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Statement By U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk On Presidential Signature Of Trade Legislation

October 21, 2011

Washington, D.C. – United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk today released a statement following President Barack Obama’s signature into law of legislation implementing the U.S.-Korea, U.S.-Colombia, and U.S.-Panama trade agreements, as well as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reforms, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the Andean Trade Preference Act.

In 2010 and 2011, the Obama Administration successfully worked with Korea, Colombia, and Panama to address outstanding issues related to each of the three agreements. In particular, the Administration secured: greater U.S. access to the Korean auto market; significantly increased labor rights and worker protections in Colombia; and enhanced tax transparency and labor rights in Panama. The Administration has been clear that once approved by Congress, agreements will enter into force only if trading partners are meeting their commitments.

“USTR has already started the work necessary to bring these agreements into force as soon as possible,” said Ambassador Kirk. “We’re eager for American businesses and workers to begin reaping the benefits of these hard-won agreements. We know that more exports of Made-in-America goods and services flowing to consumers in Korea, Colombia, and Panama can support tens of thousands more jobs here at home. Supporting more American jobs with responsible trade policy has always been our goal.”

TAA provides training and support for American workers who are negatively affected by trade and is traditionally in place as trade agreements pass. It is designed to help workers, firms, farmers and fishermen transition to alternative employment. The legislation approved today is consistent with the goals of the 2009 law that improved the scope and effectiveness of the program – for instance, covering Americans employed in the services sector in addition to U.S. manufacturing workers. TAA is an essential component of President Obama’s balanced trade agenda.

“Typically, TAA recipients are the breadwinners of American families, older, with fewer transferable skills or credentials than other laid-off workers. These TAA reforms make smart investments in American workers negatively affected by trade, including services workers,” said Ambassador Kirk. “The TAA program offers not just benefits to help workers stay afloat financially, but also services to upgrade their skills and help them re-enter the workforce in viable growth industries.”

GSP promotes economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for products from designated beneficiary countries and territories; it also supports American jobs and improves American competitiveness since many American businesses use imports under this program as inputs to manufacture goods in the United States. The Andean Trade Preference Act was enacted in December 1991 to help Andean countries in their fight against drug production and trafficking by expanding their economic alternatives.

“America’s preference programs support both international economic development and U.S. jobs,” said Ambassador Kirk. “For over 35 years, the GSP program has been helping developing countries across the world use trade to grow their economies and alleviate poverty. GSP and ATPA support tens of thousands of American jobs involved in moving goods from the docks to businesses and consumers. Preference programs also improve U.S. competitiveness by reducing costs of inputs for U.S. manufacturers and helps American families on a budget by lowering prices for many consumer goods.”