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Testimony of United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk Before the House Agriculture Committee

Testimony of Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative

Thursday, May 12, 2011
House Agriculture Committee
Washington, D.C.

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Chairman Lucas, Congressman Peterson and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the importance of agricultural exports in the Administration’s broad trade agenda.

“In fiscal year 2010, exports of U.S. farm products continued to increase for our farming sector, reaching a total of nearly $109 billion, a 13 percent increase over 2009. Equally impressive was the fact that we had a trade surplus in our agricultural trade of almost $34 billion last year. And this growth in American food and agricultural exports has helped put the United States on a path to reach the President’s goal of doubling American exports by the end of 2014.

“Continued growth in agricultural exports depends upon accessing new markets for America’s farmers and ranchers and ensuring their continued access to existing markets. Given a level-playing field, our agricultural producers can out-compete those from any other country. We are the most efficient and productive producers in the world.

“To open markets for our agricultural exporters and to keep them open, the Obama Administration has pursued a two-pronged approach that balances negotiating new market access with enforcing Americans’ rights in the global trading system.

“Today, the pending agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia are at the forefront of our efforts to open new markets. Last week, we started technical discussions with Congress on those agreements, which are part of a broad trade agenda that also includes the reauthorization of a robust Trade Adjustment Assistance program, renewal of the expired trade preference programs, and pursuing Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Russia as it joins the WTO.

“The U.S.-South Korea trade agreement will provide America’s farmers, ranchers, food processors, workers and the businesses they support with improved access to South Korea’s $1 trillion economy and 49 million consumers. Selling more Grown in America products in South Korea will support more U.S. jobs on our own farms and ranches, and in our processing plants and shipping centers.

“Upon entry into force, the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement eliminates tariffs on two-thirds of American agricultural exports immediately, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, and soybeans. Separately, we have announced that once this agreement is in force, we will request consultations with South Korea under the 2008 beef protocol to discuss the full application of that agreement. President Obama and I are committed to working with you, to further open beef access across Asian markets consistent with international guidelines.

“U.S. agricultural exporters will also gain from the Panama agreement. More than half of current U.S. farm exports to Panama will become duty-free immediately. Other products will gain duty-free access with out-of-quota tariffs reduced over time.

“Many American agricultural commodities will also benefit from the Colombia agreement, as more than half of current U.S. farm exports to Colombia will become duty free immediately. Virtually all remaining tariffs will be eliminated within 15 years. Overall, the International Trade Commission has estimated that the agreement would expand exports of U.S. goods to Colombia by more than $1 billion, and increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion.

“As we work with you toward approval of these agreements, the Obama Administration is advancing American agriculture interests in other trade talks.

“We are pursuing a regional Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that will expand U.S. exports to the dynamic markets in the Asia-Pacific region. It will also include a sanitary and phytosanitary chapter to ensure science-based, transparent regulations in each partner country.

“Together with other WTO members, the United States is currently pursuing a sober and realistic evaluation of the Doha Round. The Doha negotiations are confronting a difficult moment. We are committed to a balanced and ambitious Doha outcome, and we will work with willing partners to find solutions.

“Aside from ongoing negotiations, American farmers and ranchers now have greater access to world markets because the Obama Administration is holding trading partners to their existing obligations. USTR continues to work with governments around the world to remove unwarranted SPS rules.

“Improving market access to Russia is also important for U.S. agriculture, including through Russia’s accession to the WTO. Having Russia subject to the same rules as others in the WTO puts meaningful enforcement tools in our hands.

“In closing, I want to assure you that our focus at USTR is always greater prosperity for American agriculture, and for the entire American economy. We stand ready, as always, to work with you and other stakeholders in pursuit of this goal.”