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Remarks By Ambassador Ron Kirk At The Consumer Electronics Association

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

April 21, 2010
Consumer Electronics Association
Washington, D.C.

*As Prepared for Delivery*


Washington, D.C. – “Thank you all for having me this evening. I want to particularly thank CEA’s President, Gary Shapiro for hosting. And I want to congratulate Representative Mike Doyle and Representative Fred Upton this evening, along with Vinton Cerf, who has the cool title of Vice President & Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. I always thought Ambassador was pretty good, but that makes my title sound kind of boring!   

“Americans invented the modern refrigerator, the electric doorbell, the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, the radio, and the flashlight – all before 1910. In the last century, the pace of innovation – and consumer demand for new inventions – has only increased.   

“Today, nearly half a million patent applications are submitted every year. In offices and laboratories all across the country businesses like yours are dreaming up new products that will reshape how people work, play, and do business.   

“Your products are a hot commodity among American consumers, but you and I both know that business doesn’t stop at the border.   

“Even as consumer electronics have blossomed into a diverse industry, technological advances in other fields have made it faster and easier for your devices to reach customers all around the world. Global distribution networks have become so efficient that your products can be sold in markets all around the globe.   

“That’s an incredible thing – because the more we make and the more we sell, the more jobs we can create here in America.   

“But while the physical barriers to trade have been all but erased, other barriers remain – things like complicated regulatory regimes, technical barriers, and the threat of piracy and counterfeiting.   

“The Obama Administration is committed to tearing down those barriers and opening up new trade opportunities. Because we know that trade supports more and better jobs – in firms that export as well as among supplier firms – and in these economic times, we can’t afford to leave any jobs on the table.   

“To that end, President Obama has announced an unprecedented whole-of-government approach to trade policy. Many of you may already know something about the National Export Initiative, but this thing is too big not to mention.   

“The National Export Initiative brings together the combined power of the Office of the United States Trade Representative; the Departments of Commerce, State, and Agriculture; the Export-Import Bank; the Small Business Administration; and others with a clear mission: to double American exports in the next five years and support two million new jobs.   

“USTR is moving full speed ahead toward those goals. We are tackling the biggest challenges facing American exporters and seizing the biggest opportunities in the international marketplace. 

Because as the President has said, if America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.   

“So we are moving past the same stale arguments on trade and moving forward to strengthen our current agreements as well as negotiate new partnerships. And that strength comes from tough enforcement.   

“America’s agreements lay out the rules of fair play. The Obama Administration is holding our trading partners to those rules. And when one of our trading partners steps outside the rules, we aren’t afraid to act.   

“In the past year, we’ve used the tools of enforcement to level the playing field for all kinds of American businesses and workers – from lumber producers to tire companies to industrial manufacturers to green energy producers. And in the electronics sector specifically, we have challenged the European Union’s application of new duties on products covered by the WTO Information Technology Agreement.   

“We are working hard to defend Americans’ trading rights – and that includes their intellectual property rights.   

“To that end, USTR is using every available tool to address the challenges of counterfeiting and other forms of intellectual property theft.   

“Our Administration is taking full advantage of well-established domestic tools like the Special 301 review, a process that will culminate in the release of the annual Special 301 report evaluating intellectual property rights protections and enforcement. 

“Some may say that reports like Special 301 are just reports on pieces of paper that don’t make much difference. But many of our trading partners care deeply about their Special 301 status, and USTR has had a good story to tell on this lately. 

“In February we were able to remove Saudi Arabia from the Special 301 watch list, thanks to their willingness to work with us to increase enforcement, to strengthen legal frameworks, and to foster innovation and creativity. That same month, we reached an understanding with Israel to improve IPR protection for pharmaceuticals and make medicines more available to people in that country. 

“It’s terrific when tools like Special 301 and bilateral cooperation get the job done. But we have not hesitated to engage our trading partners with international tools such as dispute settlement. As a result of U.S. action through the WTO, China is finally strengthening its rules on the disposal of seized counterfeit goods and taking other actions which will enable American companies to better compete for Chinese customers.   

“As we move forward on expanding international trade in consumer electronics, we also need to be mindful of concerns that are being raised about international trade in consumer electronic goods for reuse, recycling or disposal.   

“Some of this trade is very beneficial to both the U.S. and to our trading partners. For example, the export of high quality used computers from the U.S. to developing countries provides affordable access to important technology. However, the export of inoperable computers to countries without the capacity to either properly recycle or properly dispose of them poses dangers to health and the environment.   

“The public and the private sector need to collaborate on expanding the beneficial trade while stopping the trade which is harmful, all in a manner that is consistent with our international trade obligations and policy.   

“As USTR works to expand exports around the world, we are always seeking to do so in ways that are more responsible and more responsive to concerns about trade – be they related to the environment or jobs right here at home.   

“This is why the United States remains committed to a Doha Round outcome that provides meaningful new market access, especially in key emerging markets, that supports U.S. exports and well- paying jobs in America.   

“Likewise, USTR is negotiating a new Trans-Pacific Partnership that will expand U.S. opportunities in the Asia-Pacific under a high-standard, 21st century agreement. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we hope to build what will become the largest, most dynamic trade collaboration of our time – a partnership that will enable American businesses and workers to more easily sell their products and services in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.   

“We are also working in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to make it cheaper, easier, and faster to trade in the region – for instance, eliminating obstacles to the flow of goods through supply chains and improving the transparency and accessibility of APEC economies’ customs information and regulations. In 2011, the United States will host APEC, which will give us a unique opportunity to address issues related to U.S. objectives to grow jobs and increase our economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific.   

“We are working to deliver economic and strategic trade benefits and opportunities by addressing outstanding issues on pending Free Trade Agreements in an effort to move those forward at the appropriate time. Because those agreements can create billions of dollars in new market access for American exporters, and new sourcing opportunities for American importers.   

“And we are growing trade opportunities by increasing our cooperation with some of our largest trading partners, like Canada and Mexico.   

“Even as we move forward with those negotiations, we are working hard to help more Americans take advantage of trading opportunities.   

“America’s smallest businesses are some of our most dynamic job creators, but they often face some of the largest hurdles to exporting. As a result, only one in every one hundred small businesses exports – and most of those that do sell only one product in one foreign country. 

USTR is meeting with small businesses all across the country to find out how we can best help them to succeed.   

“Each of these steps will help Americans to seize the power of the international marketplace – and I have full confidence that companies like yours will not hesitate to do so.   

“The world has changed a lot since the invention of the doorbell, but one thing remains the same – American creativity is unparalleled.   

“As the CEA pointed out over President’s Day Weekend, very few Presidents in American history have been inventors – and, I would imagine, even fewer United States Trade Representatives have an invention to their name.   

“We’ll leave the inventing to you. But when you’ve got that invention ready to go – when you’re ready to take it to markets all over the world, we’re here to protect your intellectual property, help you commercialize it, and join you in boosting economic growth and good-paying jobs here at home.   

“The Obama Administration will continue to support businesses and workers in every way possible as you pursue global success. Just tell us what you need.”