Remarks by Wilbur L. Ross at the Manufacturer & Business Association Roundtable in Erie, Pennsylvania

Thank you, Mark, for that kind introduction, and for hosting us here at the MBA Conference Center. And congratulations on 115 years of your company providing goods and services to the many generations of industrial firms that have benefited from your longevity. It says a lot about your company culture for it to have weathered countless downturns, big changes in technology, and the rise of global competitors. That’s quite an achievement.

Thank you also, John, for hosting us, and a special thanks to your members. Your organization is essential in helping companies connect with each other and to national networks to solve mutual problems. I know this is especially important in these challenging times.

We need more organizations like yours promoting the benefits of manufacturing and industry to the U.S. economy. Since fostering economic growth is job number-one for all of us, today is significant for American producers.

July 1 is the first day that the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement enters into force – and this ground-breaking trade agreement couldn’t come at a better time. It fortifies the world’s largest trading block, and it provides American companies with a level playing field on our own continent for the first time since 1994. USMCA is the result of President Trump’s unwavering commitment to rebalance U.S. trade in favor of American producers and American workers. The agreement should be of particular help to Pennsylvania, the country’s tenth largest exporting state, and the backbone of our manufacturing economy.

Last year, Pennsylvania’s exports to Canada and Mexico topped $15 billion, representing 36 percent of the state’s total global exports. USMCA’s new rules of origin will help rebuild U.S. production that was outsourced to Asia, and it will go a long way to re-establishing domestic supply chains in many industrial sectors. USCMA increases North American content of vehicles to 75 percent, and it requires that up to 45 percent of the value of passenger cars be made by workers earning an average base-wage of at least $16 an hour.

Now, we finally have an agreement that levels the playing field for American workers. With the economic lockdowns required by the coronavirus pandemic, the last three-and-a-half months have not been easy for anyone.

More than 15,000 workers have been furloughed in Erie, 10 percent of whom were employed in manufacturing. Thankfully, most manufacturers have been proactive ─ and creative ─ in re-engineering production lines to protect their employees. Many have switched to producing life-saving PPE, and we are grateful for your doing so. As a result, there have been far fewer layoffs in manufacturing than in many service sectors.

We also hope the worst of the downturn is behind us. May’s job numbers were encouraging, as nearly 200,000 Pennsylvanians returned to work, with more than 25,000 of them headed back into manufacturing plants. Moreover, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained below the national average.

One hopeful sign for a speedy recovery is reflected in the U.S. savings rate that has increased to 23.1 percent. Total bank deposits have jumped by $2.1 trillion during the past four months. It means that our financial institutions are sound, as compared to 2008. And as the economy opens with pent-up demand, these consumer savings will be spent in local businesses with more workers being rehired. Already, we are seeing healthy and record increases in retail sales.

Your region’s commitment to manufacturing should bode well for a strong recovery. As the one-time “Boiler and Engine Capital of the World,” Erie now supports more than 18,000 manufacturing jobs. At 17 percent of the local labor force, this is double the national average of 8.5 percent.

In the global competition for jobs and industries, Erie has many advantages, including:

• Your central location between major metropolitan areas;

• Your eight Opportunity Zones that will generate new investment in the downtown area.

• Your skilled workforce and excellent education and training institutions such as Penn State Erie, the Erie Business Center, and many others;

• The fact that you have such a diverse group of industries within your midst;

• An attractive cost of living and the availability of affordable housing;

• And an incredible setting overlooking one the world’s largest and most pristine fresh-water lakes.

• We hear there is a healthy stock of more than 100 million two-year-old walleye in Lake Erie right now ready to be caught by anglers.

You also have some great employers. Wabtec generated $2.7 billion in economic activity in Erie County alone, and the plastics industry has emerged as an economic force, with 10 percent of the nation’s plastics either manufactured or finished in Erie. I look forward to touring one of your area’s outstanding manufacturers later this morning, when we visit 91-year-old Howard Industries.

Now, I am eager to hear your ideas on how we can work together to accelerate our economic recovery, re-shore our industries, and generate thousands of great jobs for the workers of Erie and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Thank you.

President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (PAC-AAPI) Convenes Inaugural Open Meeting and Virtual Listening Session

WASHINGTON – On May 20th, the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders convened its Inaugural Open Meeting with all fourteen (14) Commissioners in attendance. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, Co-Chairs of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, provided welcoming remarks at the meeting, which commenced with the official swearing-in ceremony of Commissioner Helen Van Etten of Kansas.

