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Last Friday, Ambassador Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, visited Houston to discuss the benefits of trade with local officials and business and civic leaders. The visit came just one day after the U.S.-Korea trade agreement entered into force and opened Korea’s $1 trillion market to U.S. products.
Texas is already one of the main exporters to Korea with an average of over $5 billion a year in recent years. Texas’ top exports to Korea -- including chemicals and machinery -- will see substantial immediate benefits from the agreement. It is estimated that the Korea trade agreement will increase overall U.S. exports to Korea by at least $11 billion.
Ambassador Kirk first stopped at the Port of Houston, where he toured the Ship Channel and Turning Basin. Port officials provided an overview of the Port’s vital role in trade and distributing goods from Texas around the world.
Interim Director of the Port Authority Colonel Leonard Waterworth, Mayor Pro-Tem of the City of Houston Ed Gonzlez, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Commissioner Lanier and Ambassador Ron Kirk
The Ambassador also discussed increased trade opportunities offered by the pending expansion of the Panama Canal. Currently, approximately two-thirds of the Panama Canal’s annual transits are bound to or from U.S. ports. The U.S. Panama trade agreement and the expanded canal represent an important opportunity for the United States – both in terms of volume/transits and the larger ships that will be able to pass through.
Ambassador Kirk delivering the keynote address to the Greater Houston Partnernship (GHP)
Following the Port tour, the Ambassador delivered a keynote address to the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), where he also participated in a question and answer session. In his speech, Ambassador Kirk referenced President Obama’s Blueprint for An America Built to Last, and discussed how trade benefits American companies and American workers. He highlighted efforts to create a level playing field for U.S. exporters through strong trade enforcement actions, including the President’s creation of an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) and last week’s announcement of a new case against China’s export restraints on rare earth minerals.
The Ambassador closed his day by attending a White House Roundtable Discussion co-hosted with the City of Houston and Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez. Attended by other local elected officials, the discussion focused on the job-supporting benefits of trade to grow Houston’s economy.
Ambassador Kirk with Congresswoman Jackson Lee (left) & Commissioner Lanier (center)