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Testimony by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman Before the House Committee on Ways and Means

Testimony by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman

House Committee on Ways and Means
Washington, D.C.
July 18, 2013

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Levin and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to testify on the President’s 2013 Trade Policy Agenda.

“There is a long tradition of partnership between the Ways and Means Committee and USTR. This is a tradition I plan to continue.

“As President Obama’s advisor on international economic issues for the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work with many of you on a number of initiatives, including those that are now my full-time focus: opening markets for American goods and services and, in doing that, supporting jobs here at home.

“We have made important progress over the past four years. Exports are at an all-time high. Increases in U.S. exports have supported more than 1.3 million additional American jobs and have accounted for more than one-third of U.S. GDP growth over this period. 

“I am pleased that you invited me here today, because there is so much more that we need to do together. 

“As President Obama has made clear, our focus must be to promote growth, create American jobs and strengthen our middle class. USTR can contribute to this effort in three main ways: 

“First, by opening markets around the world so that we can expand our exports; 

“Second, by leveling the playing field so that our people can compete and win in the global economy; and 

“Third, by ensuring that the rights and trade rules we have fought so hard for are fully implemented and enforced. 

“Trade policy, negotiated and enforced vigorously to reflect both our interests and our values, gives our workers, farmers and ranchers; our manufacturers and service providers; our innovators, creators, investors and businesses of all sizes the best chance to compete around the world. 

“The President has laid out one of the most ambitious trade agendas ever, and we at USTR are committed to getting it right. 

“Last week, U.S. and EU negotiators completed the first round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or “T-TIP” – negotiations, with the ultimate goal of enhancing what is already the world’s largest trading relationship. 

“And as we speak, USTR negotiators are in Malaysia hard at work negotiating the groundbreaking Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, a 21st century agreement that raises standards and introduces new trade disciplines. 

“We are working on fresh, credible ways to energize multilateral trade liberalization at the WTO. 

“We are working to negotiate a trade facilitation agreement, and we hope to make progress on an information technology agreement. 

“Our services negotiators are also hard at work negotiating a high-standard Trade in Services Agreement, or TISA that will allow our already competitive service providers to compete for global business on a more level playing field. 

“If we are able to conclude these agreements – and let me be clear, it would be better to have no agreements than bad agreements – we will have created free trade with 65 percent of the global economy. 

“These agreements hold real, job-supporting export potential for manufacturers in Michigan and Pennsylvania, farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin and California, and service providers in New York and Massachusetts.

“Trade policy can only work, however, if it is fair.

“American workers are the most productive in the world. They deserve a level playing field to compete on. This Administration has taken a tough approach to trade enforcement, filing 18 cases to enforce our trade rights. 

“The Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) has further enhanced the complexity, depth, and reach of the Administration’s enforcement efforts. 

“The Obama Administration is committed to pursuing freer trade, but we are equally committed to enforcing our trade rights and to providing skills and opportunities to workers, including through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which expires at the end of this year. 

“Trade is also a powerful tool of our broader development policy.

“I recently returned from Africa, where President Obama announced a Trade Africa initiative, where we are working with a new generation of reform-minded leaders in some of the poorest countries in the world who are focused on pursuing policies of trade, not just aid; investment, not just assistance; as the key to sustainable economic development.

“In that regard, I am encouraged by the introduction yesterday by the leaders of this Committee of a bipartisan bill to extend GSP. I also look forward to working with you to ensure the seamless renewal of AGOA before it expires in 2015.

“Trade policy fulfills its greatest potential when it is the result of close consultation between the Administration, Congress and a wide range of stakeholders.

“Transparent collaboration leads to better policies and better outcomes. While USTR has done much to advance transparency in recent years – in my view, we can always do better.

“Here too I look forward to consulting with you as we explore what further steps should be taken.

“Let me say a word about an issue I know is of importance to many of you: Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

“As I said in my confirmation hearing, TPA is a critical tool.

“As the leadership of our committees undertake a process to develop a TPA bill, we stand ready to work with you to craft a bill that achieves our shared interests.

“Finally, all of these things I have mentioned, all of our shared goals are contingent on USTR having the resources to pursue its mission.

“We are managing our resources aggressively and will do our best to achieve our priorities with whatever resources we have, but to be frank, I am worried. At a time of unprecedented levels of activity, sequestration and other budget cuts are compromising USTR's ability to conduct trade negotiations and other market-opening efforts, as well as initiate new enforcement actions.

“Financial constraints are forcing us to make difficult decisions every day. The opportunities we miss have real effects on whether or not your constituents are getting the full benefits of a robust trade policy and the jobs and growth promised by our trade agreements.

“With that, let me once again thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am happy to take your questions.”