Remarks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit

(Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen; I accept the nomination. (Applause.) Thank you. It doesn't get better than that. That's about the best - (laughter) - if I could bottle that, who knows? I could've been a contender. (Laughter.)

It's really great to be with all - I can't believe you have all this energy after two days. No wonder this is a great success. I'm really happy to be with you, and I'm so appreciative of so many of you who have traveled great distances to be here. And I'm really thrilled to be introduced by my good friend, Penny Pritzker. I just reciprocate for a moment quickly, I got to tell you that Penny and I have been in a number of countries together, advocating for not just SelectUSA but advocating for strong economies, for great trade, for some of the critical economic choices we have to be making on a global basis. And it is so positive for America to have a leader like Penny who can talk with other business people on an absolute equal level - actually, in many cases, Penny is at an elevated level. She is herself such a successful business person. Her family has done extraordinary work. She knows what she's talking about.

So we have special credibility that has helped President Obama's economic initiatives and economic policy to have legs that I have not seen in a number of administrations over the course of 30 years or so here in Washington. And she has helped to make economic policy a core pillar of American foreign policy in our engagement on a worldwide basis. And I think every one of you would agree she has transformed SelectUSA from a vision that was originally outlined by President Obama into an economic necessity for our nation and a central component of our efforts to show and to explain the world over that the American private sector is open to everybody.

Personally, I actually can relate to that. It's not - a little-known element of my career that one night after a late dinner in Boston, when I was practicing law briefly, I had a great dinner with a friend and probably a bottle of wine too many, and when we came out of the dinner, I was walking by - I had a craving for - I have a big sweet tooth, and I had a craving for a warm chocolate chip cookie. And I couldn't find one around Faneuil Hall at that point in time - those of you who have been to Boston. So I just immediately got this wild crazy idea that I was going to open that store. And a week later, I was negotiating with the Rouse Company. Suddenly I had a lease in my hands. They didn't want a real cookie store; they wanted a gourmet store. So I called it a gourmet kind of deal, cookie store.

And we opened it. And a week beforehand, I realized I really need a recipe. We got to make something here. (Laughter.) So I went home and in my oven started concocting various rip-offs of different recipes, and invented a recipe so high in cholesterol, folks - (laughter) - you wouldn't believe it. And I opened this cookie emporium, which I want to tell you is still there. It's open. And if I hadn't switched to a career in public service, I could have been the Steve Jobs of late night snacks. (Laughter.) And - believe me, it would have paid better; more than I get now, but - (laughter).

Anyway, if you can turn a sweet-tooth desire into a business that is there 40 years later, you can do anything in business. I'm telling you that. So there's hope for everyone. (Applause.)

Now, I know you've heard from the President yesterday at lunch, and you've heard from Penny, and from other officials about why the United States remains the absolute number-one place to invest. And I know you've heard why companies from Latin America, the Asia Pacific, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere have chosen to direct their time, their money, and human resources to our markets. I also know that I'm the last speaker at this summit - which makes me the only thing standing between you and happy hour. (Laughter.) So I will try to respect that.

But let me just spend a few minutes explaining why, as Secretary of State, I believe that the issues that undergird SelectUSA are also central to the effective management of today's very complex, very rapidly moving world that we live in, that is unlike anything that past generations have experienced. The last century was simple compared to some of the choices and conflicts we face today because it was dominated so much by state actors and state ambitions and state-on-state conflict, which cost us two world wars and Korea and Vietnam and so forth. But today, it is principally non-state actors, with a few exceptions, who are challenging the world order.

And despite the violence that we wake up to on any given day in these atrocious confrontations with reasonable commonsense behavior, we see actually less numbers of massive numbers of people being killed so far in this century than in the last century and many, many more people brought into the middle class, hundreds of millions of people in China, in India, in many other countries. Fifteen years ago, Korea was an aid recipient. Today, Korea is an aid donor. That's the transformation that is taking place.

And everybody here hails mostly from different countries, from different languages. We have different fields of expertise, different - we represent different enterprises. You represent different enterprises at these tables and many on vastly different scales. But we are all affected by certain challenges that influence our economies, put our shared security at risk, and endanger our collective future.

From my vantage point as Secretary, having visited now - I don't know how many it is - somewhere upwards of 90 countries and traveled many miles, of all the many and varied problems we face, there are three distinct but interrelated challenges that stand out. These are tests that will define both the legacy of this Administration and this generation as well as the well-being of the next.

