Blog - November 2009
11/30/2009 5:02 PM
This evening in Geneva, Switzerland, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk has attended a ministerial welcome reception hosted by Swiss Economic Minister Doris Leuthard at the International Conference Center in Geneva.
Ambassador Kirk also attended a dinner hosted by the government of Japan, including Agriculture Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu.
Earlier today, Ambassador Kirk spoke at the opening plenary session of the ministerial meeting.
11/30/2009 2:23 PM
You can watch Ambassador Kirk's statement at the Opening Plenary of the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference on the U.S. Mission's website here.
GENEVA UPDATE: Ambassador Kirk Speaks at the Opening Plenary of the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference11/30/2009 1:02 PM
Ambassador Kirk delivered remarks at the Opening Plenary of the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference earlier today. Read the remarks below.
"Thank you Mr. Chairman, Director General, distinguished Members. It is an honor for me to address this 7th Ministerial Conference.
As countless studies have demonstrated over the last several months, the WTO's rules-based system promotes openness and predictability in global markets, and this leads to increased trade and improved prospects for economic growth in all of our Member economies. As our economic recovery begins and deepens worldwide, trade can and should play an important role in the restoration of global prosperity.
The global economy needs the WTO Members to deliver a strong outcome in the Doha Round of negotiations - and that is one that opens markets and creates significant new trading opportunities in agriculture, industrial goods and in services, generating global economic growth and development.
The United States is committed to achieving such an outcome, and I believe that success is possible in 2010. But substance will drive our progress, and success is not something that any one Member, or any small group of Members, can deliver or dictate. The circle of leadership within the WTO has grown broader and more inclusive and Each and every Member of this leadership group has a responsibility.
While developed countries will continue to have a significant role in the global economy, advanced developing countries are playing an ever-increasing role as well. According to the International Monetary Fund, 58 percent of global economic growth between now and 2014 will be provided by China, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and the ASEAN countries.
The creation of new trade flows and meaningful market opening, particularly in key emerging markets, is required to fulfill the development promise of Doha.
Success is not something that Negotiating Group Chairs, or our esteemed Director General, can deliver for us.
[While w]ork programs and stock takings [are] useful, we cannot confuse process and substance. All shortcuts will only lead to further delays and dead ends. There simply is no substitute for the hard work of negotiations in all formats among Members - ranging from large groups to direct bilateral engagement.
For our part, the United States' negotiating team is ready to move into the endgame. We have made our specific interests well known: that meaningful market opening is required to complete the Round. And we are looking for concrete signs from other members that they are ready to join us in that commitment. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve the goal to which we have all committed ourselves."
Opening Plenary of the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference at the International Conference Center in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ambassador Kirk speaks at the Opening Plenary session.
11/30/2009 7:14 AM
As U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Kirk works to open up markets around the world for American businesses and workers. Earlier today, he recorded a short video about being in Geneva for the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference and how he is working to create more good American jobs by opening world markets to American exports. Watch the video below.
Read Ambassador Kirk's remarks below.
"Hello, I am United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and I am in Geneva, Switzerland for the 7th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.
I am here for one simple reason - to help create more good American jobs by opening world markets to American exports.
Over the next several days, I will be meeting with my counterparts from the WTO's 153 member countries - from Canada to Cameroon, and Estonia to Ethiopia - together account for 95 percent of world trade.
America needs to tap into that trade to prosper. We need to have access to these markets to sell our goods and services to their consumers.
We need our machinists in the Midwest exporting their manufactured goods to Brazil and India. We need our farmers in Iowa selling their goods to China. And we need our doctors, teachers, and creative professionals exporting their services to the 27 European Union countries.
In 2008, trade around the world totaled nearly $20 trillion. Millions of Americans were employed to produce goods and services that were shipped around the globe. And nearly one in eight dollars earned by Americans could be attributed to exports.
The whole world knows brands like Ford, Coca-Cola, and Levi jeans. But we want them to know newer brands from smaller companies - the homegrown products that start in small town offices and make their way to consumers continents away.
American small business owners and entrepreneurs have what it takes to succeed anywhere in the world. And they deserve the opportunity to try.
