Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk
February 19, 2010
Detroit Economic Club
*As Prepared for Delivery*
"Thank you all for having me. In particular, thank you to Detroit Economic Club President Beth Chappell, to the Club's Chief Operating Officer Steve Grigorian for hosting us all, and to today's presiding officer, Dr. Lewis Walker. It's a pleasure to be here today.
"Some people might say that coming to Michigan to tout the benefits of trade is like trying to sell broccoli out of an ice cream truck. But the truth is, you don't have to look far in this state to find someone who is paying their bills or building their dreams with a paycheck from an export-related or -supported business.
"According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than half a million Michigan workers owe their livelihoods to trade. They are building machinery. They are manufacturing transportation equipment. They are growing soy beans and feed grains. And they are selling those products to customers all around the world.
"Nearly one-quarter of all Michigan manufacturing workers depend on exports for their jobs. And new, innovative export businesses - from green companies to service providers - are employing more workers of more kinds all across the state.
"These are the companies that know business as usual just won't cut it, and so they are trying out new ideas and new business models. I'm talking about companies like VisionIT, a company right here in Detroit that has become one of the largest diversity-owned information technology services firms in the country
"I met VisionIT's founder and CEO, David Segura, when he came to Washington, DC, in January to participate in a White House forum with American business leaders. He is here today. And he is one of the business leaders I'll be meeting with during my time here in Detroit. Because businesses like his are creating new 21st century jobs for American workers, and at USTR we want to support those jobs in any way possible.
"Those jobs may be at the start of the supply chain or at the very end. The men and women who hold them may provide the raw materials for American exports, or they may put the finishing touches on products bound for markets around the world, but they are all part of the global trade network.
"And those men and women are more than just employment statistics. They are supporting their families through the sweat of their labor. That's noble work. And with smart, forward-looking trade policies, we can create more of it.
"By opening global markets, enforcing our trade agreement rights, and ensuring fair trade and a level playing field here in the U.S. market, we can help more Michigan mothers and fathers to come home to their families and deliver a piece of good news that has frankly been too rare for many Americans: "They were hiring. And I got a job."
"The President has said time and again, economic recovery cannot be driven simply by American consumption. America needs a new growth model going forward, one based more on exports and investment than just consumption. Export-driven growth can be a platform for economic recovery in the short-term and economic prosperity in the longer-term. And as the United States Trade Representative, I am convinced that an approach to trade policy that is appropriately jobs-focused and export-oriented will earn support for a robust and broad trade agenda for the United States.
"America can jump-start hiring with trade policies that make it easier for people in this state to sell Michigan car parts and transportation equipment to Europe and Asia; that lets Texans from my home state sell computers and machinery to Mexico, Canada, and China; and that allows Americans anywhere in the country to sell what they make to consumers all over the globe.
"The Office of the United States Trade Representative is working to generate job-creating trade opportunities by shaping those policies - both individually and in partnership with agencies across the federal government.
"I want to emphasize that partnership, because this Administration is doing something unprecedented - for the first time the United States has a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the President and his Cabinet. Because this country can't afford to leave any jobs on the table.
"Several months ago, the President asked key Cabinet agencies - including USTR - to join the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the National Economic Council, and the National Security Council to look for new ways to help American exporters succeed. Because although export decisions are made by private businesses, the government can do a great deal to help set the conditions to allow exports to rise quickly. And this Administration is choosing to do so, by working to remove to barriers abroad, by helping firms - especially small businesses - overcome the hurdles of entering new export markets, by assisting with financing, and in general by pursuing a whole-of-government approach to export advocacy abroad.
"In his State of the Union Address, President Obama gave a full-throated endorsement of an aggressive, government-wide approach to trade. He set a goal to double American exports in five years. And he called for the creation of a National Export Initiative to support that goal.
"The Initiative brings together the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, and other federal agencies with one single objective: to deliver the benefits of trade to more American farmers, ranchers, businessmen, and workers.
"Our agencies have a goal, we are developing our plans, and we have reason to believe that America can succeed.
"History tells us that exports tend to rise quickly after a recession. And there is every reason to suspect that will be true after the current recession as well. During the global downturn, exports of all kinds have fallen sharply. But already, U.S. exports of goods and services are growing again. And as the global economy recovers, there is ample room for American exporters to take up the slack. Strong global growth from the emerging world - as well as continued demand from long-time global customers - will give American businesses the opportunities they need to boost and, as the President has said, double American exports.
"If this administration's efforts are successful - if in 2015 America can export twice as much as it does today - those additional exports can support 2 million new jobs. And not just any jobs - high-quality, high-paying jobs.
"Exporting businesses grow faster, add jobs faster, and pay higher wages - 17 percent higher, on average, in the manufacturing sector - than other companies.
"And the opportunities for exporting businesses and workers are enormous. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States. Many of them recognize and want the "Made in America" brand. And selling our goods and services to those global customers can create jobs for Americans here at home.
"So for the Americans who shouldn't have to wait any longer, who want and need a job today, exports are one major place we need to focus. Because as the President has said - if America doesn't take advantage of global opportunities, other countries will. And that will happen to the disadvantage of American businesses and workers who deserve the chance to be out there competing for global business and winning.