The Commission is tasked by President Trump’s Executive Order to provide advice to the President, through the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Transportation, on how to broaden access by Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employers and communities to economic resources and opportunities.

“We appreciate your advocacy for the more than 1.9 million AAPI-owned businesses, and for the 22 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, many of whom have been so adversely impacted by the pandemic,” said Secretary Wilbur Ross in his welcome remarks. “Your work on their behalf is more important than ever before. Secretary Chao and I look forward to your advising us and President Trump on how best the U.S. government can serve this vibrant and growing American community.”

Secretary Elaine L. Chao highlighted the four areas that both the Commission and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are focused on: Passing the Torch, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Bridging the Income Gap, and AAPI Women in Leadership. In highlighting the ways the AAPI community can better take advantage of federal resources and opportunities, she shared: “Secretary Ross and I recently signed a letter to re-establish the White House Initiative Interagency Working Group. This group consists of representatives from throughout the federal government who will advise the Initiative on the implementation and coordination of Federal programs as they relate to Asian Pacific American access to economic resources and opportunities.”

Dr. Paul Hsu, Chair of the Commission, provided opening remarks and convened the meeting by addressing the task at hand: “President Trump has clearly outlined in his Executive Order that our mission is to improve the lives of all AAPIs and their communities, which will always be our guiding principle and our roadmap. That is exactly why we are here today.”

The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also convened its first virtual AAPI Business Town Hall with business owners, chambers of commerce and business associations on Tuesday, May 19th, a day prior to the open meeting. Chair of the Commission Dr. Paul Hsu and Commissioner Herman Martir facilitated this listening session hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. About 200 AAPI business and community leaders participated with many of the Commissioners also in attendance.

As the Commission prepares its advisory reports, these town halls and listening sessions reflect the mission and importance of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to our country. Many of the speakers provided insight on how the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has affected AAPI-owned businesses across different states and U.S. territories, including Guam and American Samoa. Town hall speakers represented 9 different states and U.S. territories, while audience participants hailed from 31 different states and territories. In response to concerns about harassment of AAPIs due to the virus, the Initiative and interagency working group are coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure active engagement with local communities on addressing these issues.  

These public forums also provided a platform for federal officials and trade groups to highlight resources and opportunities. At the AAPI Business Town Hall, the U.S. Census Bureau provided a presentation on the Small Business Pulse Survey, which asks small businesses to share the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak on their business. There was also an update on the ongoing 2020 Census, including the latest response rate, information about the extended window for response to the Census, highlights of the partnership and outreach campaign, and ideas about virtual ways that partners can support the Census in the upcoming months. The U.S. Census Bureau’s partnership program is working with more than 6,000 organizations across the country that serve Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Following the U.S. Census Bureau, the Small Business Roundtable, a coalition of leading small business and entrepreneurship organizations, presented a read out of their State of Small Business Report. This report will be the first of an ongoing series that tracks the activities of small businesses across the country.

Secretary of Commerce allocates $300 million in CARES Act aid to U.S. fishermen and seafood industries impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the allocation of $300 million in economic relief to U.S. fishermen and seafood industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were allocated as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27 by President Trump.

Commercial fishing, charter/for-hire businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and parts of the seafood sector in coastal states and territories are among those eligible to apply for funds. Tribes are also eligible for funding including for any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries. The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work with the three Interstate Marine Fishery Commissions, organizations with a demonstrated track record of success in disbursing funds, to quickly deliver financial assistance into the hands of those who need it.

“This relief package will support America’s fishermen and our seafood sector’s recovery,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Thank you President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin, and our Congressional leaders of both parties for your work to pass the historic legislation that is bringing much needed relief to America’s fishermen. This Administration stands with the men and women working to provide healthy and safe seafood during this uniquely challenging time, while our U.S. fisheries work to continue to support 1.7 million jobs and to generate $200 billion in annual sales. The Nation is grateful to our fishermen for their commitment.”

Acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., lauded today’s announcement.

“For generations, our coastal communities have taken great pride in delivering protein-rich seafood to dinner tables across the country and enabling access to our world class recreational fisheries,” said Jacobs. “NOAA thanks our partners in the interstate marine fisheries commissions, states, territories, and tribes for their assistance. Together, we will work to distribute these funds as quickly as possible.”