It has been 4 years since the trade ministers of WTO Members last gathered for a ministerial meeting.
At our ministerial meeting, I will work with WTO members to open up trade around the world - and create more opportunities for more American manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, services providers and small businesses in the global marketplace.
So follow our efforts here at the WTO Ministerial Conference. We will continue to bring you live updates, interviews and information on Facebook, Twitter and USTR.gov.
Be sure to follow us."
11/30/2009 3:00 AM
This Weekly Trade Spotlight is on trade and jobs in America. Beginning November 30, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss job-creating opportunities at the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference.
Thisweek, Ambassador Kirk is meeting with his counterparts at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference. U.S. engagement at the WTO offers the opportunity to generate job-creating trade for American businesses and workers. Even in these difficult times, trade is supporting American jobs and market opportunities from coast to coast.
The job-creating benefits of trade span the fifty states. In Florida, the export of manufactured goods supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. And in California, over a million workers hold jobs supported by trade. Across the country six million total jobs are sustained by exports.
In Nebraska, one firm supports its 125 workers by exporting agricultural products to China. At the same time, a family-owned company in Albany, New York, sustains 350 workers by selling high-quality, high-performance valve products to Colombia.
On the whole, jobs at these companies and others that export are the kinds of high-quality jobs Americans want. Jobs supported by global trade pay on average between 13 and 18 percent higher than jobs supported by domestic consumers.
Ambassador Kirk is committed to helping more American families and workers all across the country to prosper through trade. During his time at the WTO Ministerial Conference, he will be advocating on their behalf for more and better trade opportunities.
11/29/2009 5:41 PM
This evening in Geneva, Switzerland, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk attended a services-focused dinner hosted by the Australian government. Earlier today, Ambassador Kirk met with Brazilian Trade Minister Celso Amorim and attended a reception hosted by the Indian Mission to the WTO.
11/29/2009 2:39 PM
Ambassador Ron Kirk arrived in Geneva, Switzerland today for the 7th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference. This afternoon, Ambassador Kirk met informally with Brazilian Trade Minister Celso Amorim. Ambassador Kirk and Minister Amorim discussed this week's ministerial events, and prospects for a balanced and ambitious conclusion to the Doha Round. Ambassador Kirk has stressed in recent months the need for key emerging markets, including Brazil, to provide further market openings to meet the Round's objectives.
This evening, Ambassador Kirk attended a reception for trade ministers and senior officials hosted by the Indian Mission to the WTO.
Ambassador Kirk with Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma
11/29/2009 11:30 AM
Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Mission to the World Trade Organization Dave Shark recently sat down to talk about the World Trade Organization. Dave works to generate trade opportunities for American businesses and workers. Watch the video with Dave, and read his remarks below.
"Hello, my name is David Shark and I am the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Geneva for the 7th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization beginning on November 30th.
The WTO is charged with maintaining a fair, open, rules-based system of international trade, creating an atmosphere in which American companies and workers can compete for customers all around the world.
The 153 WTO Member economies have committed to adhere to common principles and rules that promote the free flow of goods and services and the protection of intellectual property.
The WTO also has a trade dispute settlement mechanism to settle trade disputes equitably and fairly between countries.
When the international trade system functions smoothly, that permits American goods, services, and innovations to reach new customers around the world, creating jobs in communities around the United States.
It helps support communities like Sitka, Alaska, where 125 employees process Alaskan fish for shipment to Europe, Asia, and Canada., and Nashville, Tennessee, where nearly two dozen American workers produce pasta that will be sold to consumers around the world.
Here in Geneva, we work to generate trade opportunities for American businesses and workers like those I just described and others.
But trade doesn't just have the capacity to create jobs; it also has the potential to make goods and services more available for everyone.
The WTO encourages countries to keep tariffs low, which makes everything from food to clothing, to computers more affordable for consumers.
Simply put, trade can stretch individual pocketbooks as well as grow the national economy, raising the quality of life for millions of American families.
At this WTO Ministerial Conference, Ambassador Kirk will sit down with his counterparts to talk about how America can work with other member nations to ensure that trade is living up to its potential for workers and businesses around the world.