The first is violent extremism and the emergence of radical, non-state actors who have no agenda - outside of the frustrations that they exploit, the bigotry that they espouse, and the conflicts that they inflame. And the depth of this challenge is now felt in every single corner of the world, but it was underlined, obviously, nine days ago by the terrorist and homophobic shootings in Orlando, Florida.

Our second challenge is to preserve the health of our planet in the face of climate change and other environmental dangers. Some people still think - some people - that that is remote. Some even question it. But most rational people on the face of this planet understand what is going on.

My voice is a little raspy because I was just in the Arctic a couple of days ago, viewing firsthand what is happening. I flew over and was on a ship near the fjord - the ice fjord from which glacier flow dumps 86 million metric tons of ice a day into the fjord. That is enough water in one day in that frozen ice to deal with the entire needs of New York City for an entire year, and it's happening every day. And you can see on the edges of the mountains the gray where there used to be glacier and now there is none, a transformation of just the last 15 years. That ice sheet itself represents the potential of four to six feet of sea level rise.

But what I learned there was the real story about what is happening in Antarctica and the threat of Antarctica posing potentially 23 feet of sea level rise. So if you run an insurance company or you live by the ocean or you have investments in any place that may be affected, obviously these are things you got to begin to think about, as we see water battles and refugees beginning to move already and major changes in food production and water supply taking place.

The third challenge is absolutely essential to addressing the first two - and that is to improve overall governance so that leaders everywhere fight corruption, earn public confidence, inspire unity. And I will tell you, as Secretary of State, even after 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I've been astounded by some of the levels of corruption in certain places. And I know those of you engaged in international business confront this in various ways and choices you have to make.

Each of these three challenges that I just mentioned is linked to the questions that bring us together for this conference this week: how to deepen our trade and investment ties; how to bind markets together in ways that ensure that all of our communities thrive. How do we deal with 150 million more kids of a certain age in just one part of Africa who need to go to school, not in a week, not in 10 years, now, and who won't? How do we build shared prosperity, which can be - and most often is - the foundation of global security and of peace?

The connections, my friends, are absolutely clear. The better able we are to provide economic opportunity for young people, the less likely it is that they're going to fall into the trap of violent extremism. And consider this: There are some 2 billion kids 15 years and less in the world today. The sooner we fully grasp the urgency of dealing with the other challenges I mentioned - the climate change or corruption - the quicker we're going to seize the great economic openings that are actually staring us in the face by revolutionizing the way that we generate and conserve energy and creating millions of jobs in doing so.

This is the biggest market in the history of human beings, folks. My state of Massachusetts gained enormous wealth in the course of the 1990s. Every single quintile of American income earners saw their income go up in the 1990s. That was a $1 trillion market with about a billion users. The energy market is already a 4 to 5 billion user market, already trillions of dollars - in the multiples - and they say that as much as $20 to $50 trillion is going to be spent over the course of the next 20, 30 years on various types of energy.

So by embarking on all-out campaign to improve governance and root out corruption worldwide, we can smooth the path to sustainable growth, while also reducing the sense of alienation that drives some people to take actions that are destructive both to themselves and to society.

I have to tell you that the connecting of these dots is something that is not done automatically in public life, and it's taken a while for me to really understand this interconnectedness. But it is because of these interconnections that I have said since the first day that I became Secretary of State that foreign policy and economic policy are absolutely two sides of the same coin, that economic policy is foreign policy and foreign policy is economic policy.

And it's only common sense, because when we do business together across borders, when our countries trade with each other and invest in each other's markets and we each have more skin in the game, then our governments have even greater incentives to collaborate on a whole host of crucial issues. What's more, our heightened commercial engagement is a net positive for economic expansion in every one of our communities, because we all do better when we grow together.

And finally, in this day and age, it is an observable fact that a nation's interests and alliances are advanced not only by troops deployed to a distant battlefield or diplomats detailed to posts overseas, but it is today defined by entrepreneurs, executives, business owners like you, by the companies you build, the workers you hire, the students you train, and the people-to-people ties that you forge.

So when Germany's Berghoff Group decides to build a manufacturing plant in Auburn, Alabama, the company isn't just creating a hundred high-skilled, well-paid jobs; it's creating a new link between the United States and one of our strongest and most trusted allies. When China's Envision Energy decides to open an innovation center to develop a wind farm software in Boulder, Colorado, the firm is establishing bonds with a local American community that no two governments could create in the same fashion but that absolutely serve to enhance our bilateral relationship at the same time and open up opportunities.

