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Remarks by Assistant United States Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat at the Midwest International Trade Association

Remarks by Everett Eissenstat
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Americas

May 19, 2010
Midwest International Trade Association
 Omaha, Nebraska

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Thank you. It’s a real honor to be here today to discuss the Administration’s Trade Priorities.   

“I have had the privilege of working at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for several years now. Now, some of you may know what USTR is. But for those of you who do not Marisa and I thought it would be useful to give a little overview about the agency and its mission.   

“USTR is a small agency, created by Congress and housed in the Office of the President. Its mission is to oversee development, implementation, coordination, and enforcement of U.S. trade policy. My boss, Ambassador Ron Kirk, serves as the President’s chief spokesperson on international trade matters, and represents the United States in international trade negotiations. Within the agency we have regional offices, such as mine, and functional offices, such as agriculture, services and intellectual property. We also have a team of highly qualified lawyers who represent the United States in international trade disputes and help enforce U.S. trading rights around the world. The agency is highly integrated, and we often work across regional, functional and legal offices to solve trade problems and promote U.S. interests abroad. We also work very closely with other federal agencies, such as the Departments of State and Commerce. Finally, as the Constitution vests Congress with the authority over tariff policy, we work very closely with Members of Congress and their staff. And of course, we work closely with business and other stakeholders in developing international trade policy. It is highly interesting work.   

“One of my greatest joys is to be able to come to events like the one being hosted today by MITA. It is events like this that enable us to better connect with the businesses we serve and hear directly from you. Although it’s sometimes hard to find the time to travel, I never regret the opportunity to participate. It always helps guide my work and energizes when I return home.   

“The Obama Administration and Ambassador Kirk recognize the importance of these dialogues. That is why they make it a priority for senior officials to get out of the office and talk to companies and workers across the country. They want you to know what we are doing and why. And of course, they also want to know how you are doing and what we can do to serve you better.   

“This is an especially good time to be here. Last Friday the President issued a proclamation naming this World Trade Week, calling on all Americans to come together to help celebrate the benefits of trade to our Nation. And, there is little doubt that trade has an enormous impact on our economy and our way of life. Because of trade we have more variety and more opportunity. And trade is becoming to be an even greater part of our economic story.   

“In 2009 exports accounted for eleven percent of GDP, two and a half times more than 50 years ago. These exports supported over 10 million jobs in America, jobs that typically pay 13 to 18 percent more than the national average. Nebraska’s exports alone totaled $4.9 billion. And these exports helped support 12% of all manufacturing jobs in Nebraska.   

“This is good. But we can know we can do even better. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama set a goal to support two million new American jobs by doubling American exports in the next five years. To achieve this goal, we will work to increase every kind of export – from goods to services to home-grown agricultural products. We know that we simply can’t afford to leave any jobs on the table.   

“That is why President Obama called upon key federal agencies to participate in a National Export Initiative. Through this Initiative, the Office of the United States Trade Representative is teaming up with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, and other federal agencies. In doing so, we are leveraging all our resources to help more American farmers, ranchers, businessmen, and workers to take advantage of the global marketplace and succeed through trade.   

“The National Export Initiative is unprecedented. It’s a government wide approach to export-promotion and export growth. Over the last several months, every agency involved has been working to develop a concrete plan to leverage its resources to deliver more export-sector jobs and opportunities.   

“Allow me to give you some specifics of actions that have already been taken. First, the President has created an Export Promotion Cabinet which reports directly to the President on our efforts. President Obama has also revitalized the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee; bringing more than 20 federal agencies to work on trade expansion efforts. The Export-Import Bank is increasing its lending to small and medium sized businesses from four to six billion dollars to help more companies access more export opportunities. Funding for the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration has been increased by 20% which will enable them to hire new trade experts to assist U.S. companies and to increase U.S. presence in emerging markets like China, India and Brazil. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also receiving additional funding to enhance their export promotion activities. These funds will help USDA assist more farmers in selling specialty crops abroad and to better promote U.S. commodities in foreign markets.   

“Our role at USTR is to open new markets and reduce barriers to exports. So we are thinking strategically about how our office can help more Americans do business in more places. Simply put, our office is working across the board to help Americans sell more “Made in America” goods and services and more “Raised in America” crops and animal products in more places around that world. We are making that possible both by seizing new export opportunities and defending existing American trade rights.   

“USTR is doing critical market opening and market expanding work – not only by seeking out new agreements, but also by working to ensure that Americans can take full advantage of our existing agreements.   

“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 over beef and other agricultural products.   

“And American pork producers can continue to sell their products around the world because we fought aggressively to keep global markets open to American pork in the aftermath of the H1N1 influenza outbreak, which was shown to have no connection to food safety.   

“And we are continuing to press our trading partners to address unjustified barriers that impede the sale of U.S. products in many overseas markets.   

“American exporters face a vast array of non-tariff measures that can be onerous trade barriers. Those non-tariff measures – including non-science-based import rules and overly burdensome product approval and labeling requirements – are often rooted in lax implementation of existing trade rules.   

“So USTR has stepped up its enforcement efforts. This spring, our office released two new reports identifying unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to trade and technical standards that keep our farmers, ranchers, and other exporters from receiving the full benefits of trade. These reports help us identify unfair, behind the border, barriers to our exports and focus our work on alleviating them.   

