Remarks By Secretary Wilbur Ross at the AMCHAM Business Lunch in Sydney, Australia
Tuesday, 15 October 2019
Thank you, April, for that kind introduction, and thank you for your efforts to strengthen and expand the U.S.- Australian commercial partnership. It is my pleasure to be here. After having been in London, New Delhi, and Singapore over the past week, I’m feeling a bit like Mad Max! But we know that Mad Max always prevails; and the original is still the most profitable film of all time.
I just finished a productive meeting with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, and a wonderful meeting with Prime Minister Morrison. And yesterday, we were in Canberra, discussing joint U.S.- Australia space initiatives; and issues regarding critical minerals with Matt Canavan, the Minister for Resources. The warm welcome we have experienced is an indication of just how special our relationship is with Australia.
We are also here just a few weeks after Prime Minister Morrison travelled to the United States, where he was fêted with a State Dinner, only the second one hosted by President Trump. The Prime Minister and the President traveled together and toured a new $2 billion Platt Industries factory in Ohio. I also spent time with the Prime Minister during his trip to the United States, meeting with him at NASA headquarters in Washington, to witness the signing of a Joint Statement of Intent for our two countries to work together to colonize the Moon and Mars.
The United States has a very special relationship with Australia, dating back to the earliest days of this country. More than 2,000 American companies have operations in Australia, and most, I hope, are members of AmCham. American companies employ 400,000 Australians. That is an impressive number, and reflects the fact that 221 of Australia’s 500 largest companies are from the United States. Eighty-six percent of these American companies have their Australian headquarters in the states of New South Wales or Victoria. And many have regional offices located throughout the country.
Australia is a small, big country, and it is welcoming to America’s most iconic companies. U.S. FDI stock in Australia totaled $163 billion last year, again a very large number given the relative size of Australia’s population. And Australian FDI stock in the United State is also substantial, at $71.5 billion, which does not include the new Platt Industries plant I mentioned earlier. Australian FDI in the United States support 74,300 American jobs. In short, we are Australia’s most important economic partner. The United States is Australia’s number-one foreign direct investor by a large margin, and the United States is the number-one destination for Australian foreign investment abroad.
Trade is also booming between our countries. Last year, U.S. exports of goods and services to Australia were $47.5 billion, while imports were $18.4 billion. U.S. exports to Australia support more than 265,000 jobs in America. Australia plays an important role in the President’s vision for the Indo-Pacific. This vision recognizes -- and I quote -- "the critical linkages between economics, governance, and security," and it will "diligently uphold a rules-based order to ensure peace and prosperity for all."
This "rules-based order" is at the heart of our dealings with China, one of our mutual trading partners. We are not opposed to trade with China. In fact, we hosting negotiations with them this week in Washington. But we are addressing fundamental issues in our trade relationship with China, including forced technology transfers; cyber intrusions; the stealing of IP; and industrial subsidies to state-owned enterprises. China continues to cause massive market dislocations due to overcapacity and dumping excess production onto global markets. If we can get China to abide by the global rules of trade, every nation in the world will benefit.
China was admitted into the WTO under the theory that it would live up to its obligations. But there were no enforcement mechanisms, and China has refused to change its behavior. In fact, its global trade practices have only gotten worse. We do not like tariffs, and prefer not to use them, but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns.
Trade was also an important topic of discussion during the UN General Assembly meeting two weeks ago in New York City. We are pursuing bilateral trade deals with a number of countries. During the week, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe reached two agreements to rebalance trade between Japan and the United States. We also reached an agreement with the EU on establishing a duty-free tariff rate quota on U.S. beef.
The Trump Administration has also finally fixed two major trade agreements that were signed by previous presidential administrations, with Canada and Mexico, and with Korea. I might note, that during this long-overdue restructuring of our trade policy, skeptics predicted an economic calamity for the United States.
But nothing of the like has happened. U.S. GDP is up. Wages are up. Employment in the United States is up, by 6.4 million since the election in 2016, including 136,000 jobs in September, and more than 500,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. Poverty is at the lowest level in almost two decades. The number of Americans needing federal food assistance has fallen by more than 10 million, from 44.2 million in 2016, to 33.7 million people this year. Retail sales are up by 4.6 percent over the past 12 months. And, interestingly, the U.S. import price index fell by 2 percent over the past year. We have made progress in rebuilding the U.S. economy, though you would never know it by tuning into the U.S. media.
Finally, I will be back in this region in November, leading a delegation of U.S. executives on a trade mission through Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. We are promoting U.S. capabilities in digital technologies, infrastructure, and energy. This trip is scheduled for the week of November 3rd, and it fits nicely into our Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok, to continue advancing our commercial ties, helping partner countries combat corruption, promoting the rule of law, and strengthening their institutions of governance.
Again, if we are successful at helping countries adopt global standards of governance, all nations in the region, and the world, will benefit. Thank you for hosting us today. I look forward to hearing your views about business in Australia and the entire Indo-Pacific region.