I just came from two days of Security & Economic Dialogue in China, and I will tell you that the interdependence that comes as a consequence of these relationships inserts itself automatically into the other choices that we begin to face where we may have differences. And it actually helps you think about how to manage those differences differently.

When India's Aurobindo Pharma sets up shop in Durham, North Carolina, its investment taps into the local talent pool, expands employment opportunities, forms a new hub for research and development in the medical sector, all the while opening the door to a deeper strategic partnership between the world's oldest and largest democracies.

At the State Department and throughout the Obama Administration, we understand the vital importance of these investments and many more for our economy, for our diplomacy, for our international leadership. They are all linked together.

And that is why the President created, established SelectUSA in the first place. We recognize that increasing investment in and outside the United States is a win-win proposition for the parties involved, supporting jobs for our workers and in your communities, enhancing development work abroad, and growing the economic pie for everybody.

We also appreciate that deeper trade and investment make for much healthier bilateral relationships. They bind countries together and they encourage everybody to play by the same rules. And they also provide a mechanism for strengthening those rules, which we're now seeking to do through the two landmark trade deals, and you heard from Mike Froman the TPP along the Pacific Rim, and in Europe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

It should be no surprise, given all of these factors, that the State Department has made SelectUSA and FTI promotion a priority. Our Foreign Service officers know that their portfolios include serving as economic ambassadors. And I have made a point to everybody in our embassies that our job is not to just send something to the economic officer and dump it and it's a forgotten place.

But this is the forefront of our efforts in diplomacy today, to help our companies. I have personally picked up the telephone and worked on contracts in Egypt, now in Iran for Boeing, and worked on other efforts in many other parts in the world where you need that lift to get over the line or to help take out a hurdle or to begin to make a difference. And I want to make sure that our ambassadors and our economic folks are among the first faces that the foreign business people see when they begin to explore investments in the United States.

That is precisely why our chiefs of missions have led delegations of companies from their host countries to each SelectUSA summit, including 22 of them this year. And it's why our embassies and our consulates worldwide host commercial officers focused on attracting investment from overseas and act as the critical links between firms abroad and government partners, economic development officials, and communities in the United States.

It's also why our posts provide advice to your companies, answer questions about our markets, offer information about perceived or potential barriers to entry, and connect you to the tools and the services of SelectUSA. And all of this we do because it helps us to help you to make deals that bring a massive infusion of energy and creativity of jobs and economic activity to our shores.

In short, we have made the work of SelectUSA part of the mainstream of our department's daily efforts to deepen diplomatic ties, to advance our interests, and to uphold universal values. And I am absolutely convinced beyond any scintilla of doubt that Americans are better off as a result of this, and so are our partners.

So this basic idea that developing economic and commercial bonds is central to our global leadership has, I think, become a much more prominent feature of our foreign policy in these last years, though it is not a new concept. But one of Penny's predecessors, actually, one of our first secretaries of commerce, a fellow by the name of Oscar Straus, who once defined commercial diplomacy as "based on mutuality, a diplomacy essentially of peace, of equal opportunity, of an open door."

So this has been around for a while, but I don't think it's been practiced with the intensity that you are helping us to practice it today, nor I think has anybody operated in a world as voracious, where the appetite is as significant as it is now.

My friends, it is clear that when you invest in the United States today, you are, I think, for certain investing in a more prosperous world, in a more secure planet, and in a future - we hope you will see the connection - of peace and opportunity, and a future that obviously we seek for all of our families and all of our workers and our nations.

I'd just close by saying to everybody that it's been a privilege to serve as Secretary of State in these turbulent times. We are making progress in Libya and Yemen, and even in Syria and Iraq against ISIL. I am absolutely convinced that we will defeat, destroy ISIL over the course of the next months and into next year. And I am convinced that out of this will come a greater focus with intensity on this challenge that I've described here today, with greater space in which we will be able to tackle it.

So I commend you all for your commitment to be here as part of this initiative. I know sometimes things look tough out there; but when they do, I am always reminded of Nelson Mandela's admonition that it always looks impossible until it is done. And I think we should take a good amount of inspiration from that thought.

Thank you for the privilege of being with you, and thank you for what you all are doing. Thank you. (Applause.)

Source: U.S. State Department