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Statement by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman at the House Ways and Means Committee

Statement by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman at the House Ways and Means Committee

Washington, D.C.
January 27, 2015

*As Delivered*

“Thank you, Chairman Ryan, Ranking Member Levin, Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, thanks for the opportunity to testify on the President’s trade agenda. I will try to keep this short to maximize the time for questions.

“As a central part of the President’s overall economic strategy, our trade agenda is committed to supporting more good jobs, promoting growth, and strengthening the middle class in the United States. At USTR, we’re advancing those goals by knocking down barriers to U.S. exports and leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses of all sizes.  As we work to open markets around the world, we are enforcing our trade rights so that American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses get the full benefit of the economic opportunities the United States has negotiated over the years. 

“Taken together, these efforts have contributed greatly to America’s economic comeback.  Since 2009, America’s total exports have grown by nearly 50 percent and contributed nearly one-third of our economic growth. 

“During the most recent year on record, 2013, U.S. exports reached a record high of $2.3 trillion and supported a record-breaking 11.3 million jobs.  At a time when too many workers haven’t seen their paychecks grow in much too long, these jobs typically pay up to 18% more on average than non-export related jobs. 

“Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure to travel across the country and heard many of the stories behind these statistics.  I listened to small business owners in Colorado, Maryland, and Ohio; farmers and ranchers in Iowa and Wisconsin; manufacturers and service providers in Texas and the state of Washington; and many others. Across our country, what I heard was resoundingly similar: confidence that as long as the playing field is level, our workers and businesses can win.  Today, more small businesses are exporting than ever before, and by tapping into global markets, these companies are able to increase their sales and their payrolls.

“That success is all the more impressive when you consider that the United States is an open economy, and other countries aren’t necessarily playing by the same rules.

“That why we’re working harder than ever to bring home trade agreements that will unlock opportunities by eliminating barriers to U.S. exports, trade, and investment while raising labor, environment, and other important standards across the board. 

“If we sit on the sidelines, we will be faced with a race to the bottom in global trade not a race to the top.  As the President said last week, we should be the ones to engage and lead. 

“That leadership is apparent in our work during the last year to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus, and we have made important progress in the market access negotiations and in addressing a number of twenty-first century issues such as intellectual property, digital trade, competition with state-owned enterprises, and labor and environmental protections. 

“Another promising area is Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, and with the new European Commission in place, the U.S. and the European Union are moving forward with a fresh start in the T-TIP negotiations, which will build upon the already $1 trillion in two-way annual trade. 

“At the World Trade Organization, the United States is working to conclude an Information Technology Agreement expansion deal, which would cover roughly $1 trillion in trade, while moving forward in negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement and the Environmental Goods Agreement.

“This will be a critical year for trade.  We look forward to continuing our efforts to engage the public, stakeholders, and Members of Congress in a robust discussion about how we’re opening markets and creating opportunities for American exports; how we’re raising labor and environmental standards to level the playing field for American workers; how we’re promoting innovation and creativity, as well as access to its products; how we’re ensuring that governments will be able to regulate in the public interest while giving Americans abroad the same kind of protections we guarantee domestic and foreign investors here at home. 

“Mr. Chairman, as we move ahead, we’re committed to providing maximum transparency consistent with our ability to negotiate the best agreements possible, and we look forward to working with this committee and others in Congress to determine the best way to achieve that goal. 

“There is no other area of policy that reflects closer coordination between the Executive and Congress than trade policy.  To further strengthen that cooperation, as the President made clear last week, we look forward to working with Congress to pass a bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority.

“The previous TPA bill was passed over a decade ago, and an updated TPA bill is needed to address the rise of the digital economy, the increasing role of SOEs, and to reflect the latest Congressional views on labor, environment, innovation, and access to medicines.  TPA also establishes the timeline and process for the trade agreements that we bring home to be reviewed, not only by Congress but also by the American people. 

“Again, the Administration looks forward to working with this Committee and the new Congress as a whole to secure TPA that has bipartisan support. 

“We also look forward to working with Congress to renew a number of other programs, including Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), the Generalized System of Preferences, which expired in 2013, and the AGOA program, well before it expires in September this year.

“We can only accomplish these goals and priorities through strong bipartisan cooperation between Congress and the Administration.  Together, we can ensure our trade policy continues unlocking opportunity for all Americans.

“Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I am happy to take your questions.”