And the USTR office and officials in Geneva will continue that work throughout the new year."
11/29/2009 10:36 AM
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk arrived in Geneva, Switzerland today for the 7th Session of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. While in Geneva, Kirk will meet multilaterally with trade ministers from America's WTO partner economies, and will hold a number of meetings on the margins with key trading partners and blocs. The ministerial is not a formal negotiating session, but an opportunity to take stock of the global trading system and to discuss the importance of keeping markets open and beneficial trade flowing at this time of economic crisis.
"When the world's markets are more open to American goods and services, and trade occurs in a rules-based system, American businesses get to make and sell more products and hire more workers at home. The United States engages with other economies and plays a leadership role at the World Trade Organization in order to boost American exports and grow the well-paid jobs Americans want and need," said Kirk. "This ministerial is an important opportunity for the WTO's 153 members to take stock of the trading system overall, to build on the foundation of our rules-based trading system, and to consider the potential of a balanced and ambitious conclusion to the Doha Round of world trade negotiations."
Kirk is scheduled to address the opening plenary session of the ministerial on Monday, November 30 at the International Conference Centre Geneva, and to participate in multilateral working sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Following the public closing conference of the ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Kirk will hold a news conference.
USTR meetings on the margins include, but are not limited to, sessions with ministers from a number of least-developed countries and with the African Group. Kirk will hold a number of bilateral meetings with key U.S. trading partners as well.
11/29/2009 9:54 AM
On November 30th United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Geneva, Switzerland for the 7th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference. This Conference brings together trade ministers from the 153 members of the WTO. This blog describes the WTO-backed Aid for Trade initiative.
The Aid for Trade initiative was launched four years ago at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. Although the WTO is not a development agency, its members and other international organizations work together to advance development initiatives. Aid for Trade is one such initiative. Designed to help developing countries overcome constraints, build their economic infrastructure, and increase their competitiveness, Aid for Trade is a critical program that is helping developing countries realize their potential.
Through the Aid for Trade initiative USTR and U.S. development agencies like USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are working with developing countries to ensure that trade needs are part of national development plans. By giving these countries the training and technical assistance necessary to succeed, the U.S. government is helping them build the capacity to take advantage of the opportunities available in the global trading system.
President Obama believes that increased trade can boost growth for developing countries and improve the quality of life of the world's poorest citizens. For the United States, supporting international development is a crucial element of overall trade policy. Each year, global trade lifts millions of people out of poverty by creating stable, well-paying jobs in many developing countries.
The Obama Administration is dedicated to expanding trade opportunities through the Doha Round, as well as through existing programs.
To follow the WTO Ministerial, please visit the WTO Ministerial page here.
11/29/2009 7:11 AM
On Monday, November 30, Ambassador Kirk will deliver remarks on behalf of the United States at the opening plenary session of the 7th Session of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference; On Wednesday, December 2, Ambassador Kirk will hold a closing press conference at the conclusion of the ministerial conference. The WTO plans to webcast these events live, and you should be able to see them here on the WTO website.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Opening Plenary Session - ARCHIVED MATERIALS
9:00 a.m. ET/3:00 p.m. Geneva
TIME APPROXIMATE/SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
USTR Closing Press Conference
2:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. Geneva
TIME APPROXIMATE/SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Please note that the WTO recommends that you view test clips on these sites before the start of the conference to test your internet connection and media viewer software. The WTO has advised viewers who experience technical problems with these webcasts to contact World Television Support Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call +41-44-306-5166 (between 9 AM and 5 PM CET).
11/28/2009 9:13 AM
On November 30th, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk is attending the 7th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Trade ministers from the 153 members of the WTO will be attending this conference. This blog describes how existing WTO members work with prospective members to help them join the WTO.
The WTO accession process prepares prospective members to join the global trade community through an organization dedicated to fair, transparent, rules-based trade. That trading system offers job-creating opportunities in the international marketplace to businesses and workers around the world.
Since the WTO replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in 1995, 25 countries and separate customs territories have completed the accession process and joined the WTO. Those Members include China, Nepal, Panama, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. Currently 29 countries are working through the formal process of joining the WTO, including Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia and Serbia.
