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Remarks by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the National Press Club

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

March 9, 2010
National Press Club
Washington, D.C.

*As Prepared for Delivery*


"The day President Obama took the oath of office, he called on his Administration to take every action necessary to help Americans meet the challenges of the economic crisis. As this Administration has worked to address those challenges we have sought new ideas and 21st century solutions, but we have also relied on tried and true wisdom.

"In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt told Congress that, "Full and permanent domestic recovery depends in part upon a revived and strengthened international trade." That was true then and it is even truer now.

"In the 75 years since President Roosevelt delivered that message, U.S. exports have increased exponentially.

"Today, exports account for more than one in every 10 dollars of America's income. Exports support millions of jobs across the country. And in the last half of 2009, exports alone accounted for more than half of all U.S. economic growth.

"In 2010, as the world economy recovers, export-driven growth opportunities will continue to multiply. And this Administration has laid out an aggressive Agenda to seize the full measure of those opportunities - one that supports the creation of more and better jobs and leads to fair prices and more choices for consumers.

"The President has set a goal to double American exports in the next five years, an accomplishment which would support two million additional jobs. And he has asked agencies across the federal government to take part in a National Export Initiative to help Americans take advantage of export opportunities.

"The Office of the United States Trade Representative will play a key role in achieving the President's goal by doing more of what we do best: creating new market access. We can do that in two ways, by enforcing Americans' existing trade rights and negotiating new trade opportunities within the broad trade policy framework described in the Trade Policy Agenda.

"Our Trade Agenda outlines the United States' role in the community of trading nations, underscoring the Obama Administration's staunch support of the rules-based trading system as well as our intent to fully exercise and defend Americans' rights within that system.

"Our Trade Agenda also acknowledges that this Administration has our work cut out for us at home if we hope to rebuild Americans' support for a trade policy that really works for us.

"Our Trade Agenda steps up to the biggest opportunities and the thorniest challenges that we face in the global trading system.

"And our Trade Agenda seeks to place trade in its proper role as a part of the President's broader strategy for economic reform.

"Fundamentally, each of these objectives is anchored by a commitment to the global rules-based trading system.

"When times are good, that system promotes international growth and multilateral cooperation. And when the global economy is suffering - as it was this past year - the rules-based system keeps trade flowing.

"But the global trade system could support even more commercial and economic growth. This Administration is seeking to support that growth in a number of ways.

"We are working to achieve a balanced and ambitious conclusion to the Doha Round that promotes meaningful market access for all nations and enhances economic development among the world's poorest nations.

"We are also 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. Those agreements have the potential to generate significant economic and strategic benefits for the United States.

"At the same time, we are taking steps to expand on and deliver additional job-creating opportunities to American businesses and workers in accordance with America's trade rights under our existing agreements.

"Beginning with frank negotiations and concluding in legal remedies when necessary, our enforcement efforts have already saved jobs in the American tire-industry, won direct distribution rights for American content companies in China, and challenged unjustified restrictions on U.S. exports of agricultural products.

"USTR has expanded on these enforcement activities, and this month we will introduce a new comprehensive report that will help us to identify and address troublesome technical barriers to trade and unfair restrictions on agricultural exports known as sanitary and phytosanitary barriers.

"As tariff barriers fall, these nontariff barriers are becoming some of the most difficult challenges our exporters face. The new reports will focus on specific SPS and TBT challenges confronting American exporters. And we will use those reports to guide our work in seeking to address each problem with an appropriate solution.

"USTR is also taking steps to address the unfortunately common theft of American intellectual property - because Americans shouldn't have to compete with counterfeiters and thieves.

"During a roundtable with small business exporters in Detroit, one businesswoman told me that foreign companies would order a shipment of her product, take delivery of the first item, rip off her technology, and cancel the rest of the order.

"That kind of behavior is a plague on international commerce. And this Administration is confronting the problem head-on. We are working with trading partners around the world to develop a new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that will support America's competitive advantage in cutting edge industries and protect the intellectual property that goes into new products and new services.

"We hope to generate the beginning of a new international consensus - one that supports legitimate commerce and marginalizes, if not eliminates, illicit trade. Because intellectual property theft doesn't just hurt American creators and inventors. It can also harm the unwitting consumers of potentially harmful counterfeit goods.

"Similarly, we are committed to upholding basic international labor rights. Because when our trading partners violate the labor obligations in our trade agreements or deny foreign workers their internationally recognized rights, that tilts the playing field away from American businesses and workers.

"Those enforcement efforts go hand in hand with the pursuit of new market openings as part of a balanced, comprehensive trade policy.

"As President Obama has said, successful trade policy is made when we get beyond that idea that new market openings and enforcement are somehow oppositional, or that trade must always be a battle between international interests and domestic ones, business versus labor, trade versus jobs, those who believe in trade and those who hate it.

"Trade policy best serves the American people when we recognize all of these elements as compelling interests for our trade policy, rather than competing interests in a zero-sum game.

"Thoughtful responses to the interests of American families and of our trading partners, of business and of labor, of trade champions and of trade skeptics, can all be building blocks for a solid trade policy.

