The "American Brand" -- A Symbol of Quality and Innovation

July 30, 2012
Under Secretary Hormats Observes Business Signing in Burma

On the Fourth of July, I wrote an entry celebrating the "American Brand." I feel even more strongly about the importance and value of the "American Brand" after a recent trip to South East Asia and the Middle East.

I traveled throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma with businessmen and women from over 50 of America's best companies seeking opportunities to increase trade and investment in the region. The delegations -- which were organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council -- met with Secretary Clinton and senior foreign business leaders and government officials, including several heads of state.

Our delegations were enthusiastically greeted in every country we visited. Business and government leaders there recognized that American companies have a reputation for bringing something special to the table -- a commitment to provide high-quality, innovative goods and services coupled with strong corporate responsibility and ethical standards. This is the "American Brand" that is so-often associated with our very best companies. "Made in America" and "Made in Partnership with American Companies" mean something exceptional in South East Asia, and across the globe.

I participated in a similar delegation to Tunisia a month ago, arranged by the by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce; the delegation enjoyed an enthusiastic response from governmental and business leaders. The Tunisians -- as they undertake major economic reforms -- want to partner with American companies because of the goods and services they sell, the trade relationships they can forge, and the investment can bring -- as well as the symbol of quality American companies represent.

Looking forward, in August I am traveling to South Africa with Secretary Clinton to participate in our Strategic Dialogue with that government and in a series of discussions with South African and American business leaders. While there, Secretary Clinton will lead and participate in events surrounding a U.S. Chamber of Commerce organized high-level trade mission, to meet with business and government leaders. And, we are planning a similar high-level trade mission to Egypt, in September, organized by the U.S.-Egypt Business Council. I am confident that our delegations will receive warm welcomes and find opportunities for constructive engagement in both countries. During each of these visits, the caliber of the U.S. companies and the fact that they collectively represent the "American Brand" will help strengthen America's economic ties, develop mutually beneficial business partnerships, and add a very constructive dimension to our foreign policy relationship.

The value of the "American Brand" is noteworthy. It features the United States as an incubator of creative goods and services, and of entrepreneurial companies, many of which spread their best practices globally through their products, trade partnerships and investments. American companies are innovative and adapt to change quickly; that's why people in so many countries look to them for state of the art products and services. U.S. businesses thrive on the free flow of ideas and information within our country and internationally, connecting with universities, research institutions and other generators of creative ideas. They engage in constant interaction with customers and suppliers. They are the stewards of a culture of innovation and invention that dates back to Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and extends to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and beyond.

Large numbers of U.S. businesses in this country produce their goods and services with a workforce that is racially, culturally and religiously diversified. So our companies are comfortable working in diverse societies. And as a nation that has benefitted enormously from waves of immigrants, with rich and diverse origins and cultures, our workforce reflects the world in which our companies operate.

Our most dynamic companies place a high value on talent and hard work, looking to all employees to inject creative ideas and new ways of thinking and doing business. Such companies tend to be meritocracies that respect and value their workers as their most valuable assets, providing significant training, career development and opportunities for upward mobility -- in the United States and wherever they operate. This culture of opportunity and fairness is, in part, why men and women from all over the world strive to work for leading American companies. There is, of course, always room for improvement regarding race, gender, and other factors. Nevertheless, diversity and meritocracy have been one of America's greatest strengths for decades, are practiced by large numbers of U.S. companies, and are a powerful engine in America's business model.

Strong business values are also synonymous with the "American Brand." For America's most respected companies, profitability and doing the right thing go hand in hand. This means adhering to the rule of law; operating in an ethical manner; practicing transparency; and, prioritizing accountability to customers, shareholders, and society. It also means high internal standards and compliance with regulatory and safety requirements, so that consumers have confidence in the effectiveness and quality of American goods and services.

