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On Tuesday, Ambassador Kirk hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The roundtable focused on the importance of manufacturing and trade, as President Obama laid out in his Blueprint for An America Built to Last. The Ambassador commented on NAM’s recognition of the benefits of trade and how trade contributes to American job creation. The companies that participated in the roundtable covered a wide range of products, from chemicals to rare metals to paper.
Ambassador Kirk discussed USTR’s accomplishments and ongoing initiatives designed to open new markets for manufacturing exports. He noted that the percentage of global manufacturing has not changed in the past 20 years, signifying that U.S. manufacturing presence has not diminished. Ambassador Kirk discussed how 2011 was a historic year for trade, as the United States successfully passed free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. In 2011, 41 percent of U.S. goods exports went to FTA partner countries. Additionally, manufacturing exports to FTA partners increased by almost 17 percent within the last year.
Participants also shared ways that they have been able to utilize the FTAs to boost domestic production and in turn, invest domestically instead of internationally. Ambassador Kirk encouraged companies to “let us help you with the things you can’t do” regarding opening foreign markets to U.S. products and services.
In addition, Ambassador Kirk announced today that the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will take effect on March 15, 2012. Beginning March 15, almost 80 percent of U.S. exports of industrial products to Korea will become duty-free. This trade agreement with Korea opens up an economy of over $1 trillion to American manufacturers, businesses and farmers, and will help create many jobs here at home. This is significant for the manufacturing companies that face disadvantages when offering their products abroad, or have to pay substantial amounts for tariffs and customs when importing intermediary goods. Ambassador Kirk expressed that “we’re trying to strike the right balance” between opening and regulating markets, especially to prevent further disadvantages for American companies.
Another important initiative Ambassador Kirk discussed is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP will help open new markets to American manufacturers and make it easier for them to export their products to every corner of the globe.
The Ambassador reinforced President Obama’s commitment to growing America’s manufacturing industry in an effort to make it the most efficient and the most productive in the world. “There are a lot of things we can do in North America to increase our competitiveness,” part of which is “relying on U.S. ingenuity.”