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Testimony of Ambassador Ron Kirk Before The House Ways and Means Committee

Testimony of Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative

February 9, 2011
House Ways and Means Committee Hearing
Washington, D.C.


“Chairman Camp, Ranking Member Levin, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I’ve submitted written testimony for the record so I will present a brief summary of my remarks.

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama told Americans that the future is ours to win – if we rise to the challenge. To compete for and win the jobs and industries of the future, America must out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.

“USTR is doing our part to keep America globally competitive. And our work is producing results. U.S. goods and services exports through the first 11 months of 2010 were up $239 billion over the same period in 2009. We are on pace to reach President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

“To ensure that American firms continue to generate jobs and economic growth, opening global trade markets and enforcing America’s trade rights must remain key components of our economic recovery effort.

“After extensive consultations with the business community, labor and Congress, in December we concluded a U.S.-Korea trade agreement that is better for America’s auto industry and better for America’s auto workers. It is winning widespread support. To bring home its promise – billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs in America – the President intends to submit the U.S.-Korea trade agreement to Congress in the next few weeks and looks forward to working with you to secure its approval this spring.

“We will not stop there. With the same engagement and cooperation, we will work to address outstanding concerns relating to the Panama and Colombia trade agreements. If we are successful, we will move those forward as well. I can tell you today that the President has directed me to immediately intensify engagement with Colombia and Panama with the objective of resolving the outstanding issues as soon as possible this year and bringing those agreements to Congress for consideration immediately thereafter.

“But let me be clear: There remain serious issues to be resolved before the Colombia and Panama agreements can be submitted for Congressional consideration. Some of these issues go to core U.S. values and interests, such as the protection of labor rights. Any timetable will be contingent on the successful resolution of these issues. For example, with regard to Colombia, it will be imperative to resolve issues regarding laws and practices impacting the protection of internationally-recognized labor rights, as well as issues concerning violence against labor leaders and the prosecution of the perpetrators. Colombia and Panama have begun to take important steps, but more remains to be done. For this timetable to work, it will be critical for them to come to the table, prepared to take additional meaningful actions. We will be consulting closely with you and major stakeholders -- including labor and human rights groups -- throughout this process.

“We will not be left behind as others open markets and take our market share. But the President has made one thing abundantly clear: we will not sign agreements for agreements’ sake. They must be enforceable and of the highest standard, in the interests of our workers, farmers, and businesses.

“In the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is now the world’s most dynamic regional trade negotiation, we are moving to unlock the Asia-Pacific through a 21st century trade agreement. In the Doha talks, we seek an ambitious outcome in which all countries – including the advanced emerging nations -- provide market access commensurate with their global economic roles. And our efforts to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization will include working with you this year to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations, so that U.S. firms and workers fully benefit from Russia’s accession to the WTO.

“This year, the United States will host the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. With them, we will work to make it cheaper, easier, and faster for our firms to trade in a greener regional economy. We are doing the same with our partners in Europe and our neighbors in North America.

“Aggressive enforcement will continue to accompany these efforts. We have kept our promise to hold trade partners accountable – from steps to stop a harmful surge of Chinese tires, to wins at the WTO for our aerospace and agriculture sectors, to the first labor enforcement case brought under a U.S. trade agreement.

“Our robust agenda will only succeed if we make clear to the American people what is at stake in global markets – and if we keep faith with America’s workers, including by renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance. Congress should also keep faith with the world’s poor and create American jobs by renewing the Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preferences Act and doing so for as long a period as possible.

“We can use common sense to find common ground on trade. I look forward to our dialogue today, and to future discussions. Thank you.”