U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum

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For Immediate Release

Monday, July 30, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
July 30, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you, and good morning. Thank you for the kind introduction, Selina. Good morning, everyone. So as Selina's kind words suggest, I've had a varied career, covering many sectors and many shores. What hasn't changed along the way is my admiration for our Chamber and the irreplaceable role it plays as the voice of American business. And so, it's an honor to be with you and to share some thoughts on USAID's mission in the Indo-Pacific.

This morning, I'm going to ask all of you to set aside what you know about USAID, or at least what you believe you know about USAID. In its place, I'm going to share with you how we are reshaping the agency and its role in advancing American leadership. More than anything else, I'm going to ask all of you to open your minds to the partnership possibilities in the region, because they are literally unlimited.

Now, ever since I joined USAID, we've tried to reorient our development work around two very simple principles. First, the purpose of our foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist, not because America wants to withdraw from the world, and certainly not because we wish to help -- we don't wish to help our friends. Instead, we say this because we believe in our friends. We believe in the inherent desire of every individual, every community, and every country to lead their own bright future.

And because this sense of self-reliance and independence is cooked into our own national DNA, we also believe that when our friends are willing to embark on what we call the "journey to self-reliance," well, then, we should walk with them along the way. Our second organizing principle of development is our belief, quite simply, that private enterprise is the single most powerful force for lifting lives, strengthening communities, and accelerating that self-reliance.

The combination of these two principles is reshaping every aspect of our work, especially in the Indo-Pacific. You can see it in how we engage with our partner governments. In order to accelerate their progress towards self-reliance, we're prioritizing programs that incentivize reforms, strengthen in-country capacity, remove barriers to private investment, and help those countries mobilize their own domestic resources.

You can see it in our embrace of innovative financing tools that catalyze enterprise-driven solutions to development challenges. Here's just one example. Several months back at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, USAID launched a new Development Impact Bond for health, the world's first impact bond targeting maternal and newborn health, and a great way of harnessing private enterprise for development outcomes.

This DIB, as it's called, is specifically designed to reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths in India's Rajasthan State. It works like this: the UBS Optimus Foundation will raise capital from private investors and front the money needed to ensure that 400 private health facilities in Rajasthan can meet quality healthcare standards. Teams then work with each of these 400 facilities to help appropriately train staff and make lifesaving equipment and medicines available.

Each facility will undergo a rigorous review process to ensure that they've met top accreditation standards. If and when they do, USAID will make payments back to UBS Optimus. So, American taxpayers receive the accountability they deserve, because we only pay if the targets are met. The citizens of Rajasthan will receive the care and the enhanced services they deserve and need. And since USAID isn't micromanaging implementation, only incentivizing outcomes, private-sector healthcare partners will receive the freedom to innovate that they long for.

You can also see it in the application of our organizing principles through our approach to procurement and enterprise partnerships. Now, anyone who knows me well can attest that one of my least favorite terms in development is "public-private partnerships," and that's because, for years, there's no partnership involved. USAID and other donors acted as though government donors were the only drivers of progress.

Private enterprise was something to keep at a distance, or if we could, bend to our will. Now, don't get me wrong. We welcomed donations from private enterprise. We loved to have business co-host our conferences and events. We were even willing to contract with private businesses to obtain goods or provide certain services. But that was it. I promise you, that's changing, and nowhere is that more true than in the Indo-Pacific region.

Today, we're moving beyond mere contracting and embracing collaborating. Today, we're recognizing that agencies like USAID don't need to be the sole actors in the development space. Instead, we can be catalytic actors that incentivize and channel private investments. We're rethinking how international development initiatives are designed, tested, and rolled out, and we're embracing the creativity and the entrepreneurship that the private sector brings to the table.

No, really. That's exactly what we're aiming to do. Our traditional approach as a government agency was to identify a development need or opportunity, claim that we were the only ones who knew the solution, and then seek one or two of you out to see if you will perform the work, of course, exactly as we want you to do it, with all the rules and the regulations and the paperwork that goes with it. And then we'd express shock when many of you were hesitant to join in.

Those days are over, or at least they're ending. We want you to join us in tackling development challenges because we believe it can serve your interests and our interests. We want to offer you opportunities for co-designing programs and initiatives, co-creating approaches, and co-financing implementation and delivery. In other words, we're up for true, collaborative partnerships in which both sides gain, partner countries accelerate their progress on their journey to self-reliance, and American businesses can grow their markets and even make a buck or two along the way.

Finally, you'll see our organizing principles at work in how we measure and prioritize our investments. As part of our newly sharpened focus on building self-reliance, we're pulling together the metrics and the data that will help us measure each country's capacities in each key sector of our work. We're also increasing the use of independent constraints to growth analyses that will identify the laws and policies that hinder enterprise growth investments, and in many parts of the Indo-Pacific region we're doing this with and through American chambers of commerce.

All of this is with an eye towards designing tools and initiatives that will lower those barriers, strengthen the competitive environment. Our new metrics and our collaboration with the business community will make sure that we're targeting reforms to where they'll make the greatest difference. Now, I'm quite sure that many of you here today are skeptical; you have heard promises of change before.

After all, as President Reagan used to say, the 10 most terrifying words in the English language are, "Hello, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Humorist Will Rogers used to claim that he didn't make jokes; he simply watched the government and reported the facts. As a pro-growth conservative myself, I believe such skepticism is healthy. It's also why we are determined to get this right.