"In the President's Trade Policy agenda, those building blocks rest on a solid foundation of belief in the ability of trade - and exports in particular - to produce the kinds of well-paying jobs that the American people want and need at this time.

"This year, I have traveled across the United States and I have met with stakeholders on all sides of the trade debate - from small business owners in Nevada to auto workers in Michigan, from port workers in Florida to textile manufacturers in South Carolina.

"Some of them were trade skeptics - people who worried that trade's negatives outweigh its positives. But in every case, they understood that a trade policy that opens markets, levels the playing field, and creates jobs could deliver real benefits to American workers and families.

"The Obama Administration is committed to pursuing just such a policy.

"As the Trade Policy Agenda makes clear, USTR is working around the clock to help American businesses and workers of all sizes to succeed in the global marketplace. Because the more we make and the more we sell, the more jobs we support in America. And we can't afford to leave any jobs on the table.

"Through targeted trade policy initiatives at home, such as our small- and medium-sized business initiative, and targeted trade efforts around the world, we are seizing the biggest opportunities and tackling the biggest challenges.

"Our focus on gaining market access in the Asia-Pacific is a great example.

"The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the Asia-Pacific economies will grow faster than the world average through at least 2014. That makes the Asia-Pacific home to some of the world's fastest growing economies. And, as President Obama announced in November, the United States is working to negotiate an aspirational 21st century agreement that will guarantee American access to the dynamic markets and eager consumers of the Asia Pacific.

"That agreement will be known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And we will begin our Partnership negotiations in just six days.

"During our first round of negotiations, we will talk about how we can maximize export opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses. We will discuss what can be done through the agreement to promote innovation and competitiveness. And we will exchange ideas on ways to promote regulatory coherence, which would make it easier for American companies to operate across the region.

"We are also working to expand trade opportunities within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum by putting forward an ambitious agenda to address issues related to U.S. objectives to grow jobs, expand exports, and stimulate the trade-driven growth of small- and medium-sized businesses.

"Specifically, in 2010 we are looking to take specific steps to make it cheaper, easier, and faster to trade in the region. And we are working to address specific barriers to trade and investment in environmental goods and services. These steps will help American exporters to succeed in the Asia-Pacific region and they will help APEC economies to grow greener.

"In 2011, the United States will host the APEC forum, and we plan to leverage this unique opportunity to demonstrate America's commitment to playing a stronger and more constructive role in the Asia-Pacific region, including on crucial trade and investment topics.

"We are also working to further increase market access opportunities within the ten Southeast Asian countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), collectively our fifth largest trade partner.

"To that end, we are stepping up our work to strengthen our trade and investment relationship with this commercially and strategically important group. We have agreed to establish dialogues on trade and the environment and on trade finance, as well as to continue working on such important issues as trade facilitation and standards. And in May, I will join ASEAN trade ministers in a multi-city tour that will permit an exchange between government and business on ways to expand trade and investment opportunities in U.S. and ASEAN markets.

"And that's just one area of the world. While we continue to explore these new markets, we are also seeking ways to strengthen existing trading relationships with our most dynamic trading partners.

"We are continuing to work with our partners in the European Union to reduce non-tariff barriers between the European Union and the United States and to enhance bilateral and multilateral engagement.

"And the United States is also working to further strengthen our relationship with Canada and Mexico on a broad range topics, including closer cooperation on labor and environmental issues and regulatory cooperation that better enables businesses, large and small, to take advantage of trade opportunities.

"These efforts and others outlined in the Trade Policy Agenda are not merely paper commitments. USTR lawyers, negotiators, and trade specialists are already putting in the hard work necessary to bring home the benefits of trade. Doing so is a priority not only for my office, but also for the Obama Administration.

"The President has made it clear - trade is an essential element of the Administration's overall economic recovery efforts. He has talked about the importance of increasing exports - through WTO negotiations, through the conclusion of our pending Free Trade Agreements, and through new market access opportunities.

"From the State of the Union Address to, most recently, the White House Business Roundtable, the President has been clear: to create jobs here at home, to boost economic recovery, and to remain globally competitive the United States needs to export more American goods and services to other nations.

"But trade policy alone won't carry us over the finish line. Health care reform, educational investments, and infrastructure projects will not only make America stronger, they will help more American businesses to grow the talent and build the resources necessary to succeed in the international

"Without any one of those efforts, the Administration-wide approach to economic recovery would be incomplete. In the words of President Roosevelt, we must "revive and strengthen" not only our exports, but all parts of our economy.

"That is a big job, but USTR is not working alone. And we will continue to do our part to boost American exports, to support export-sector entrepreneurs, and to increase export-sector hiring.

"As we do so, we will maintain an ongoing conversation with the American people. As I said to the Senate Finance Committee when I testified on the President's Trade Policy Agenda last week, we can use common sense to find common ground on trade. And on that common ground, we can move forward together toward new jobs, new opportunities, and a brighter future for American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers.

"I look forward to having that conversation with you."