WASHINGTON – Confirmed by unanimous consent by the United States Senate early Friday morning, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman will attend key trade meetings in Paris May 2-4 to work to advance ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations as they enter a critical preparatory phase on the road to the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December.
"I’m honored that the U.S. Senate confirmed my nomination by President Bush to be the U.S. Trade Representative. I plan to hit the ground running by attending the OECD Ministerial meeting in Paris, and related meetings on the WTO, which are so important to advancing the President’s agenda to level the playing field and expand opportunities for American farmers, workers and businesses," said Portman. "Completing an ambitious Doha Round in 2006 offers the world the best way to promote economic prosperity, development and opportunity for all our peoples."
"The Doha negotiations are hitting a critical phase, and negotiations are lagging, particularly in the critical market access areas of agriculture, goods, and services. We must re-energize and sharpen the focus of the negotiations, while keeping ambition high," added Portman. "The United States remains committed to a successful and ambitious outcome in the Doha negotiations, and we have been a leader in advancing bold proposals in agriculture, goods and services. I look forward to listening to my colleagues and getting their views on how we narrow our differences."
In particular, Ambassador Portman noted his concern with the progress of the agriculture negotiations, specifically the technical work needed to begin tariff negotiations. Specifically, Portman called on all countries to resolve this issue as soon as possible so that the agricultural market access negotiations can proceed.
The schedule for Paris is still tentative, but Portman plans to meet with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, and Hong Kong Trade Minister John Tseng, among other colleagues.
Background on Ambassador Portman:
During his time in Congress, Portman served as the Chairman of the House Republican Leadership and was the liaison between the House Leadership and the White House. He was also a prolific legislator known for reaching across the aisle to achieve results. As a Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and its Subcommittee on Trade, he has been involved with trade issues and legislation for years. He also served as Vice Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Among other international meetings and conferences, he attended the Seattle WTO Ministerial in 1999.
Portman’s specific legislative successes include authoring the law to curtail unfunded federal mandates; the first comprehensive reform of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 50 years (adding over 50 new taxpayer rights); four laws to reduce substance abuse and its consequences through prevention and education; and three laws to encourage people to save more for retirement.
Prior to his serving in Congress, Portman was an associate in the Washington law firm of Patton Boggs from 1984-1986, where he specialized in international trade law. He worked as an associate and then a partner at the law firm of Graydon, Head and Ritchey from 1986-1989 and 1991-1993 in Cincinnati. He served in the first Bush White House from 1989-1991 as Associate Counsel to the President and later as Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
Background on U.S. Negotiating Proposals:
Within the Doha negotiations, the United States was the first WTO member to put forward a comprehensive agricultural trade reform proposal, calling for elimination of export subsidies, cuts of $100 billion in annual allowed global trade-distorting domestic subsidies, and lowering average allowed global tariffs from 62 percent to 15 percent. The United States also proposed that WTO members agree in this negotiation to a specific date for elimination of agricultural tariffs and trade-distorting domestic support.
The United States proposed eliminating all tariffs on consumer and industrial goods by 2015. The U.S. plan for zero tariffs is comprehensive, would benefit both developed and developing nations, and would eliminate tariffs on the over $6 trillion in annual world goods trade, lifting the economic fortunes of workers, families, businesses, and consumers. A University of Michigan study estimates that global free trade in goods and services would raise U.S. annual income by $500 billion as a result of tariff- free trade - contributing to higher paying jobs. The same study found gains of up to $690 billion for the EU and EFTA together (Western Europe).
In services, the United States proposed liberalizing global trade in services by removing foreign barriers in areas such as financial services, telecom, express delivery, energy, among others. Service industries are a major component of U.S. economic activity, accounting for 80 percent of U.S. employment and 63 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The United States also is the world's largest exporter of services. U.S. services exports have increased more than 70% in the last 10 years, increasing from $199 billion in 1994 to $340 billion in 2004 (estimated from 11 months data).
According to the World Bank, developing countries would gain nearly two-thirds of the benefit from global free trade in goods including agriculture. Their increase in annual income would amount to $539 billion. The bank further found that free trade could help lift 300 million people out of poverty - a number greater than the entire population of the United States.