To show you the Trump Administration is serious about this new approach, let me offer a few details on two of the initiatives that Secretary Pompeo announced this morning and which USAID helped construct our approaches: ASIA Edge and ITAN. First, ASIA Edge, Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy. As you well know, Asia's energy market growth represents some of the world's greatest opportunities for U.S. energy and energy-related exports, especially advanced energy technologies and liquefied natural gas.

India, which is on its way to being the world's most populous country, will see its energy needs grow by over 250 percent by 2050. Representing almost $3 trillion in market opportunities, Vietnam's electricity demand is already increasing nearly 9 percent annually each year. Those of you already working in Asia know that meeting that kind of demand will require all of us to tackle some serious challenges. Logistics are just beginning in Asia. The energy infrastructure is antiquated at best and the terrain presents numerous challenges. And while the list goes on and on, USAID can't and shouldn't try to address all of those problems. But what we can do is help to combat corruption and unfair market practices so you get a fairer shake when you put in a bid and greater peace of mind when you sign a deal. We can help build host country capacity for sophisticated transactions. We can help them develop the kind of legal and regulatory frameworks that will allow all of you to invest with confidence.

Through ASIA Edge, we are doing our part to make sure that Asia is free, fair, and open to American business. Well, let me tell you how. We're working to integrate regional markets in Asia. Besides creating huge opportunities, as countries start to build the infrastructure needed for trans-border transmission lines and connections, we know from our experience that fostering cooperation and integration in one sector is a multiplier for cooperation and integration in others. Under the Central Asia-South Asia project, for example, USAID is supporting a $1.2 billion project to link the systems of four contiguous countries: the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Because of our direct support to facilitate a streamlined and fair procurement process, American companies like General Electric were confident enough to place bids.

Second, we're helping Asian partner countries leapfrog over decades-old infrastructure and modernize their energy sectors by investing in smart grids, efficient technologies, and mobile apps for electricity payments. These projects will require high-tech solutions, the kind that U.S. companies are uniquely placed to provide.

Third, USAID will redouble our efforts to promote American exports by working with countries to establish open, transparent, and best-value procurement processes that create a level playing field for American companies. Through targeted matchmaking of companies and governments, we showcase cutting-edge technologies of America. We also bring in American experts to help governments map their energy needs and help finance their future. We conduct study tours to the U.S. where Asian leaders get to visit and learn from all of you. We will forge those personal connections and (inaudible) our long-term business relationships.

Finally, we've been working hard to place energy experts at our Missions throughout the region. They know their beats. They've also had the benefit of learning from USAID's experience leading Power Africa, which many of you know well. Power Africa has taught us how to identify deals, foster deals, and close deals. We recently launched Power Africa 2.0 to put all those lessons to work.

But energy isn't the only sector that's ripe for U.S. businesses in Asia. As the fastest-growing region in the world, Asia represents a seemingly insatiable demand for infrastructure investment. By Asian Development Bank experts -- estimates, they need $1.7 trillion in investment each year for the next dozen years to maintain growth and eradicate poverty.

Today, Asia invests $881 billion -- barely half of what's needed. In my line of work, we know all too well that adequate infrastructure is not only essential for accelerating economic growth, but it's also a prerequisite to achieving better health, education, and other development outcomes. And that's why we're excited to be a part of the Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network, which Secretary Pompeo announced this morning. Our role is -- very simply put -- to make it easier for you to do infrastructure business in Asia. Under ITAN, we will be hard at work leveling the playing field for you and companies like yours. We'll work with partner governments to promote a rules-based and transparent environment for negotiating infrastructure financing. And we'll do that by strengthening legal, regulatory, and procurement capabilities.

We'll also continue to invest in identifying and addressing constraints on investment like corruption. For example, in Indonesia we partnered with reformers in the government and civil society to rebuild, launch, and expand a national system for public services complaints -- including those about corruption. The system now processes more than 20,000 citizen complaints per month -- a tenfold increase from before USAID began providing assistance. Simply put, our work is to make your work easier and to make it more transparent in terms of (inaudible) and offerings.

One final thought this morning -- it is impossible to talk about the future of the Indo-Pacific region, and America's role there, without acknowledging the proverbial elephant in the room. Other powers -- and other interests -- are reaching out as well, and not just China and not just in Asia. While we strive to promote independence and self-reliance, they offer a very different bargain. One that is very often more enticing in the short-term, but one that we both know will exact a heavy price in the years ahead. Let's be clear: non-capitalist powers are looking to buy influence and lock up access to strategic resources. They offer easy money to countries, cash up front, but these funds come often with disturbing strings attached: unsustainable debt, decreased transparency, restrictions on market economics, and the loss of control of the natural resources. In essence, they offer a mortgaged future. America's Indo-Pacific strategy offers our partners an enterprise-driven future -- and private enterprise is after all the greatest known to man for lifting lives and building communities.

Our approach is to build around principles that sound a lot like the classic definition of the American Dream. It turns out it's not just the American Dream. It is the dream of so many other countries and so many other peoples. And when they achieve it, they not only help their own people rise, but they create stronger strategic partners and allies for American foreign policy and, yes, stronger economic partners and customers for American companies.

Thank you, all of you, for what you have done to bring us to this day. More importantly, thank you to all of you for what you are going to do beyond today to make this vision a reality. Thank you.

Last updated: September 10, 2021

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