Every country or separate customs territory negotiates individualized terms for its accession with current WTO members. These terms specify how the prospective member will implement WTO standards, policies, and trade procedures. In addition, prospective members are expected to commit to specific market-opening actions, including addressing non-tariff barriers to trade.
WTO members apply special guidelines for the accession of countries that are designated by the United Nations as least developed countries (LDCs). The WTO also works to ensure that these prospective Members receive adequate technical assistance throughout the accession process. LDCs currently seeking WTO membership include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Laos, Samoa, and Yemen.
As a key member of the WTO, the United States plays an active role in accession negotiations. In addition to expanding the international trade community, the accession process presents a unique opportunity to expand market access for U.S. goods and services.
To follow the WTO Ministerial, please visit the WTO Ministerial page here.
11/27/2009 5:06 AM
On November 30th, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Geneva, Switzerland for the 7th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. This is a second ustr.gov installment on the history of this organization.
In April 1994, representatives from around the world gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco to sign a Declaration adopting the rules and commitments they had negotiated during Uruguay Round and providing for a new organization, the"World Trade Organization" (WTO). The WTO began operating on January 1, 1995.
The WTO is a member-driven organization that oversees existing international trade rules, serves as a forum for negotiating further trade liberalization, and provides a process for settling trade disputes. Trade agreements that the WTO administers lie at the core of the rules-based, multilateral trading system and most are applied by all 153 WTO Members.
The highest decision making body of the WTO, the Ministerial Conference, meets about every two years. The first WTO Ministerial Conference convened in Singapore in 1996. At the Conference, participants sat down to discuss the WTO's first two years and the progress members had made in carrying out the trade rules and commitments agreed during the Uruguay Round.
Ministerial Conferences followed in Geneva, Switzerland in 1998 and Seattle, Washington in 1999.
In 2001, the Ministerial Conference convened in Doha, Qatar. Participants focused on the need to generate more job-creating opportunities through trade. That focus led to the latest round of multilateral trade talks, known as the Doha Round. The aim of the Doha Round is to further reduce barriers to trade, as well as to assist the least developed countries expand their capacity to trade.
Ministerial Conferences in Cancun, Mexico (2003) and Hong Kong, China (2005) focused on advancing the Doha Round negotiations. Additional ministerial level negotiations on the Doha Round took place in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2006 and 2008.
The meeting beginning on November 30th in Geneva, Switzerland is the 7th WTO Ministerial Conference. The theme for the Ministerial is The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment. The, meetings will focus on the day-to-day work of the WTO, including reports on the status of the Doha Round negotiations.
To follow the WTO Ministerial, please visit the WTO Ministerial page here.
11/25/2009 12:55 PM
On November 30th, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Geneva, Switzerland for the 7th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. This is the first of two ustr.gov installments on the history of this organization.
Although the World Trade Organization (WTO) is only 14 years old, its history can be traced back to a period just after World War II.
In 1947, the world's major trading countries signed the general agreement on tariffs and trade (GATT) which laid the ground rules for the multilateral trading system. After efforts to establish an international trade organization failed in 1948, the GATT also served as a provisional forum for members to address international trade matters. Over the years, GATT members conducted a series of multilateral negotiations known as "rounds" to lower trade barriers between them.
The first five GATT trade rounds after 1947 focused on lowering tariffs. The Kennedy round in the 1960s expanded discussions from tariff cuts to more general trade rules, leading to the negotiation of the GATT anti-dumping agreement. In the 1970s, participants in the Tokyo round of talks lowered tariffs further and concluded agreements -- which only some members joined -- on non-tariff trade barriers, such as technical standards.
The following round, launched in 1986, built upon the progress made in the Tokyo round and in previous negotiations. Known as the Uruguay round, it was, up to that time, the largest and most comprehensive trade round. In the Uruguay round, GATT members agreed to lower tariffs, address non-tariff barriers, and extend trade rules into several new areas, including trade in services and intellectual property.
At the conclusion of the Uruguay round, representatives from most of the 123 participants signed a declaration in Marrakesh, morocco creating the world trade organization and bringing the agreements and commitments concluded during the round under the new organization. On January 1, 1995, the WTO officially replaced the GATT and the informal forum it provided for more than four decades.
