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10:12 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. Sit. (Laughter.)
My top priority as President is to grow the economy, create good middle-class jobs, make sure that the next generation prospers. And in a few minutes, I’ll be departing the White House for a trip that will promote that priority.
First, I'm going to visit Mexico, one of our largest economic partners. Then I'll be visiting Costa Rica, where I’ll attend a summit with Central American leaders. And in both instances, I'm going to be working to deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America –- relationships that create jobs and growth here at home, and offer our businesses growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad.
But before I go, I had some business to do. I am proud to announce that I’ll be nominating two outstanding individuals to my Cabinet who will focus on precisely these issues.
Over the past four years, I’ve tasked the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative with opening new markets for American goods and services, doubling our exports for those goods and services all in support of millions of American jobs. And over those four years, Ron Kirk, along with his outstanding team at USTR, has stood up for free trade and for American workers and businesses around the world. So he’s finalized trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, Panama. He’s cracked down on unfair trading practices to give American workers a fair shot in the global economy. And I could not be prouder of the work that he has done.
Meanwhile, at the Department of Commerce, Becky Blank has led our efforts to help promote high-tech manufacturing and travel and tourism -- it is a big portfolio -- and she has worked closely with the private sector to make sure that America remains the best place in the world to do business.
So I could not be more thankful to Ron and to Becky for their outstanding service. (Applause.) Ron couldn’t be here today, but many members of his team are here, and we are so thankful to them. Becky, thank you. Becky is going to be taking on a pretty big job -- making sure those badgers behave up in Wisconsin. (Laughter.) And we know she's going to be extraordinary leading that institution.
But today, I’m in a position to nominate two extraordinary individuals to continue the work of Ron and Becky as key members of my economic team.
As I said in my State of the Union Address, when it comes to growing our economy and our middle class, we should focus on three things. Number one, making sure America is a magnet for good jobs. Number two, helping workers earn the skills they need to get those jobs. And number three, making sure their hard work actually leads to a decent living. Both these individuals share that focus.
First, I’m nominating Penny Pritzker to serve as my Secretary of Commerce. Penny is one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders. She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She’s built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur. She knows that what we can do is to give every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs.
And Penny understands that just as great companies strengthen the community around them, strong communities and skilled workers also help companies thrive. So she’s been an extraordinary civic leader in our shared hometown of Chicago. She served as a member of my Jobs Council. She was the driving force behind Skills for America’s Future, which is a program that brings together companies and community colleges to shape and prepare skills-based training programs for workers that are tied into the businesses that potentially will hire them.
So she's got extraordinary experience. And in case I haven’t embarrassed her enough -- she's got a wonderful family; I watched her kids grow up -- and today is her birthday. So Happy Birthday, Penny. (Applause.) For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation. (Laughter.) It's going to be great. (Laughter.)
Meanwhile, over two decades in both the public and private sectors, Mike Froman, who I’m nominating to serve as my U.S. Trade Representative, has established himself as one of the world’s foremost experts on our global economy. And I'm not surprised, by the way, because we went to law school together -- he was much smarter than me then, he continues to be smarter than me now.
And over the past four years, he’s been my point person at global forums like the G8 and the G20 -- and, by the way, when I say point person, he's really been the driving force, oftentimes, in organizing these incredible international summits in which huge amounts of business gets done. He's been a key negotiator alongside Ron Kirk on those trade agreements for South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, which support tens of thousands of American jobs.
He has won the respect of our trading partners around the world. He has also won a reputation as being an extraordinarily tough negotiator while doing it. He does not rest until he’s delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers. He’s fought to make sure that countries that break the rules are held accountable.
And Mike believes, just as I believe and just as Penny believes, that our workers are the most competitive in the world, so they deserve a level playing field. And Mike's going to continue to fight for that level playing field in his new role, as he helps to move forward trade negotiations with both the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, and will also continue to advise me on a broad range of economic issues.
And as I think some of you have gathered, I've had a chance to get to know Penny and Mike not just as leaders and professionals, but also as friends. And one of the reasons I’m proud to nominate them is they don't forget what matters. They know this is not about just growing balance sheets. It’s about growing opportunity for people. It’s about growing a sense of security for the middle class. And, most of all, they operate with integrity and they understand that public service is a privilege, and you've got to do it right when you get involved on behalf of the American people.
So I just want to thank Penny and Mike and their extraordinary families for agreeing to serve in these roles. I urge the Senate to confirm Penny and Mike without delay, because they've got a lot of work to do. And I intend to work them to the bone as soon as they're official. (Laughter.) So thank you very much, everybody. And thanks to their families for putting up with what I know will be challenging, but ultimately the extraordinary award of working on behalf of the American people.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
10:20 A.M. EDT