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Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for World Trade Week

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

May 18, 2010
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
"Next Steps on World Trade" Conference
 Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Good morning. Greetings to my fellow trade minister here today – Minister Van Loan of Canada. Greetings to the distinguished Ambassadors here in the audience. And thank you to the Chamber of Commerce for hosting today. I am so pleased to be here with you to mark World Trade Week.   

“Lately as U.S. Trade Representative, I’ve been racking up frequent flyer miles on the domestic front. The reason for my recent trips to Detroit, Tampa, Chicago, and Seattle is simple: I’m trying to ensure that as the Obama Administration takes its next steps on trade, Americans – and Congress, and business communities across the nation – are ready for all of us to walk together.   

“That’s a pretty tall order. To me, the trade debate in this country shares too many characteristics with the health care debate. Everyone said they were for health care. But reform was nearly paralyzed by process differences and hidden agendas. In the same way, everyone says they’re pro-trade – but only if trade is done their way.   

“If we fail to develop a trade policy that works for both trade champions and trade skeptics, we face double-edged dangers: either we lose the chance to create and sustain jobs for American workers here at home – or we close deals at the cost of our values on labor, the environment and other issues – with unclear economic benefits.   

“My cross-country travels are meant to inform a trade policy that’s true to our values, and that provides real economic gains for U.S. workers and companies.   

“And I can report that, in my meetings with business executives and labor leaders, tours with entrepreneurs, and walks down the factory line, I am hearing a new conversation on trade. We need to amplify those whispers into a chorus of support for stronger trade policy. And I’ll talk today about how we can do that, together.   

“There are several challenges that both trade champions and trade skeptics are eager to see USTR confront. And those are definite steps I’ll take in the near future.   

“Next week I’ll head to China for this year’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue, chaired by Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner. The S&ED is an important forum to discuss macroeconomic issues and security issues. But it is also a staging ground for the more granular issues on which Commerce Secretary Locke and I will seek action at the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.   

“In Seattle, Washington, last month, tech leaders were very direct about how much they lose to piracy in China and other countries.   

“Protection and enforcement of America’s intellectual property rights is not only a concern to the big boys in technology, but also to startup companies who can’t afford to have their IP stolen through a test order from Beijing.   

“So our next steps with China include continued pressure to strengthen their IPR regime – and to step back on flawed and troubling policies across the industrial sector, like indigenous innovation.   

“Many companies have highlighted China’s recent measures to support “indigenous innovation” as a major concern among a growing set of industrial policy measures. USTR has made clear at all levels of the Chinese government that, even though it is in U.S. and Chinese interest to promote innovation, innovation is no excuse for discrimination.   

“We appreciate efforts China’s government has made to address our concern, but we have urged them to refrain from further steps down this path. Instead, we need to sit down and talk about how to foster real innovation to benefit us all.   

“Questions and potential trade barriers around American intellectual property, goods, and services will only multiply in the coming decades –not just in China, but with trading partners around the world.   

“The United States will have an opportunity to make progress on some crucial trade and investment issues when we host APEC in 2011. That will provide a significant platform to address barriers in markets in the Asia-Pacific. And hosting APEC in cities around the United States will let us show Americans just how important exports and this dynamic region are to job creation and U.S. economic health.   

“This is also why our Administration is working to develop a high-standard, 21st century, Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will reflect this Administration’s priorities: job creation and retention... integrating U.S. companies into Asia-Pacific production and supply chains… promoting new technologies and emerging economic sectors… boosting small businesses… and promoting environmental protection and conservation, transparency, worker rights, and development.   

“Just yesterday USTR announced that the second round of TPP talks will happen in San Francisco, the week of June 14. Today, I want to talk about our objectives.   

“This second round will be important in setting the framework and pace of these negotiations. There are several broad architectural questions we’ll discuss.   

“First, how to structure market access negotiations relating to goods, agriculture, textiles and services. We want to ensure that the agreement is high standard and forward looking, but also practical, with enough flexibility to accommodate sensitivities. We will retain the benefits in our existing free trade agreements with TPP partners, while determining how to further facilitate trade regionally.   

“Second, we will discuss how best to incorporate provisions into each chapter that promote the industries and technologies of the future. We want to support the way companies expect to do business in years to come.   

“We will also exchange views on value-added benefits we could see from this regional agreement: for example, greater regulatory coherence or cooperation on common concerns like food safety. We also will explore environmental issues on which TPP partners share an interest, such as climate change and marine conservation.   

“These objectives for a new kind of trade agreement have been developed in a new way: through unprecedented outreach.   

“USTR is working constantly with Congress and stakeholders old and new in all 50 states to develop our positions. And as a result, key Members of Congress, as well as a wide range of manufacturing, services, agricultural groups and NGOs, are contributing to this effort and have already expressed support for our work.   

“At a time when discussions are polarized on other trade deals, this early momentum for the Trans-Pacific Partnership shows the difference it makes to approach the conversation in a new way.   

