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Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Entry into Force of the United States-Colombia Trade Agreement
*As Prepared For Delivery*
"Good morning. Let me first take this opportunity to warmly welcome my good friends and colleagues Colombian Ambassador Silva and Chairman Kevin Brady. I know all of us have been looking forward to this day.
"And of course, we appreciate the Chamber’s ongoing support for forward-thinking trade measures not to mention their gracious hospitality as hosts.
"Today, the historic U.S.-Colombia trade agreement is in effect. It brings benefits to businesses of every size in both of our countries.
"This is good news for U.S. entrepreneurs, workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers who are ready to export more U.S. goods and services to Colombia’s growing market.
"Similarly, it’s good news for Colombia, which stands to gain in terms of economic growth, jobs, and permanent access to the world’s largest market here in the United States.
"This historic trade agreement also affirms the strong and deep relationship between the United States and Colombia, one of our closest allies in the hemisphere.
"President Obama and President Santos were unwavering in their shared commitment to secure a historic trade agreement that boosts trade and jobs and that works for businesses and workers in both our countries.
"Here in the United States, President Obama insisted that we find a path forward for the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement – one that unlocks the job-building benefits of trade while also addressing important labor issues in Colombia.
"Of course, the Obama Administration’s hard work was matched by the vision and leadership of Colombian President Santos. The United States appreciates and applauds President Santos’ courage and determination to implement necessary and historic improvements for Colombian workers and for justice under the Action Plan Related to Labor Rights.
"To be sure, the President said in Cartagena that 'more work still needs to be done, but we've made significant progress.' So while the bold steps taken so far have enabled us to advance the agreement we celebrate today, we also look forward to continuing our work together in the future.
"Of course, Ambassador Silva and Chairman Brady – as well as Chairman Camp, Congressman Levin, Chairman Baucus, and Senator Hatch – all played critical leadership roles as well, helping to sustain support on Capitol Hill as we worked to move the agreement forward.
"And I cannot forget my own staff – Ambassador Miriam Sapiro, Bennett Harman, Maria Pagan, Carlos Romero, and our entire team at USTR. Thank you all.
"I think it’s especially fitting that we celebrate entry into force of the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement during World Trade Month. It’s an occasion that reminds us how important this work really is. Our economies grow when we open global markets and give companies and workers a level playing field on which to compete.
"Furthermore, this World Trade Month is particularly special for me and my team, because, as John mentioned, this year we mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of USTR.
"Frankly, being at USTR is the privilege of a lifetime, and it’s what we all strive for in public service – to work with the smartest, most passionate, most dedicated public servants in the U.S. government.
"Every day, an outstanding group of men and women come to work at the Winder Building and the F Street Annex with the mission to uphold the tradition of excellence that has been passed down for five decades since President Kennedy and Congress first came together to create USTR in 1962.
"To be sure, I’m a bit biased on this point, but I think it’s a testament to the unique value of USTR that such a stellar reputation has been maintained across administrations for at least two generations now.
"That overriding sense of purpose gives our small agency the energy and ability to outperform – or as I like to say, 'we punch above our weight.'
"Simply put, the work we do at USTR – to open markets, level the playing field, and keep America competitive – is enormously relevant for hard-working families across the United States. And as we renew economic growth and do everything we can to keep the recovery going, trade and exports will remain a vital part of President Obama’s blueprint to build an economy that lasts with better jobs for more Americans.
"For all of these reasons, I’m proud to announce that today we are launching a new website, http://www.ustr.gov/50, where you can go to get updates about all of the 50th anniversary activities we will be rolling out periodically over the next few months.
"And with that, I’ll stop so that my good friend, Ambassador Silva, can share his thoughts on this historic day for both Colombia and the United States. Thank you."