Hoffman trying to find his direction after college was advised “one word: PLASTICS.” I guess Marinha Grande already knew the secret.
And I think that’s fantastic. Portugal’s industrial mold sector is world renowned, and all of you have played a major role in ensuring that success. And it’s not been easy. The global market has changed significantly over the course of the last 30 years, and it will continue to do so over the next 30. But through it all, you have adapted and thrived, and 8000 of your countrymen have you to thank for their jobs. I know that the U.S. market used to be a much bigger part of your success. I don’t have to tell you what has happened with U.S. manufacturing over these last three decades. But American industry is on the rebound. Production costs are going down, energy costs are down, the dollar is strong, and I believe the future is bright for Portuguese-U.S. partnerships in industrial molds. And the time to act is now!
The American automobile industry is on the rise and there is no reason that the molds you make for Mercedes, Volkswagen and BMW can’t also be in Ford, Chrysler and G.M. cars. Quality is important to those companies and your products are quality.
Right now we are working on a deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or T-TIP – that is designed to tear down barriers and build bridges for trade between the U.S. and Europe, particularly for the small and medium-sized companies that make up the foundation of our economies. The U.S.-EU trade relationship is the largest and most successful in the world, but there are still unnecessary trade and investment barriers between us that do nothing to protect consumers, workers or the environment, but instead just add unnecessary costs and limit consumer choice.
T-TIP is an opportunity to solidify and expand our relationship to meet 21st century market needs. Just like your companies need to adapt to a changing business climate so too we must modernize the trade relationship between the EU and the U.S. With common sense upgrades we can develop a system that is more efficient, more cost effective, and more accessible for small businesses in the U.S. and Portugal, while ensuring the current high level of protection for consumers, workers, and the environment.
The fact is that the backbone of both our countries is small and medium sized businesses. Common sense improvements can have a significant impact. They will better utilize existing resources, save money and time, remove duplicative processes, allow regulators to focus more of their time on higher-risk challenges to health, safety, or other public concerns, and simplify trade so more Americans and Europeans, including Portuguese, can export. And at its heart, simplified trade will help our economies, drive more exports, grow our businesses, and support more well-paying jobs.
Over the last years, our trade relationship has begun to flourish, and I’m pleased to point out what the National Statistics Institute noted last month – the U.S. is now Portugal’s largest trading partner outside the EU, and fifth-largest export market overall. That’s a 22 percent increase in just over one year, but there’s still plenty of room to grow. A combination of a growing U.S. industrial sector, lowered tariffs and decreased red tape can help point the way to new export markets for your products in the U.S., and for our products here in Portugal and elsewhere in Europe. Studies consistently show that this agreement will be a win-win for both sides. But it’s not only about growing our own trade. It’s also about making sure that the rules of global trade that affect you here in Marinha Grande are based on the principles of fair competition and open markets that you’ve clearly mastered. There are competing models to set the rules for the future of global trade. The choice is ours: Together, will we be standard setters for the world, or standard takers? Will we lead or be led? Americans and Europeans have an opportunity in T-TIP to imprint our democratic values on future global trade.
And through T-TIP we can do that by incentivizing countries to pay a fair wage, develop safe workplaces, protect consumer health and safety, and strengthen environmental rules that we help set. The United States and the EU should be the ones to set the rules of the road, building on our mutual commitment to fair and transparent trading practices, strong labor rights, enforceable environmental protections, food that is safe, intellectual property rights that encourage entrepreneurship and consumer safety. Openness, transparency and rule of law are the cornerstones of our democracy, stability, efficiency, and long-term economic health. Our approach has served our two economies well. It is not a belief that is universal, but this agreement provides an opportunity to share and promote that vision globally.
The EU faces challenges from within and without: Slow and uneven growth, persistently high unemployment, especially among youth — as Portugal knows all too well; the most significant migrant and refugee crisis in decades, as we’ve discussed; disorder on its periphery that raises real concerns about energy security and long-settled questions about borders; and fundamental questions about the composition and nature of the Union itself. During these challenging times, the strategic rationale for T-TIP has only grown stronger: Diversifying markets, enhancing energy security, and most importantly, reinforcing the strength of the transatlantic relationship. Recent events have underscored the importance of our common values – democracy, tolerance, the rule of law – that are under attack nearly every day. This agreement is not just about trade and investment; it is a geostrategic choice to strengthen the transatlantic bonds between two regions that share the same high values and standards.
T-TIP offers an opportunity to promote stability in a time of turmoil, predictability in a time of uncertainty, and democratic standards in a time of increasing competition with alternative, less open, transparent, and fair models. The greatest strategic gains of all could result from the U.S. and countries like Portugal working together under the framework of T-TIP to shape a rapidly changing world.
But the success or failure of T-TIP will ultimately depend on public support. So I will end with an appeal to Centimfe and its membership. You are the ones who have the greatest stake and will benefit most from opening markets. You as stakeholders therefore need to be engaged in the T-TIP discussion. Yours is a critical voice in ensuring that your customers, suppliers, and employees are aware of T-TIP and understand its importance. With support from organizations like Centimfe, we can build a better future for U.S.-Portugal trade.