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Remarks by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the United States Chamber of Commerce on Asia-Pacific Trade and Jobs

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk

United States Chamber of Commerce
Washington, D.C.
October 26, 2011

**As Prepared For Delivery**

“By any measure, it’s been a great month of progress for U.S. businesses and workers who want to sell more Made-in-America goods and services abroad in support of U.S. jobs here at home. Many of you were critical to our efforts to complete trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, as well as to strengthen and streamline Trade Adjustment Assistance, and to renew our trade preference programs. President Obama was very pleased to sign each of these measures into law on Friday.

“The fact that these measures were approved with historic levels of support in record time is a testament to the President’s principled and pragmatic leadership, as well as the good faith efforts of leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

“We should also keep in mind that our shared success goes well beyond these three strong trade agreements. With Korea, Colombia, and Panama approved, signed, and moving toward implementation, we also have great momentum heading into another busy season for trade.

We’re not stopping, because the American people need us to keep pushing forward with trade that leads to more U.S. exports and more American jobs. And we’re putting great focus on the Asia-Pacific, because that’s where the world’s most dynamic economies are expanding rapidly and creating significant opportunities to increase U.S. exports and jobs.

“I want to share a few thoughts about the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders’ Summit and the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. In two weeks, I’ll head to Honolulu and meet with my fellow APEC ministers in preparation for President Obama hosting the Leaders’ meeting. There, we hope to reach agreement on key issues so that we may present the leaders with concrete and meaningful outcomes in three priority areas: (1) promoting green growth; (2) strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade; and (3) advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence.

“We’ve chosen to take on these challenges because Asia-Pacific exporters like you are increasingly telling us that existing trade rules haven’t kept up with the rapidly evolving realities of 21st century commerce. Many of you have asked us to address non-tariff barriers and industrial policies that distort trade and inhibit competition. Many of you have told us how current trade rules don’t sufficiently cover trade in the latest technologies, including in areas like clean energy and digital information. And frankly, many of you have expressed frustration with the fact that trade negotiations often take years to conclude, while your businesses are changing at least every quarter – if not every month, week, or day.

“That’s why APEC is so important; it’s the place where we work on a wide scale – across 21 Asia-Pacific economies – to develop effective and ambitious approaches to emerging trade challenges. And, I’m proud that we’ve done so in close consultation with many of you in this room. As APEC host this year, the United States has sought to reinvigorate APEC to address some of these issues in practical ways. Let me briefly describe our three priority policy initiatives:

“First, we are seeking to address tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services. Such steps will promote trade in environmental goods and services, as a new source of economic growth. They will lower the cost of utilizing environmental goods and services. They will broaden deployment of clean technologies across the region. And they will promote green growth for people throughout the Asia-Pacific.

“Second, we are asking economies to adopt policies that will promote effective innovation by encouraging competition and open markets. The evidence shows that when countries restrict foreign competition in new technologies, they actually stifle innovation. The best way to create economic growth and innovation is to give consumers and entrepreneurs access to the best products no matter where they come from, and then give them the freedom to build upon and improve those products even more. That’s why we’re seeking commitments from economies to ensure that their policies do not distort markets or restrict trade in ways that harm innovation.

“Third, we are asking economies to take specific steps to improve the quality of their regulatory systems and align their regulatory approaches more closely by: internally coordinating their regulatory work; assessing impacts of regulations; and conducting consultations with stakeholders. These actions will boost productivity and promote job creation. They will eliminate unjustifiably burdensome regulations. And they will prevent needless barriers to trade from stifling economic growth and employment.

“And, while we’re talking about regulations, I would that note the spirit of this APEC initiative closely parallels President Obama’s initiative to ‘modify, streamline, or… repeal’ any regulations here in the United States that are found to be ‘outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.’ In both cases, we’re focusing on what is actually affecting your businesses, and we’re working to shape policies that will support more robust economic growth. We’re looking forward to producing meaningful results in these and other areas in Honolulu, and I look forward to our upcoming discussion.

“Now let me take a few minutes to describe where we stand in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

“First, I want to emphasize that even though we’re moving forward with TPP and APEC at the same time – and we’re seeking solid progress on both in Honolulu – it’s important to distinguish between the two. For example, one of the signature qualities of APEC’s voluntary system is it allows us to tackle topics that are already proving commercially critical in a cooperative way, even though they may not be ripe for formally binding disciplines. On the other hand, in the TPP negotiations, members are seeking to secure binding commitments that reflect the highest levels of ambition.

“But to be sure, many of the cutting-edge issues we are addressing through APEC are also the subject of intense discussions in the TPP. That’s because in addition to aiming for the highest levels of ambition for market access in all sectors, TPP members are also seeking to address new issues never before included in a trade agreement. For example, this week in Lima, Peru, U.S. negotiators are tabling new text to address unfair advantages given to state-owned enterprises, an issue that has united labor and business groups in the United States. We are also including new obligations, and for the first time in any trade agreement, we are promoting good regulatory practices by tabling regulatory coherence text. Many of these important ideas came out of our groundbreaking work in APEC.

“Similarly, as we consider trade in the 21st century, we are discussing cross-cutting horizontal issues like building regional production and supply chains, promoting development, and encouraging the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises in global trade. We are looking at trade and investment barriers that hit small businesses the hardest – such as lack of transparency and complex legal frameworks – and we are finding ways to eliminate or minimize those barriers. Because if can we get one more out of every 100 small businesses in America to start exporting, then we’ll dramatically increase U.S. exports and jobs here in the United States.

“It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: the American economy needs TPP for its job- and growth-generating potential; the American economy needs TPP to help it embrace the world’s most dynamic region; and we need TPP to inject new important ideas into global trade policy. As progress continues in Lima, I believe we will remain on track to fulfill the mandate set out for us, to reach the broad outlines of an agreement by the APEC Leaders’ summit in Honolulu. Of course, everyone should realize this: there will be outstanding work beyond Hawaii. But we are committed to seeing this negotiation through. We are making progress in Lima and looking forward to Honolulu.

“Both APEC and TPP hold promise of removing trade barriers and unlocking opportunities for U.S. exporters selling Made in America products across the Asia-Pacific. And as we unleash the entrepreneurial energy of U.S. businesses and workers throughout the world’s fastest growing markets, we will accelerate our progress toward meeting the President’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. That will mean more overseas sales for your businesses, and more jobs for hard-working Americans here at home. I hope to see you all in Honolulu in a few weeks, and I look forward to continuing our work together.”