It is a pleasure to be in Puerto Plata and the North Coast, I greatly appreciate the invitation to speak with you today. Many of you know, my husband Bob and I have a long and close history with the Dominican Republic, and even though we have been coming to the DR for close to 15 years we are still delighted that there are always new things to discover about this great and beautiful country.
Today I want to speak about some of the top priorities of the US Embassy. Bob has began the discussion focusing on the priority of equality in the workplace and the private sector Philanthropic philosophies. This is a beginning of our larger focus on Human Rights. In addition I will briefly speak on our priorities of trade, tourism, environment, public/tourism safety, education, corruption and narco trafficking. First though I must say how proud I am of our two countries as we are close to a new Extradition Treaty that has not been updated since 1909. Also, I want everyone to know that we are closely working with the Dominican government on the protocols to prepare any issues that may arise against any Eboli threat.
During my visit to the north coast over the next couple of days, I look forward to viewing Puerto Plata’s many scenic attractions, from the historic center, to the Malecon, Pico Isabel de Torres, and the lovely beaches. I look forward to seeing first-hand how Puerto Plata has earned its nickname, “The Bride of the Atlantic.” I am certain we will find that the true attraction of Puerto Plata lies in its people; an attraction that is characterized by your strong regional identity; your business productivity; and in the way you welcome your many visitors with open arms.
The Embassy values the American Chamber of Commerce as an essential partner in furthering public-private dialogue and raising awareness of the benefits of an open economy. The private sector plays a critical role in strengthening the ties between our two countries, which have grown stronger since the implementation of DR-CAFTA in 2007. DR-CAFTA has created new markets for businesses in our countries and generated new attitudes among countless Dominican business leaders, who recognize that globalization is no longer a matter of choice, it is a reality.
There are still many untapped opportunities. The Dominican Republic has a number of characteristics and competitive advantages that bode well for continued growth: a strategic geographic location, competitive labor, free trade zones, business ties to the U.S., and an affinity for U.S. goods, as well as modern shipping and port infrastructure. Your port in Puerto Plata has a significant impact on the national and provincial economy. As China and other countries’ labor and transportation costs increase and with the Panama Canal expansion, the Dominican Republic along with Puerto Plata are well positioned to capture a greater part of the global market.
To take full advantage of these opportunities and attract additional foreign investment, a favorable investment climate is critical. We are gathered here at Ocean World, which is a clear reminder of what U.S. investment can mean for a region. I will visit another significant new investment on this trip, the new Carnival cruise terminal. When completed, the terminal is expected to create an influx of 250,000 tourists per year, offering significant opportunities for growth. I look forward to being there when that first ship sails in.
However, I cannot reiterate enough that to the key to achieving our mutual trade goals as well as attracting U.S. investment to this region is to ensure that contracts are honored. That foreign investments receive equal treatment, and that the rules of the game are clear and followed by all parties that are involved in the transaction both public and private. It is a priority for the U.S. Embassy that businesses can compete fairly and on a level playing field. Both the private and public sector must hold themselves to the highest standards and require accountability from those that they do business with so expectations are met. The U.S. Embassy is commitment to pushing for standards, regulations and enforcement of laws to protect a level playing field for all businesses representing US investment.
We also recognize that to take advantage of the opportunities DR-CAFTA offers, the private sector and the government must partner to create favorable conditions for Dominican industries to compete internationally. One example of this is the USAID/AMCHAM “Hand in Hand” basic education program, through which the region’s entrepreneurs have invested in quality education in their communities. Education is the best way to reduce vulnerability in communities and increase competitiveness. We must assist in teaching English in the schools so that not only can a company compete on a more global level but US and English speaking countries have a qualified work force to effectively do business here in the DR. We need all companies to assist in this effort by creating programs for your employees and support the schools in your areas of business.