In addition to these funds, the President recently signed into law other Federal financial assistance programs, including several programs at the Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture, that can provide help to fishermen and related businesses.

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Q1 2020 GDP Advance Estimate

Today, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the advance estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter of 2020, finding that real gross domestic product contracted at an annual rate of 4.8 percent.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued the following statement in response:

“Today’s GDP numbers are weak, but in line with expectations as a result of the COVID-19-driven disruptions to daily lives at home and around the globe that have rocked global markets and supply chains. We continue to have the most resilient economy in the world, driven by innovative and hardworking Americans who have shown that they are willing to make the needed sacrifices to defeat this invisible enemy.

The President has taken bold action to leverage the expertise and resources of the entire Nation in this fight. Congress has confronted the seriousness of this challenge with trillions of dollars in relief funding for those impacted by the virus, establishing a firm footing for a swift and strong American comeback. When this chapter ends, America will be both stronger and healthier than ever because of the President’s decisive and timely actions.”

EXIM Board Approves $91.5 Million in U.S. Export Financing for Project in Senegal

WASHINGTON – The Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) yesterday unanimously approved approximately $91.5 million in loan guarantee financing that supports U.S. exports of design engineering and construction services to the Republic of Senegal. The transaction will increase access to reliable electricity for rural communities throughout Senegal while supporting an estimated 500 U.S. jobs in 14 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The transaction – which is expected to bring electricity to approximately 330,000 Senegalese in more than 400 villages – will advance four of EXIM’s priorities as set by Congress. Specifically, this transaction supports a small-business exporter, Weldy-Lamont LLC of Mt. Prospect, Illinois; the export of U.S. manufactured goods and services to sub-Saharan Africa; renewable energy technology through the export of solar panels; and the “Program on China and Transformational Exports” as outlined in EXIM’s recent reauthorization. United States-based Weldy-Lamont was selected for the project over foreign competition being supported by at least four other governments, including China.

This transaction also advances the goals of the Trump Administration’s Prosper Africa and the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) initiatives, which aim to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

“The selection of Weldy-Lamont for this project is a significant win for not only for this Illinois-headquartered small business and its workers across fourteen states, but also for the United States and Senegal,” said EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed. “Building on my discussion with Senegal’s Minister for Economy, Planning, and Cooperation Amadou Hott during our October 18, 2019, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony, this transaction demonstrates Senegal’s willingness to consider alternative financing and export including those from the United States, for critical infrastructure needs beyond Chinese sources. We are pleased to support this U.S. small business as it exports its ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ renewable energy products to sub-Saharan Africa.”

“This deal fulfills several of EXIM’s goals, including supporting small businesses and competing with China on a global scale,” said EXIM Board Member Spencer Bachus III. “There’s no more important time for EXIM than today. With the spread of coronavirus, our job will be more challenging, but it will be more important than ever.”

“I can think of no better first project for us with the Republic of Senegal than this Weldy-Lamont deal to provide rural electrification to about 415 villages,” said EXIM Board Member Judith Pryor. “This deal is part of a whole-of-government approach that encompasses the goals of both Prosper Africa and Power Africa, and we are honored to work with our sister agencies toward these goals.”

The financing was approved under EXIM’s MOU with Senegal’s Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation. The Senegal National Electricity Agency (Senelac) will be the borrower in the transaction and the buyer of the exports. Senegal’s Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation will provide a sovereign guarantee of the financing. JP Morgan Chase is the lead arranger and mandated lender. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $100 million, with EXIM supplying 81.5 percent of the funding.

For the project, Weldy-Lamont – a Chicago-area small business with fewer than 20 employees – plans to source from a large U.S. supply chain to procure American-manufactured electrical and solar-energy equipment, as well as a variety of services. EXIM’s financing is expected to support an estimated 500 American jobs in 14 states.

The proposed project will consist of low-voltage power lines along existing roads to rural villages, with more remote villages to be served by the establishment of a mini-grid of stand-alone solar units and limited low-voltage lines. The completed project will reduce the need for community-based diesel generation of electricity and will connect hundreds of villages to the grid.

