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Testimony of United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk Before the Senate Finance Committee

Testimony of United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Senate Finance Committee
Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Good morning, Chairman Baucus, Ranking Member Hatch, Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the President’s trade agenda.

“In 2010, the Obama Administration followed through on our commitment to develop a trade policy that solves problems and supports jobs for American businesses, workers, farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.

“We have enforced our trading rights and held our trading partners accountable.

“We have worked to open markets to help U.S. producers reach more of the 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our borders, including through our efforts with China and our leadership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“We are on pace to reach President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

“In 2011, we will expand on this job-focused, comprehensive trade policy to open markets for Made in America products and keep them open through strong enforcement action.

“Central to our agenda is the movement of pending free trade agreements to Congress as they become ready. This week, we informed your committee that we are prepared to begin collaborative work on the text of the implementing bill for the U.S.-Korea trade agreement as soon as you are ready to do so. It is time to realize this agreement’s promise of more than $10 billion in increased goods exports and more than 70,000 American jobs.

“Improving access to the Korean beef market remains an important issue. We commit to working, in close consultation with you, to further open that market consistent with international guidelines. In the meantime, a ratified U.S.-Korea agreement will progressively reduce tariffs on our beef exports to zero, enabling America’s beef producers to build on the exponential growth of exports to Korea – which reached $518 million in 2010, a one-year increase of 140 percent in value.

“We are seeking the same widespread support that the Korea agreement enjoys for agreements with Colombia and Panama. Our goal is to have all three agreements, with their outstanding issues addressed, approved by Congress.

“On February 9th, I told the House Ways and Means Committee that President Obama had directed me to intensify engagement with Colombia and Panama to resolve the outstanding issues as quickly as possible this year and submit them to Congress immediately thereafter.

“The next day, on February 10th, I met with the Vice President of Panama. Our teams have met subsequently and agreed upon actions that, when taken by Panama, will ready that agreement for Congressional consideration.

“On February 11th, Administration officials began consultations on Colombia with key stakeholders and members of Congress, including House and Senate leadership. On February 15th, USTR led an interagency mission comprised of the State Department, Labor Department and White House officials to Colombia. We have since met multiple times with stakeholders, Members of Congress, and your staffs to review these findings and assess next steps.

“I am pleased to announce that tomorrow, senior Santos Administration officials will be in Washington to engage further on our shared goals to protect labor rights and workers. We are working with them to resolve serious outstanding issues regarding the protection of internationally-recognized labor rights, violence against labor leaders, and the prosecution of perpetrators so that we can advance the agreement for your consideration. We also are supportive of efforts the Santos Administration is making to address Colombia’s challenges, including initiatives such as land reform.

“At the same time, we call on you to keep faith with America’s workers here at home and renew Trade Adjustment Assistance now. The Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preferences Act also merit renewal for as long as possible.

“Finally, we continue to lead the effort toward a balanced and ambitious outcome in the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, and to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations status to ensure that American firms fully benefit as Russia prepares to join the WTO this year.

“I look forward to a constructive dialogue today in our shared effort to support jobs and new opportunities for the Americans we serve. Thank you.”