"That's why USTR is redoubling our efforts. Our role in the National Export Initiative is reflective of our role as an agency - to tear down barriers to trade and open up new opportunities for American businesses to grow and create jobs through exports. That's what we do best. And this year, we are going to do more of it.
"In just two weeks, we'll be releasing the President's 2010 Trade Agenda, which will explain in-depth exactly what we hope to accomplish this year. But we have already begun to work towards many of our 2010 goals, and that work speaks for itself.
"We are seizing every opportunity to help American businesses and workers access the fastest growing 21st century markets - with single trade partners in bilateral agreements, with economically significant regions.
"And we remain committed to a Doha Round outcome that provides meaningful a market access package that lifts the economic prospects of poorer countries even as it supports U.S. exports and well- paying jobs here at home.
"Right now, we are taking the first steps toward a new Trans-Pacific Partnership that will expand U.S. trade in the Pacific under a high-standard, 21st century trade agreement that will ensure access to the burgeoning markets of the Asia Pacific for decades to come.
"We are working at the President's direction to strengthen relationships with key partners.
"We are seeking to resolve outstanding issues on the Colombian, Korean, and Panamanian Free Trade Agreements in an effort to move those forward at the appropriate time.
"I know there is concern -- especially in this part of the country -- about the U.S.-Korea FTA. Given the history of Korean protectionism in the auto sector, there are questions about whether the FTA will establish a level playing field for U.S. automakers and automotive workers trying to sell their products in Korea. The Administration would like to get the U.S.-Korea FTA into a place where it can be passed by Congress, because we see the significant economic and strategic benefits it could bring us. But to get to that place we need to address the concerns about fair trade in autos. We have let Korea know that we will have to work together so we can show the American people that U.S. cars will be able to compete on a level playing field in Korea. We at USTR are hard at work to develop ideas for addressing these concerns, and we will be consulting closely with Members of Congress and other American stakeholders as we move down this path.
"Of course, Korea is not the only country that has unfairly shut out U.S. automotive exports. Japan has a long history of treating our exports unfairly, and in the autos sector in particular, our companies have too often been denied access. Just recently we successfully pushed for changes to Japan's "cash-for-clunkers" program that are now giving U.S. autos greater opportunities to qualify. We welcome this change, but believe more can and should be done by Japan to make its program even more inclusive. Particularly given how open the U.S. program was to Japanese autos, this remains a fundamental issue of fairness that reminds us all of the past barriers that U.S. companies have faced, and of the barriers that remain. In both Japan and Korea, I assure you we are paying close attention to these barriers and will continue to work to address them.
"And at USTR, I'm proud to say that we have been a leader in reaching out to small- and medium-sized businesses to shape trade policy that works better for them. This year alone we have received the first of three reports commissioned on that topic, held a major conference on small- and medium-sized business issues, and designated a new Assistant United States Trade Representative for Small Business to ensure that our trade agreements make it possible for businesses of all sizes - and their workers - to succeed in markets around the world.
"Because when more Americans can do more business in more places, it creates more jobs in American cities like Detroit - and Lansing, and Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor.
"But it is not enough to just open new markets. USTR is also charged with keeping markets open - making sure that the level playing fields and the rights we've negotiated in our global trade agreements aren't just written on paper, but are real engines of economic growth and job creation at home.
"So we are enforcing the trade rights we've negotiated for American workers. We are challenging unfair practices wherever they exist. We are working hard to keep global trade flowing smoothly despite the economic recession.
"Through ongoing negotiations and World Trade Organization dispute settlement processes we are more than succeeding.
"This year, American farmers and ranchers have new access to markets around the globe, because we were able to negotiate an end to long-standing trade disputes. American artists and copyright holders have greater global opportunities to sell their creative wares. And American manufacturers are competing on a more level playing field - because we stood up for their rights.
"During 2009, we addressed a harmful surge of Chinese tire imports into the United States, challenged unjustified restrictions on U.S. exports of agricultural products in multiple countries, acted to implement a finding that Canada violated the softwood lumber agreement, won direct distribution rights for American content companies in China, achieved Chinese compliance in an auto parts case where the government of China was applying discriminatory taxes to imports in an attempt to influence the location of production and sourcing, and filed suit over Chinese export quotas and duties on raw materials that harmed core U.S. industrial sectors from steel and aluminum to chemicals. In each of these areas and more, the Administration has taken actions under the legal remedies authorized by our trade agreements.
"We are not only responding forcefully when American exporters voice legitimate complaints, we are constantly on the look-out for unfair barriers to barriers to trade.
"For example, this administration is taking a hard look at restrictive or unfair standards for American agricultural and manufacturing exports known as sanitary and phytosanitary barriers and technical barriers to trade. This spring, our office will release a new comprehensive report examining the across the board affect of those barriers. As we move forward, we will leverage the results of that report to better represent American exporters and defend their rights in the international marketplace.
"USTR's efforts to - expand American trade opportunities through new market openings and enforcement of our rights around the world are paying off, not only for American exporters but also for the Americans who are ready and waiting to fill export-sector jobs.
"Beyond anything that this Administration does, those men and women are going to be the real success stories as we all walk out of this recession together. When those fathers and mothers come home to their families and say, "I got a job. They were hiring," we can all breathe a sigh of relief, and celebrate together.
"Trade policies that can bring jobs to American families and economic growth to our country are trade policies we can all support. At USTR, we are working for those kinds of trade policies every day. "