For example, America has exceptionally high standards for pharmaceuticals -- the companies who make them and the regulations that apply to them. That's why most Americans -- 88 percent according to a recent poll -- are confident that prescription drugs made in the United States are safe, efficacious, and free from contamination. Foreign businesses that partner with, and buy from, U.S. pharmaceutical companies stand to benefit from this reputation and dedication to quality. Trust is based on a long-standing commitment of successful businesses to doing what's right, not what is expedient, whether at home or abroad. Much the same can be said for American food products, engineering goods and services, advanced technology and capital goods, medical equipment and the output of many other industries.

Similarly, a large and growing number of American companies share strong commitments to sound environmental practices at home and take that commitment abroad in the products they sell and the investments they make. They view these practices as good business, good for their brand and good for the planet.

The "American Brand" prioritizes responsiveness to customers as well as to the broader community. This is true whether companies sell abroad or invest abroad. That's why the United States has led the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index every year since its inception in 2009. This is a survey ranking international perception of 50 nations by polling over 20,000 respondents with respect to exports, governance, culture, people, tourism, immigration and investment. According to the survey, citizens from around the world generally prefer American goods, even, in many cases, over those made within their own borders. This is particularly true when it comes to high-value products, where quality is essential, such as airplanes, pharmaceuticals, energy-efficient appliances, highly-engineered equipment, sophisticated semiconductors, food products, and the like. And, of course, there is enormous enthusiasm overseas about American movies and music.

Individual American companies -- much like the "American Brand" -- are defined not just by their products or services, but also by their values and cultures. Every year, Interbrand, the world's largest brand consultancy, develops a list of "The Top 100 Best Global Brands." These highly innovative businesses respond to the needs of their people, their consumers and the world.

In 2011, all of the top ten brands were American: Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google, GE, McDonald's, Intel, Apple, Disney, and Hewlett-Packard. Whether working at home or abroad, these companies, and many others, demonstrate ideals that are paramount to the success and value of their respective brands -- they engage with local communities and civil society, recognize the importance of broader social and environmental issues, and create economic growth and upward mobility for employees through on-the-job training and ongoing workforce development. The most successful American brands truly do well by doing good.

The Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence -- or ACE Award -- was established in 1999 to recognize the important role U.S. businesses play abroad as good corporate citizens. Awardees highlight America as a positive force in the world through their companies' corporate social responsibility, innovation, exemplary practices and embrace of democratic values.

Secretary Clinton presented the 2011 ACE Award to Sahlman Seafoods and Procter & Gamble. Sahlman Seafoods' investment in Nicaragua goes beyond just its core shrimp processing business. As part of their operations, they have hired large numbers of local women, sponsored a soup kitchen, invested in the health and education of the surrounding community and instituted numerous environmental safeguards for their facility. Similarly, Procter & Gamble, while working in Nigeria, has purified more than 2.5 million liters of water; built mobile health clinics that provide free medical care, baby care tips, and health education to mothers and their children; and worked with schools to create a health program specifically for girls that reaches more than a million students each year.

Last year, the United States exported an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in goods and services -- a strong testimony to the success of American brands and the "American Brand." President Obama's pledge to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 is within reach because so many American companies offer high-quality goods and services and are committed to building shared value -- finding win-win solutions for customers; improving the lives of people around the world; and building dynamic networks of suppliers, buyers and investors. And, that's why American companies are, and will continue to be, valuable international trade and investment partners.



Anthony W.
South Carolina, USA
July 31, 2012

Anthony W. in South Carolina writes:

Great mews and info, but one of my main questions is that I read recently that almost none of our phamaceuticals are made in US. If this is true in any way, then we are making ourselves vulerable and at an unnessasary risk.

United States
August 1, 2012

Godfrey in the U.S.A. writes:

Pity Hormats can not bring those iPhone manufacturing jobs back home to the United States.

Although the author points out that Steve Jobs personifies a culture of innovation, American brands such as Apple are happy to allow the Chinese to make our products -- despite the well-documented cases of human rights abuses in overseas factories. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to suffer and the unemployed rate remains high.


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