“At the same time, USTR is pursuing new trade opportunities for American businesses, farmers, and ranchers in some of the fastest-growing 21st century markets – with single trade partners in bilateral agreements, with economically significant regions through multiparty talks, and with all our WTO partners, as in the Doha round.   

“USTR is seeking to resolve outstanding issues on the Colombian, Korean, and Panama Free Trade Agreements so that we can move those agreements forward at the appropriate time. These are already important markets for American farmers and ranchers.   

“Panama is one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America. In 2008, the United States sold $430 million worth of corn, soybean meal, wheat, rice, and other agricultural products to Panama alone.   

“That same year, Korea was the United States’ fifth largest market for agricultural exports, and Colombia was the largest single market in Central and South America for American farm exports. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that U.S. farm exports to Korea, Colombia, and Panama will increase annually by almost $3 billion after full implementation of these FTAs, with gains spread across a wide range of U.S. agricultural products.   

“And agriculture is not the only beneficiary. Companies and workers across a broad spectrum of goods and services will see benefits from these agreements as tariffs are eliminated and regulatory barriers are lifted. The President recognizes the importance of these agreements and has tasked us with working with each government to ensure the agreements can get the broad support of the U.S. Congress that they deserve.   

“We also remain committed to a balanced and ambitious Doha Round outcome that provides a meaningful market access package that lifts the economic prospects of the poorest countries even as it supports U.S. new economic opportunities for American farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers.   

“The success of the Doha Round will depend on key partners engaging and contributing – in particular, emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and India. In addition to the multilateral negotiating efforts in Geneva, the United States is seeking sustained bilateral engagement with these key advanced developing countries in order to provide the market access necessary to achieve a successful outcome in agriculture, as well as in non-agricultural market access and services.   

“Even as USTR works to secure additional market access opportunities, we are thinking hard about how to make those opportunities accessible to more kinds of American businesses.   

“In particular, USTR is reaching out to small- and medium-sized businesses to shape trade policy that works better for smaller American enterprises – and that includes small- and medium-sized American ranches, farms, and farm businesses. Already this year we have 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 American ranches, farms, and businesses of all sizes to succeed in markets around the world.     

“We know that small and medium sized firms are already important exporters. But again, we know we can do better.   

“One way we can do this by increasing the number of small- and medium-sized businesses that export. Today, only one in every 100 small businesses is marketing its products abroad. We need to find ways to help the other 99 create jobs by taking their businesses global.   

“We can also work to grow the export totals of small- and medium-sized business. A report commissioned by USTR last year found that, even though small- and medium-sized businesses account for 97 percent of American exporting companies, their exports are only 30 percent of the national goods export total. And most small- and medium-sized exporters do business with only one product in one country. So we are looking for ways to help these businesses tap into the full range of global markets and create jobs by expanding their export sales.   

“We are also taking the first steps toward a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will expand U.S. trade in the Pacific under a high-standard, 21st century trade agreement that will ensure American farmers and ranchers have access to the burgeoning markets of the Asia-Pacific for decades to come. TPP is a regional trade agreement with an initial group of eight like-minded countries – the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. We will consider and welcome other countries based upon their readiness and ability to bring commercial value, balance, and ambition to the negotiations.   

“The first round of TPP negotiations were held last month in Melbourne, Australia. The second round of negotiations is already scheduled to take place this June in San Francisco. Throughout these talks we will be working hard to ensure that this agreement is an Agreement for the 21st Century and that it reflects the Obama Administration’s trade priorities. These include job create and retention. Integrating U.S. companies into the Asia-Pacific product and supply chains. Promoting new technologies and emerging economic sectors. And promoting environmental protection and conservation, transparency, worker rights and development.   

“We are also working hard to make sure that they objectives of the agreement meet the needs of U.S. companies and workers. To this end, we are engaged in unprecedented outreach to engage stakeholders across the country and hear their interests and concerns. This is where you come in. As we continue our work, we want to hear from you. It’s easy. All you have to do is go to our website, www.ustr.gov/tpp , go to the right hand corner and find the section entitled “Ask a question or comment on TPP”. Enter your information and let us know what you think. The fact is, to craft an agreement to meets your needs we need your input. So I hope we can count on hearing from you.   

“Before I close I want to take a step back and take a look at the big picture; where we are and where we are going. As noted earlier, over the past fifty years international trade has played an ever increasing role in our economy, and a positive one. Today, the U.S. is a major player in the international marketplace. And, despite what many American may think, we remain a manufacturing “superpower.” With only 4.6 percent of the world’s population we produced over 21% of the global manufactures in 2007. Today, we are the world’s largest producer of manufactured products. But we cannot rest on our laurels.   

“As President Obama noted in his Presidential Proclamation establishing this week as World Trade Week, ‘our success has never been guaranteed. It has been forged through decades of hard work, ingenuity, optimism, and common purpose.’   

“Today we come together as part of that common purpose – to celebrate and promote trade. We come together to hear from companies like Air Tractor, Werner Enterprises, and Mario Camacho Foods about their experience in the international marketplace and how their lessons can apply to our own efforts to expand internationally. We come together to learn about some of the government programs that exist, such as those at OPIC, the Department of Commerce, and USTR, that might be able to help you in your work. And, we come together to celebrate companies such as Reinke Manufacturing Company, who through their hard work and vision, have earned MITA’s Exporter of the Year Award.   

“It is events like this, and the people in this room who, working together, will ensure that we not only meet the international challenges of the 21st century, but thrive.   

“Thank you all. I look forward to working with you.”