Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus welcomed the world to Montana today as top-level Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade meetings kicked off in Big Sky, with unprecedented private sector involvement. The APEC Trade Ministers’ and Small and Medium Enterprise meetings Baucus brought to Montana will feature more than 100 Montana companies and hundreds of private businesses from across the country and around the world – a level of private sector involvement never before seen in the traditionally government to government APEC meetings.

“I’m so proud to welcome our APEC trading partners to Montana, because more trade means more jobs,” Baucus said. “Our Montana ranchers, farmers and business owners make the best products, and they also make the best ambassadors to represent all the great things Montana has to offer to the world. At APEC, Montana entrepreneurs will meet with businesses in some of the world’s most important economies. I’m looking forward to watching as partnerships made at APEC turn into additional exports that support more Montana jobs.”

“This year’s APEC meeting will bring together more small- and medium-sized businesses than ever before,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke, who will attend the Big Sky meetings later this month. Only one percent of U.S. companies export and 58 percent of those export to only one country. “Expanding export opportunities for our businesses in the Asia Pacific region will result in continued economic growth and more good paying American jobs while helping us achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports. We are particularly excited to be holding the Small and Medium Enterprise meetings in Montana, which is home to many dynamic American small businesses, and we are grateful to Senator Baucus for helping get Montana businesses involved.”

“The Asia-Pacific region holds terrific opportunities for America’s businesses to sell more Made in the USA products to consumers in 20 countries, supporting well-paying jobs here at home,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who will be leading the meetings of Trade Ministers in Big Sky later this month. “Big Sky will be the backdrop for big steps at this year’s APEC meeting for trade ministers, as the Obama Administration works to break down trade barriers and open pathways for American entrepreneurs to reach the APEC economies.”

“Montana businesses are booming with excitement over the opportunity Senator Baucus delivered by bringing APEC to Montana, and we’re ready to leverage this opportunity to create even more good-paying Montana jobs,” said President of the Montana Chamber of Commerce Webb Brown. “APEC will give Montana businesses even more tools and connections to do what they do best and that’s create good-paying Montana jobs.”

As part of its role in hosting this year’s APEC meetings the United States has placed an extraordinary emphasis on private sector involvement, particularly in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) meetings Baucus brought to Big Sky. The U.S. opened the traditionally government to government SME meetings to all U.S. companies interested in participating and Baucus worked to incorporate more than 100 Montana businesses from across the state. The U.S. is also encouraging every one of the other 20 APEC member economies to bring at least three private-sector businesses with them to Big Sky to network with Montana and American companies.

The Big Sky APEC events kicked off today with meetings of the Mining Task Force, featuring a number of Montana mining companies, and run through May 21. Direct exports of minerals and ore from Montana to APEC economies totaled over $150 million in 2009.

“Montana has had a rich mining history for more than 100 years and the same is true of many of our APEC partners. Over the coming days APEC will provide Montana mining companies with the opportunity to build connections with some of the most important mining economies in the world,” Baucus said.