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Testimony by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
Before the House Committee on Ways and Means
February 29, 2012
*As Prepared for Delivery*
“Chairman Camp, Ranking Member Levin, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify.
“About twelve months ago, I presented to you the Obama Administration’s plan to work through outstanding issues related to our trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, and expressed the Administration’s commitment to renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance and extending trade preference programs. At the time, some questioned whether we were taking too long or seeking too much. Nonetheless, with your help, we accomplished all of this and more last year.
“Together, we did the hard work necessary to pass all of these measures on one historic day. In the process, we built a new template for bipartisan support of trade that opens markets and levels the playing field for American businesses, workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers.
“This year, with your help, we are forging ahead on another ambitious trade agenda. Tomorrow, you’ll receive our 2011 annual report as well as a comprehensive outline of our plans for 2012. So, rather than attempt to cover all of that today, I’d like to highlight some of our key initiatives for the coming year.
“First, I’m proud to report that final plans are being made to bring the U.S.-Korea trade agreement into force on March 15. At the same time, we are working with the governments of Colombia and Panama to fulfill their commitments so that those trade agreements can take effect as soon as possible.
“We’re also moving full speed ahead in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Building on the broad outlines announced last November, we are seeking to conclude a landmark TPP agreement this year that will address cross-cutting issues such as promoting regulatory coherence among our countries, enhancing the participation of small businesses into Asia-Pacific trade, and building regional supply chains that promote U.S. jobs.
“As we consider the entry of additional countries, we will continue to coordinate closely with Congress to ensure new participants meet TPP’s high standards and address specific issues of concern.
“And as we move toward negotiating outcomes, the Administration will explore issues regarding additional trade promotion authority necessary to approve the TPP and future trade agreements.
“This year, we are getting even tougher on trade enforcement, which has been a priority of the Obama Administration from day one. Yesterday, President Obama established by Executive Order the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) to prioritize and more aggressively challenge the kinds of unfair trade practices we fight fiercely everyday – from China’s improper restrictions on industrial raw materials, to improper subsidies by the EU and other partners.
“Right now, we also have an opportunity to defend the rights of U.S. workers and businesses by working together to pass legislation that will ensure our ability to remedy the harmful effects of unfairly subsidized imports from China and other countries.
“And we are ready to bring Russia into the rules-based system in a way that gives us more enforcement tools to enable enhanced market access and a level playing field for U.S. exporters.
“That’s why the Administration will seek termination of Russia’s Jackson-Vanik status as soon as possible to ensure that American firms enjoy the same job-supporting benefits of Russia’s WTO membership as our international competitors.
“Broadly speaking, our pursuit of enhanced trade to support American jobs extends across all geographic regions and all major economic sectors. We are engaging with the EU to deepen our transatlantic trade relationship, and we are eager to work with Congress to make immediate progress with sub-Saharan Africa and CAFTA countries on issues like third-country fabric and textile and apparel rules of origin, respectively. At the WTO, we continue to look for fresh, credible approaches to market-opening trade negotiations in the Doha Round and along with it – including plurilateral options such as services.
“In conclusion, I want to thank the Committee for your thoughtful consideration of critical trade issues and continued support for our ambitious agenda. Working together, we can stay on track to meet the President’s goal to double U.S. exports, and ensure that our trade policy continues to create job-supporting export opportunities for all Americans.