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Remarks by Ambassador Froman at the U.S. Council for International Business Annual International Leadership Award Dinner

Remarks by Ambassador Froman at the U.S. Council for International Business Annual International Leadership Award Dinner 

Washington, D.C.
November 19, 2014

*As Delivered*

“Well, thank you Terry for that introduction. Terry, as you know is the chairman of everything: the USCIB, ICC, G-20, the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He’s actually my Chairman, my Advisory Committee Chairman, not to mention the small company that bears his name. It is remarkable what he does to keep the global economy moving forward. We’re all mostly grateful, Terry, for you and your leadership across the board.

“You know, it’s been said that one of the best feelings in the world is knowing that both your absence and your presence mean something to someone. And Roberto’s absence here and presence in Geneva means a lot to a lot of people. The bilateral breakthrough we had with India last week created real momentum for putting trade facilitation and multilateral trade negotiations back on track, and Roberto will be critical to broader efforts to find fully multilateral consensus in Geneva. It’s a role that he’s played with great skill before and we are sure that he is going to reprise it in the weeks ahead.

“The stakes are huge for the Bali Package, for the post-Bali work plan, for the WTO as an institution, and above all, for the billions of people around the world that stand to benefit from expanding trade-- something I know that is near and dear to the heart of this organization.

“But since we’re among friends, and since Roberto isn’t here, let me also make clear that Roberto’s presence has meant different things to different people. Globally, Roberto is known as an effective statesman, a leading thinker. But let’s remember how Roberto got his start: by suing my country. Roberto was the lead litigator in the cotton case. And after Brazil won a preliminary ruling in that case in 2004, Roberto remarked: ‘This is a precedent; this is a war that must continue.’ So, he’s been a worthy adversary and now he’s a valued partner. And that’s a tough transition to pull off. We don’t always agree, and in fact, we’ve had some pretty tough moments, but I believe he’s the right man for the right job, the job at hand and we’re all incredibly fortunate to have him there.

“Now, as you might imagine, being the WTO Director-General has never been an easy job. One Director-General referred to the WTO as ‘a car with one accelerator and more than 140 hand brakes.’ And today, the number of those hand brakes has risen to 160 and we keep on building from there. Other observers have pointed out that building consensus among so many countries is like herding animals: cats, frogs or venomous snakes, depending on the day.

“And almost immediately upon taking up his post, Roberto was plunged into an incredibly complex and contentious effort to secure a meaningful outcome at the Ministerial last year in Bali. Roberto’s perseverance in the days before Bali and at Bali--and I can say, he and I and a few other spent several nights up in a row in Bali, 24 hours a day trying to reach that agreement -- was absolutely essential for a successful outcome there.

“Like any great leader with vision, Roberto didn’t inflate that success by treating a waypoint as a destination. He looked forward and called for creativity and he said he was ready and willing to take on new challenges. And new challenges were ahead. With the July breakdown of the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, we had the beginning of a new crisis for the WTO. And today we find ourselves on a more hopeful path, and that hope stems from last week’s accomplishments bilaterally, plurilaterally, and multilaterally.

“Last Monday, President Obama convened an extremely productive meeting of all the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders, and it allowed all the Leaders to take stock of where we are in the negotiations and give political impetus for resolving the remaining issues. The end of these landmark negotiations are clearly coming into focus.

“A day later, last Tuesday, President Obama announced that we achieved a major breakthrough with China to help pave the way for expanding the Information Technology Agreement, as Terry and Roberto mentioned. This is the first major tariff elimination agreement, potentially, in the WTO’s 17 years. And it’s encouraging news for the U.S.-China relationship, as well. It shows that the U.S. and China can work together to advance our bilateral economic agenda while supporting the multilateral trading system, as well. It also underscores the importance of the work of regional fora, like APEC, which actually gave birth to the ITA back in 1996. 

“That agreement, as Roberto noted, is expected to eliminate tariffs on more than $1 trillion of trade, and according to some estimates, add $190 billion to the global GDP and support 60,000 additional jobs in the United States.

“The next day, last Wednesday, the U.S. and India reached another breakthrough that will enable the WTO to move forward with the Trade Facilitation Agreement. As Roberto said, the first fully multilateral trade agreement in the WTO’s history. And one that has the potential to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to the global economy.

“Over the weekend, President Obama was in Brisbane, with the other G-20 Leaders, where they set, as Terry said, an ambitious goal of lifting global GDP by two percent, and cited trade as one of the main drivers of that increased growth.

“And, very importantly, on Sunday, President Obama, President Juncker, Van Rompuy, and the Leaders of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain gathered and publicly reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward with a high-standard T-TIP as soon as possible.

“It was a good week for trade. I wish we could do that every week, but we’ll try and keep the momentum going.

“As the President noted during his trip to Asia, these bilateral breakthroughs on ITA and TFA now need to be transformed into plurilateral and multilateral agreements, and that’s precisely what Roberto is doing tonight.

“Building on these agreements, we need to translate this new momentum into a more effective WTO. This will require vision and leadership. It will require new, creative thinking. We must learn from, and not repeat the mistakes of the past. We must avoid the predictable and familiar outcome of deadlock and drift. 

“The U.S. looks forward to working with all our WTO partners in making this conversation constructive and successful, as we consider the path forward. And as we get to that path forward, we’re finding that regional, bilateral, and plurilateral negotiations provide great opportunities for creative and innovating thinking. 

“In TPP, for example, we’re negotiating the highest labor and environmental standards of any trade agreement, and they will be fully enforceable. We’re breaking new ground on issues like state-owned enterprises and freedom of the Internet. We’re doing so as one of the dozen economies, representing a wide range of stages of development, but everybody is united in their belief in open markets, in leveling the playing field and in strengthening the rules-based trading system. And by making TPP an open platform, we’re incentivizing others to meet our high standards as well.

“In T-TIP, we’re working to deepen what is already the world’s largest economic partnership – that between the U.S. and the European Union. Annually, we have $1 trillion in trade, we have a $4 trillion investment relationship, 13 million workers on both sides of the Atlantic owe their jobs to the trans-Atlantic relationship. By knocking down barriers to trade, we’re going to enable more small businesses to increase their exports, we’re going to help regulators better use their resources, and we’re going to expand consumer choice – all while maintaining the high levels of health, safety, and environmental protections our people have come to expect.

“When we finish these two agreements, the United States will enjoy unfettered access to two-thirds of the global economy. With all of our other strengths- the size of our market, our entrepreneurial spirit, our skilled workforce, our rule of law, now we have abundant sources of affordable energy- these trade agreements, on top of all those benefits make the United States the production platform of choice, the place where businesses want to locate, to make things to serve this market, but also to export all over the world.

“Alongside our efforts at the WTO, these agreements would give the United States a central role in updating the 21st century global trading system. By leading on trade, we can ensure that the rules of that system reflect both our interests and our values. We can launch a race to the top, and not be subject to a race to the bottom that we cannot win and should not run.

“As we complete work on these two high-standard agreements representing two-thirds of the global economy, it makes it easier to import those standards into the multilateral system, and create multilateral momentum as well. As we move forward with this agenda, we’ll work closely with Congress – Democrats and Republicans, in the House and in the Senate – to build bipartisan support for these agreements and for the authority to facilitate these agreements approval by Congress. And as we do, it will be incumbent on all of us who understand the benefits of trade – economically and strategically – to make that clear to the American public.

“And in that regard, I just want to commend the work of the USCIB, which has been at the forefront of pushing trade facilitation and several other international initiatives. And I want to underscore my commitment to working with all of you to accomplish these important objectives. Thanks very much.”