The EXIM Board initially approved a preliminary commitment on Oct. 30, 2019. In addition to EXIM, other federal agencies involved in promoting the selection of Weldy-Lamont for the project include the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

EXIM Small Business Outreach and Relief Efforts

During the open portion of the meeting, the Board received an update from EXIM’s Small Business Division. Senior Vice President of Small Business Jim Burrows noted that since EXIM’s board quorum was restored in May 2019, EXIM has authorized approximately 1,635 small business transactions, totaling $1.7 billion, and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs.  

Earlier this month, EXIM instituted temporary relief measures that provide assistance to U.S. businesses, their buyers, financial institutions, and American workers negatively impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus). Complete information is available on the coronavirus response page. “EXIM recognizes that in the months following the COVID-19 outbreak, exporting may be a challenge for many of our nation’s businesses, especially small businesses,” said Burrows. “EXIM staffers are working tirelessly to ensure our nation has the proper programs in place to provide U.S. exporters with the financing and other products necessary to export ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ goods and services.”

Office of Small Business Director of Outreach and Education Elizabeth Thomas focused on EXIM’s new digital outreach strategy, which was launched in November 2019, alignment with associations whose members would benefit from EXIM’s services, and direct customer outreach. Since the digital strategy kickoff, EXIM has engaged over 2800 “new to EXIM” contacts and attributes 73% of FY 2020 authorizations to digital outreach. Particularly given this time of COVID-19, “digital outreach allows us to stay connected with small businesses and provide much needed support in a safe and healthy way,” said Thomas.

EXIM Open for Business in 191 Countries

In additional to the voting on the Senegal project during the closed portion of the meeting, the Board of Directors also heard from EXIM’s Enterprise Risk Committee and approved changes to EXIM’s Country Limitation Schedule (CLS) that are effective April 6, 2020. The changes will be reflected at that time on EXIM’s website.

“As elevated demand for EXIM support, as well as support from competitor export credit agencies around the world can be counter-cyclical in nature, EXIM will be needed even more over the next several months to accomplish its mission to support U.S. jobs through exports,” said EXIM Chief Risk Officer Ken Tinsley, “I am confident in EXIM’s ability to execute this mission successfully while at the same time protecting the U.S. taxpayer.”

The CLS is a document that expresses whether EXIM is open or closed for business in a given market. Country conditions in markets in which EXIM is open must meet EXIM’s Charter-mandated requirement of a reasonable assurance of repayment. EXIM’s Board has established a linkage between the reasonable assurance of repayment mandate and the country risk ratings from the Interagency Country Risk Assessment System implemented by the Office of Management and Budget. These ratings, which are subject to routine evaluation, reflect the repayment risk of doing business in a market and are required to be used by all U.S. government agencies engaged in cross-border credit activities to estimate expected loss. With this update, EXIM is open for business in 191 countries.

ABOUT EXIM:

EXIM is an independent federal agency that promotes and supports American jobs by providing competitive and necessary export credit to support sales of U.S. goods and services to international buyers. A robust EXIM can level the global playing field for U.S. exporters when they compete against foreign companies that receive support from their governments. EXIM also contributes to U.S. economic growth by helping to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs in exporting businesses and their supply chains across the United States. In recent years, approximately 90 percent of the total number of the agency’s authorizations has directly supported small businesses. Since 1992, EXIM has generated more than $9 billion for the U.S. Treasury for repayment of U.S. debt. 

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Q4 and Annual 2019 GDP: Economy Grows 2.3% in 2019

Today, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the fourth quarter and annual gross domestic product (GDP) numbers. The Bureau found that the real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter and 2.3 percent for all of 2019, continuing to beat expectations.

“Since the beginning of this Administration, critics have predicted doom and gloom for the American economy,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. President Trump continues to unleash incredible growth in the American economy despite the effects of Boeing’s problems with the 737 MAX and the General Motors’ strike. GDP for 2019 is more great news for the American economy and is even better than what today’s numbers show due to those two special factors. Beyond this, Americans continue to experience tremendous increases in employment and wages that prime 2020 for further economic gains. When you add in the benefits of USMCA, the Phase One Deal with China, the two trade deals with Japan, and the re-working of the free trade agreement with South Korea, America is back and competing on the world stage.”