The U.S. Embassy has been a strong partner of the Dominican government in DR-CAFTA. My Embassy team recently participated in a Trade and Customs Facilitation Workshop to emphasize the importance of border efficiency and shared responsibility between the public and private sector in the customs process. The U.S. is currently funding about $5.5 million in programming to fight animal diseases, promote good agricultural practices and enhance food safety in the Dominican Republic. These commitments continue our long term collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We have seen tangible results. For example, select Dominican greenhouse vegetable producers were recently removed from the FDA’s “watch list” requiring 100% inspection of imported vegetables, and as a result these Dominican products now receive expedited access to the U.S. marketplace. Better systems and monitoring programs will continue to promote trade and facilitate the movement of safer products. I also applaud the Ministry of Commerce’s efforts to promote the productivity of the Dominican private sector with their launch of the 2015 DR-CAFTA Strategy.
I mentioned some of the local attractions that make Puerto Plata a prime tourist destination. As one of your main economic drivers, attracting tourists to your beaches, mountains, and city is essential to your regional economic development. You know better than anybody else the work that needs to be done to develop this sector; whether it is expanding and enhancing your infrastructure to make the region more accessible, or implementing projects to restore your Colonial Zone. However, there are two particular topics related to tourism development that I wanted to touch on.
First, safety and security is an important factor, not only for the development of the tourism sector, but also for trade, commerce, and citizen quality of life. The story of one crime victim will reach many people who will take their tourist dollars elsewhere. Which means that a crime against a tourist is a crime against the Dominican economy. It is really good news for everyone that the Government of the Dominican Republic, with the support of the U.S., continues to develop the 911 emergency telephone system and that there are concerted initiatives by the Dominican government to make the Dominican Republic a safer place for investors, tourists, and Dominicans alike. To date, the U.S. government has provided assistance in excess of $7 million dollars to the 911 system, and many millions more in the proposed expansion of the system and other security initiatives throughout the country. We will continue to push for passage of the Police reform law and work with the Medina Administration on safety of tourist and citizens. You can count on our continued support of safety and security in the Dominican Republic.
Second, there is another vitally important area that is less talked about, but nonetheless has the potential of impacting us all more than any other, the environment.
The Dominican Republic is exposed to many natural hazards and it is ranked as one of the ten most vulnerable countries worldwide when it comes to effects of global climate change. Rising sea levels, warmer weather, gradual reduction in water quality and quantity from salinization of aquifers, and more frequent flooding are global climate change symptoms that are already being felt in the DR. Virtually all of the Dominican Republic’s critical marine resources are at risk and more than 50 percent of coral reefs are already dead or dying.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is working with your Government to mitigate the effects of climate change. These include projects to develop new climate change insurance schemes for small farmers, municipal projects to reduce the risk of climate change induced flooding in lower-income neighborhoods, as well as plans to protect private and public investments in key growth sectors, like tourism, to better cope with storm surges, rising sea levels, and beach erosion.
You can also work to diversify the energy sector to reduce the country’s reliance on imported petroleum, a key contributor to global warming. Because of its membership in DR-CAFTA, the Dominican Republic can take advantage of an expedited, less bureaucratic process to import clean U.S. natural gas, unlike most other countries without free trade agreements.
There are attractive options for generating clean energy with wind and solar, and the DR has been a leader in these efforts, by developing large new wind farms near Pedernales. And more can be done to develop renewable energy alternatives.
In the United States we have made important progress as well, since President Obama took office we use more clean energy, meaning renewables and natural gas, and waste less energy, than ever before. Our greenhouse gas emissions have fallen back to the levels of 20 years ago, while our economy is 60 percent larger. In the U.S. we understand that we need to be good neighbors and together have a collective responsibility to care for our shared global environment.
Due to time and the in depth conversations surrounding narco trafficking and corruption I will not go into detail other than saying the United States will continue to put as many resources as we have available to catch and convict anyone creating crimes against US citizens or US companies. We are working closely with the Dominican officials on these areas and our commitment is stronger than ever. We cannot do it alone. We need both the public and private sector to participate and adhere to a zero tolerance policy.
