It was of course still dark as I boarded the plane on the morning of September 13, but those of you who have traveled out of Singapore on an early morning flight know how peaceful this time of day can be. I was treated to the breathtaking sight of a brilliant full moon off the left side of the plane and a crimson sunrise to my right. I traveled to the United States for the "Five-Cities-Five-Days"National Export Initiative (NEI) Outreach tour, during which I visited Lansing, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Louis, Missouri. The U.S. Embassy's Senior Commercial Officer, Patrick Santillo, joined me and also visited Charleston, West Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. We met with U.S. companies in America's heartland to talk about exporting to Singapore and Asia. We shared with them information on Singapore's unique position as the crossroads in the region and encouraged them to come and take a look. I knew they would be interested to hear that Singapore is the tenth largest market for U.S. products and that U.S. exports to Asia now exceed U.S. exports to Europe. I've seen first-hand the dynamic nature of the Singaporean economy, and I was pleased to share my enthusiasm for this important market and region with my fellow Americans.
On September 14, we successfully completed the first stop on the tour in Lansing, Michigan. Lansing is a great college town and the home of Michigan State University. We had an excellent turnout in Lansing, with a terrific mix of business, academia, and government attendees. I believe that the strong partnership that exists in America between business, academia, and government is one of the hallmarks of the U.S. economy. The audience was sophisticated and deeply interested in Singapore and Southeast Asia. After sharing the President's agenda for the NEI in the morning session, I participated in an active breakout session with local college students and academics. At lunch, I discussed President Obama's foreign policy goals in Asia as well as how the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is helping to assist U.S. companies doing business in the region. All in all it was a very good day in a very interesting part of America. I was delighted to end the event by presenting Export Achievement Certificates to three local Michigan firms that have been active in exporting to the region. Based on the vibrant discussions during the entire program, I am confident we'll see a number of the participants in Singapore in the coming months.