“That is why changing the dialogue here at home has to be our next step – and in many ways, this is where you come in.   

“Trade supporters know that the numbers are on our side: more than 10 million export-supported jobs in the United States. More than 6,000 additional jobs for every additional billion dollars of exports. Thirteen to 18-percent higher pay for jobs supported by exports.   

“But despite those numbers, Americans generally don’t believe in the value proposition of trade – beyond its ability to bring us cheaper blue jeans and better electronics.   

“At worst, Americans believe that the real price for those cheaper commodities is the loss of good-paying jobs here at home… the loss of our nation’s manufacturing sector… and the loss of our national identity, as a place where anyone who wants to work and get ahead can do so. And they believe those things have been lost to our trading partners.   

“So you and I can explain ‘til we’re blue in the face how America is actually manufacturing more than ever – and we are. We can explain how increased productivity, far more than trade, has caused many of the shifts blamed on trade pacts. But those words will never speak as persuasively as one photo of a shuttered factory, blamed on NAFTA or another trade deal.   

“Statistics about economic growth will never stand up to the stories of real people who have lost their jobs.   

“One of the Obama Administration’s first steps on trade was an unprecedented expansion and updating of Trade Adjustment Assistance. We acknowledged and acted on the fact that sometimes trade does result in job displacement.   

“But we also need to do a better job of showing America that in many cases, the changing global economy has brought better jobs to many working families. And more are coming, if only we do trade policy right. And this administration isn’t going to leave a single job on the table.   

“Our support for trade has to be about more than bottom lines. What drives us has to be the idea of a mother or father walking in the door and being able to say, ‘They were hiring. And I got a job.’   

“And that is happening. We have those stories to tell, stories of real people at businesses of every kind – like the new employees working at Marlin Steel in Baltimore, because Marlin is exporting wire baskets to 20 other countries and keeping jobs here at home. Or those working for VisionIT in Detroit, where David Segura is doubling his workforce, providing well-paying jobs through what he calls ‘urban onshoring’ of global IT services.     

“If real people aren’t the reason we work to craft smart trade policy, then our work isn’t worth much. All our work is worth less when we forget the people we serve.   

“I say this because as much as I appreciate the Chamber’s support on trade – sometimes it feels like you and me against the world – you also need to remember some of those affected when you oppose initiatives. I’m talking about health care, where many people were calling out for help and in some cases begging for their lives. I’m talking about financial reform, where some hurting Americans are asking for a financial system that gives them a fighting chance.   

“There are all kinds of business reasons to want to shape or change health reform or financial reforms. But just as you say to trade skeptics – those who refuse to be a constructive part of the process are part of the problem.   

“So let’s commit to working harder, together, on a range of issues – even as USTR redoubles its efforts on the trade initiatives that mean so much to all of you.   

“I know you’re all waiting to hear what I have to say about the Doha Round and the pending Free Trade Agreements.   

“On Doha, the United States continues to lead efforts to shake loose the economic promise of an agreement with real market access for all involved. Today, the key roadblock is the continued resistance of some important partners to engage in sustained, meaningful negotiations. 

Make no mistake: the success or failure of the Doha Round depends on whether advanced developing countries like China, India, and Brazil will accept the responsibility that goes along with their growing roles in the global economy.   

“You and I agree that the pending FTAs are important opportunities to grow well-paying jobs here at home. That’s why USTR is working to address issues with these agreements and find ways to move them forward.   

“On the free trade agreement with Panama, our Administration has engaged in extensive discussions with Panama on outstanding labor and tax transparency issues. Several labor reforms are already in force.   

“We are still urging the Martinelli Administration to move forward with others, and to enhance Panama’s financial transparency and the exchange of tax information.   

“With U.S. encouragement, the Colombian government has already taken a number of steps to address violence against unionists, and to address concerns regarding its labor law regime. We have been conducting extensive fact-finding to identify additional steps Colombia’s government should take.   

“Korea is the agreement with the most economic potential and jobs potential. We are consulting with Congress and other U.S. stakeholders to determine how best to address outstanding concerns and to move forward. President Obama has called for this.   

“I know these agreements are not moving as quickly as the Chamber would like. But I should remind you all: the road to a trade agreement is often filled with speed bumps. Some thought we’d all expire in the ditch before the Uruguay Round was settled. But the last three years of that process were crucial to the services and IPR provisions we appreciate today.   

“Taking the time and effort to get agreements right – whether Panama, Colombia, or Korea, Doha or TPP – produces a better product.   

“And building consensus on trade will pay huge dividends for our national economy, for the business community, and most importantly for America’s working families. They are the drivers of this economy. They are the people who want and need the jobs that trade can bring. They are the people who should be the stars of our good stories, and examples of how trade can work for all of us – and how more Americans can work, because of trade.   

“That’s a bright path to follow. Let’s walk forward together."