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Transcript of Press Conference Call Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman
on Trade Facilitation Agreement and Update on TPP, APEC
November 13, 2014
“Thanks everyone for joining us this morning. This has been a milestone week for the U.S .trade agenda. We made major strides on our bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral efforts to use trade to create new opportunities for American businesses and workers. As you all know, the President is in the midst of a very successful trip to Asia. We were particularly pleased that he was able to announce to other APEC economies a major breakthrough that we reached with China to help pave the way towards completion of the Information Technology Agreement. That agreement would be the first major tariff elimination agreement at the WTO in 17 years and it’s expected to eliminate tariffs on $1 trillion of trade; by industry estimates, add $190 billion to the global economy and support 60,000 additional U.S. jobs. We’ve seen a lot of positive reactions from major employers across the U.S. about how the expanded ITA is going to provide a major economic boost and help support good-paying jobs here in the U.S.
“While in Beijing we also had a very positive and productive TPP leaders meeting that allowed the leaders to review the state of the negotiations, take stock and give political impetus to resolve the remaining issues. All the leaders focused on the economic opportunity the TPP will help create, including the President who said the TPP “means more trade, more good jobs and higher incomes for people” in the United States. The leaders agreed that the end of these landmark negotiations were coming into focus and they agreed to an intensive work program to complete the negotiations as soon as possible.
“Last night we reached an agreement with India which paved the way for the Bali Agreement, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement, to be fully implemented. Let me just say a bit more about that. Over the last several months, the U.S has been working relentlessly to clear a path for the Trade Facilitation Agreement to move ahead at the WTO. As you are all aware, the Trade Facilitation Agreement was agreed to last December as an integral part of the Bali Package, the first multilateral agreement reached in the history of the WTO. It’s a perfect example of how breaking down barriers to trade can create new opportunities for developed and developing countries alike. It’s estimated to reduce the cost of trade by 10% for developed countries and up to 14% for developing countries and some have said that it could add hundreds of billions of dollars, or even a trillion dollars to the global economy.
“In July, efforts to realize the gains of this agreement hit a snag when a small group of countries led by India, took a position that prohibited the Trade Facilitation Agreement from moving forward, along with it, jeopardizing the rest of the Bali Package. But throughout this period, we’ve never lost sight of the opportunity that the Trade Facilitation Agreement presents and the Bali Package as a whole presents, to help spur broad-based, inclusive growth. Which is even more important than ever, in the context of recent forecasts in continuing geo-economic uncertainty. That’s why we remain steadfast in our commitment to try to find a way forward with Trade Facilitation, ensuring trade unlocks an opportunity for all. As a result of that effort, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement with India that will break the logjam and give new life to the multilateral trading system.
“The agreement consists of two basic elements. First is a specific agreement to move forward with the full and immediate implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. And second, there’s an understanding about specific food security programs agreed to in the Bali accord. We eliminated any ambiguity in Bali about the duration of the so-called “Peace Clause”, provided that food stockpiling programs meet the agreed upon conditions in Bali. The United States and India agreed to these two elements, and agreed that these elements should be approved simultaneously in the WTO General Counsel and will be working together with the WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevedo, to move forward with those decisions as soon as possible. We appreciate the constructive engagement from India during the discussions leading to this agreement and we look forward to working with the rest of the WTO Membership to put them in place.
“This breakthrough adds to the list of momentum-building successes this administration has accomplished over the last few days: whether it’s eliminating tariffs on high-tech products, easing the flow of goods and services across borders, or creating a global model for a high-standard trade agreement, the focus of this administration’s efforts continues to be on the benefit trade can provide to individual workers and businesses.
“Now let me just conclude by underscoring the role that President Obama played in all three of these developments. The President’s personal leadership has been critical to progress in all three of these areas. Trade has been a key part of his overall economic agenda, and he’s had a high level of personal engagement, very effectively, with his counterparts to work to resolve outstanding trade issues. Whether it goes back to KORUS, where the President made clear what was going to be necessary to reach an acceptable agreement, it was directly involved in a negotiation with the Korean President, or to these agreements where he’s had direct involvement with the Chinese leadership on ITA, with Prime Minister Modi on trade facilitation, including during the Prime Minister’s visit here to in Washington in September, and of course his leadership of the TPP Leader’s meeting in Beijing, are all clear examples of the President’s personal engagement and leadership on this issue. This has been an area that has traditionally been pursued with bipartisan support and we see this as an area for future progress.”