Today, the WTO is a vital international institution. It has 153 members and, collectively, they represent 95 percent of world trade.
To follow the WTO Ministerial, please visit the WTO Ministerial page here.
11/24/2009 4:05 PM
Next week, Ambassador Kirk will travel to Geneva, Switzerland for the seventh ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs, Carol Guthrie, sat down earlier to talk about how USTR will be making this year's ministerial accessible for everyone. Watch the video below and read the remarks below.
"Hello, my name is Carol Guthrie and I am the Assistant United States Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs.
On November 30, United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk and I will be in Geneva, Switzerland at the 7th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.
And we want you to come along as well.
While we're in Geneva, Ambassador Kirk will meet with trade ministers from the other 152 members of the WTO. Here at USTR, we know that increasing American exports to our trading partner economies helps us to grow good-paying jobs here at home.
So Ambassador Kirk will be working hard to build relationships with these partners and open new doors for American exporters and workers.
Here on USTR.gov, we want to open a door for you - with an insider's view of this WTO ministerial.
We'll cover this meeting in real time on USTR.gov, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, with updates,
interviews, photos, and all sorts of information.
Trade can make a real difference in America's economic recovery, and in your family's finances.
So we want you to know what we're doing in Geneva, and why. We're working there to create economic opportunities for all Americans, through trade.
Stay tuned to USTR.gov. Become a fan of us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out some photos on our Flickr page.
We'll report back from Geneva all next week."
11/23/2009 10:29 AM
On Friday, November 20, Ambassador Ron Kirk served as the keynote speaker for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) North Texas Scholarship Luncheon that benefitted students and five UNCF member institutions in Texas, such as Paul Quinn College in Dallas.
During his keynote address, Ambassador Kirk stressed that getting an education will help today's youth become more marketable and will also help make America a world leader in areas such as manufacturing, commerce and trade. Always focused on its motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste,"® the UNCF plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend college and get the education they want and deserve.
11/21/2009 10:56 AM
Today, in his weekly radio address, President Obama spoke about his first presidential trip to Asia, and the importance of the region to our economic prosperity and job creation here at home. From a trade perspective, Asia is home to the fastest growing economies in the world and we now buy more goods from and do more trade with the region than any other place in the world. Listen to the President's radio address here.
President Obama said that increasing America's exports to Asia will play a role in sustaining and creating new jobs for the American people. For example, if we can increase our exports to Asia Pacific nations by just 5%, we can increase the number of American jobs supported by these exports by hundreds of thousands.
An example of how trade helps to sustain and create new jobs is a small business, Turf Merchants, located in Tangent, Oregon. Turf Merchants employs 14 people and their company develops, produces, and markets grass seeds. Today, the products made by Turf Merchants are shipped to more than 20 countries around the world, including China. And the Oregonians hard at work at Turf Merchants owe their jobs and their paychecks, at least in part, to trade.
Small businesses like Turf Merchants are major employers in many communities, and we know that they are economic drivers. In almost every community in America, big or small, rural or urban, a homegrown company is supporting jobs and families by engaging in international commerce.
That is one of the many reasons why the President's trip to Asia was so important. The Administration has taken concrete steps to further open the world's markets to American exporters to sustain and create new jobs as well as to unleash additional prosperity for our ranchers, farmers, service providers and small business women and men. These include President Obama's announcement that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and his pledge that the United States will remain an active partner with the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC). The agreements secured by China at the recent 2009 U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) -- to improve market access for American energy companies, reopen its market to U.S. pork, and clamp down on internet piracy - strengthen the foundation we have established to ensure a robust, rules-based trading relationship with the world's fastest growing economies.
From a trade perspective, the steps the Administration has recently taken in Asia will benefit businesses and workers across the American economy - ranchers, farmers, manufacturers, and creative industries all have a future in U.S. trade with Asia.
11/18/2009 5:51 PM
Earlier today a new APEC website for the Environmental Goods and Services Information Exchange (EGSIE) went live. The EGSIE is an innovative new website that will promote information-sharing and collaboration related to cutting edge environmental technologies in the Asia-Pacific region and will also promote the dissemination of such technologies globally.