I have no doubt that with your focus on the topics we discussed today and your commitment to doing what is in the best interest of your visitors, the region will continue to increase its competitiveness over other Caribbean destinations for U.S. tourists in addition to maximizing its business potential with the US for increased trade worldwide.
Let me conclude by reiterating our long-standing commitment to our partnership with the Dominican Republic, which has been formed on the basis of mutual respect and shared prosperity. I congratulate both of our countries for the success that has come from our relationship, and I firmly believe that the best is yet to come.
Remarks by Mr. Bob Satawake at AMCHAM Luncheon in Puerto Plata
Good morning, I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the board of directors of AmChamDR and the distinguished guests here today, it is my sincere honor to be here and address this prominent organization. I have had the wonderful opportunity of meeting several leading men and women who operate some of the most successful companies in the world. Ultimately these conversations revolve around best practices and ideology of corporate structure and long-term success. It was amazing to be exposed to many different theories and philosophies involving human resources, capital investment, strategy, public vs. private entities and return on investment. When I am given the chance to explore these topics with such recognized leaders of the world corporate community I always take the opportunity to maneuver the conversation to the topic of corporate humanitarianism or corporate social responsibility. Modern technology continues to mandate the globalization of resources to effectively compete on a world stage. Humanitarian concerns and social responsibility are increasingly becoming factors in the success of business. Once thought to be elements of social society, they are now being incorporated into the core fabric of the corporate mission statement. And as a result of the private sectors shift in social responsibility it is often reflected in the practices of the governments where they choose to do business or in some cases choose not to do business.
In a recent study by The Chronicle, the total philanthropic contributions among the top 106 companies rose by 20.2% in 2012, to $18.6 billion. Pfizer, which gave $3.1 billion in cash and products, held the top spot for a fourth consecutive year. More than 75% of corporate leaders said they expect their philanthropic budgets to be about the same for 2013 and 16% said their companies will give more. In addition, these companies are developing programs that allow and encourage their employees to participate in social responsibility programs through matched giving and or flexible work hours to participate in selected programs that are important to their employees. When businesses demonstrate leadership in these arenas their employees in turn recognize the value and as a result demonstrate a greater commitment to the overall success of the company.
Ultimately some of the most successful companies in the world are entities that have one common element: inclusion! I decided to explore economic marginalization with a few of these executives and the adverse impact this has on business, and not just their business but all business worldwide. The most successful and profitable companies in the world embrace a diverse workforce and have incorporated non-discrimination polices in their human resource manuals. The very idea that a company or a government or any economic based entity in the world of global competition can afford to marginalize or discriminate and remain viable is simply not a reality. Though the human sex ratio is basically even throughout the earths population, an interesting factor exists in the western hemisphere, throughout Europe and most of the modern nations on earth and that is the female population outnumbers the male population. If businesses in these countries discriminated against the female population they would in essence reduce their consumable opportunity significantly. In addition, most governments in these specific parts of the world recognize the equality of women in the workplace, however where they may not have direct laws protecting the female segment of the population the private sector typically takes the lead. The bottom line: marginalization of any sector of the population is bad for business. As an example of the top 20 poorest nations on earth ALL of them either have laws that directly discriminate against certain segments of their populations or lack adequate laws of equal protection. When a worker feels secure and comfortable to be open about who they are as an individual they are far more likely to provide a level of commitment to the workplace through effort and productivity than one who is continuously concerned about discrimination or unequal pay. It is the goal of the United States to provide leadership and resources around the world in these arenas encouraging workplace equality in the public and private sectors. A leading example is the executive order signed by President Obama in July mandating that contractors doing business with the United States government must prohibit employment discrimination in the workplace.
As the leaders of business community of the Dominican Republic I encourage you to be diligent in the growth of your companies and incorporate social responsibility and philanthropic opportunity into your corporate business plan. Your influence in these arenas are good for business and in turn will pave the way for an overall cohesive society and generate a greater freedom to produce increased profitability.