The GDP continues to beat performance predictions before the 2016 election, and there was other good news in the BEA report:

  • The U.S. has the largest GDP of any country in the world, and it continues to grow at a sustained rate. U.S. GDP reached an all-time high in 2019 of $21.43 trillion.
  • The growth of the goods GDP rose by an impressive 4.7 percent, while services was at 1.7 percent.
  • Consumer spending increased by 2.6 percent last year and spending on durable goods surged by 4.7 percent in 2019.
  • Personal income reached an all-time high of $18.6 trillion, up from $17.8 trillion in 2018.
  • The personal savings rate increased to 8 percent for the year, with Americans saving $1.31 trillion in 2019, up from $1.21 trillion in 2018.
  • The long period of massive import surges of goods is finally abating. For the year, imports of goods rose by only 0.2 percent, the lowest yearly increase since 2009.

BEA Reports 17 of 22 Industry Groups Contributed to the 2.1 Percent Increase in Real GDP in 3rd Quarter.

Nondurable goods manufacturing; retail trade; and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to the increase in U.S. economic growth in the third quarter of 2019, according to gross domestic product (GDP) by industry statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Both private services- and goods-producing industries contributed to the increase; the government sector increased slightly. Overall, 17 of 22 industry groups contributed to the 2.1 percent increase in real GDP in the third quarter.

Nondurable goods manufacturing increased 10.1 percent in the third quarter, after decreasing 0.3 percent in the second quarter.
Retail trade increased 8.2 percent, after increasing 0.2 percent.
Professional, scientific, and technical services increased 5.6 percent, after increasing 7.4 percent.
“In the 3rd quarter of last year, retail and wholesale trade fueled the continuing economic resurgence. With growth in 17 of 22 sectors, American Industry continues to thrive thanks to the pro-growth policies of the Trump Administration,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Presidential Delegation to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum

WASHINGTON– President Donald J. Trump announced the Presidential Delegation that will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from January 20 to January 24, 2020. Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:
Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury (Lead)
Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce
Eugene Scalia, Secretary of Labor
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative
Keith Krach, Under Secretary for Growth, Energy and the Environment, Department of State
Ivanka Trump, Assistant to the President and Advisor to the President
Jared Kushner, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the President
Christopher Liddell, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination

Measuring the Value of the U.S. Space Economy

According to the Commerce Department’s website,The Space Economy Satellite Account (SESA) is a new, collaborative effort to measure the relative importance of the space sector on the U.S. economy, with a special emphasis on the growing commercial space segment. This new account is part of the economic satellite accounts produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). A satellite account refers to statistics that complement BEA’s official U.S. economic statistics, such as GDP and personal income. These satellite accounts provide additional detail and allow for a more in-depth analysis of key sectors of the U.S. economy, such as health care, travel and tourism, and outdoor recreation.

Using input from industry experts and multiple government agencies, chiefly the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) Office of Space Commerce, the forthcoming SESA statistics will show the impact of the U.S. space economy on the overall U.S. economy. Specifically, the SESA statistics will provide an estimate of the space economy’s contribution to current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) and will illustrate the contributions of individual industries to the U.S. space economy. In addition to GDP, the SESA will include gross output, compensation, and employment by industry statistics for the space economy.

U.S. Economy Increases at a 2.1% Pace in the Third Quarter

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 2.1 percent in the third quarter of 2019, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The growth rate was unrevised from the “second” estimate released in November. In the second quarter, real GDP rose 2.0 percent.

GDP highlights

The third-quarter increase in real GDP reflected increases in consumer spending, government spending, housing investment, and exports, while business investment and inventory investment decreased. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.
The increase in consumer spending reflected increases in both goods (notably recreational goods and vehicles as well as food and beverages) and services (led by other services, notably personal care and legal services, as well as housing and utilities). The increase in government spending reflected increases in federal and in state and local government spending.

The decrease in business investment reflected decreases in structures (led by mining exploration, shafts, and wells) and in equipment (notably aircraft as well as computers and peripheral equipment).

Updates to GDP

While overall GDP growth was unrevised from the second estimate, upward revisions to consumer spending and business investment were offset by a downward revision to inventory investment.

Corporate profits from current production

Profits decreased 0.2 percent at a quarterly rate in the third quarter after increasing 3.8 percent in the second quarter. Corporate profits decreased 1.2 percent in the third quarter from one year ago.

Profits of domestic nonfinancial corporations decreased 0.5 percent after increasing 3.2 percent.
Profits of domestic financial corporations decreased 1.1 percent after increasing 0.6 percent.
Profits from the rest of the world increased 1.0 percent after increasing 7.7 percent.