The new website is a joint project sponsored by the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Today, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers endorsed the website and encouraged all economies to contribute to it. APEC Ministers also endorsed a multi-year work program on environmental goods and services that will focus on promoting greater dissemination and utilization of environmental goods and services in the region, in particular through identifying and addressing market access barriers to this important sector.
11/18/2009 5:33 PM
On Saturday in Tokyo, Japan, President Obama announced that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade. Here's what some people have been saying about this news:
For more general information on American trade with the Asia-Pacific and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please visit here.
For comments by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please visit here.
11/18/2009 1:43 PM
Yesterday, USTR General Counsel Tim Reif testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about the importance of U.S. trade preference programs. At the end of the year two programs, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act, are coming up for renewal and Reif stressed how all U.S. preference programs can promote development, economic growth and poverty reduction in countries benefiting from the programs, and in turn provide a stronger global trading system by expanding opportunities for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses - including small and medium sized companies.
To review Reif's testimony, please click here.
11/17/2009 4:40 PM
Today USTR Ron Kirk continued his visit to Beijing, China as part of the US delegation to accompany President Barack Obama on his state visit to China. Cabinet officials participated in a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People with President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. American and Chinese officials also held an expanded bilateral meeting.
Concluding the official welcoming ceremony with President Hu, Ambassador Kirk, Secretary Locke and Secretary Chu held a joint meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li KeQiang. Among the issues discussed were importance of close cooperation between the United States and China on trade and economic issues, as well as climate change. During the meeting Ambassador Kirk also emphasized the importance of balanced growth in a way that benefits both countries.
The United States and China have a large and dynamic trading relationship. Bilateral trade in goods totaled $408 billion in 2008, and China is now the United States' second largest trading partner.
Over the past month, Ambassador Kirk has spent significant time in Asia, engaging his counterparts to help further open Asia markets to sustain and create new jobs at home. He served as co-chair of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Hangzhou, China and participated in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Singapore.
11/16/2009 5:53 PM
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Beijing, China for a roundtable discussion about how trade can create and sustain high-paying jobs here at home. Secretary Locke joined Ambassador Kirk to talk with leaders of AmCham-China. Secretary Locke focused on an agenda that seeks to create jobs at home by making U.S. businesses more competitive in some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Concluding the roundtable, Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Locke held a town hall meeting with membership of AmCham-China.
Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Locke are part of the U.S. delegation visiting China with President Obama. The trip gives Ambassador Kirk the opportunity to further engage their Chinese counterparts on reducing trade barriers to provide more jobs and greater economic opportunities for America's workers, farmers, ranchers and service providers. Kirk and Locke discussed their recent session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Hangzhou, China, where creating American jobs and opening China's market were also on the agenda. During the October JCCT, China announced its intent to re-open the Chinese market to U.S. pork products and live swine. China also agreed to remove local content requirements on wind turbines, AmCham-China is a Beijing-based, non-profit organization representing the interests of some 2,500 companies and individuals doing business throughout China.
11/16/2009 5:22 PM
This week's weekly trade focus is on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Last month Assistant United States Trade Representative Lewis Karesh traveled to Jordan as part of an interagency delegation to promote dialogue regarding relevant issues surrounding the United States Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
The United States and Jordan share a longstanding history of cooperation that stretches back forty years. America's relationship with Jordan is one that has proven to be mutually beneficial and is built upon America's strong interests in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.
On October 24, 2000, the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Jordan that went into force on December 17, 2001. The FTA has gradually phased out tariffs on nearly all goods and services traded between the United States and Jordan and seeks the complete elimination of tariffs by 2010. Jordan is the fourth country in the world and first Arab state to have signed an FTA with the United States and is the first to include labor and environmental provisions as part of its core text. For Jordan, this free trade agreement represents a commitment towards a revolutionary economic reform program with the purpose of economic liberalization and deeper engagement with the world community as a whole. In addition to implementing a FTA with the United States, Jordan has acceded into the World Trade Organization.
The economic transformation of Jordan has proven to be strikingly successful for both Jordan and the United States. In 1998, total exports from Jordan to the United States totaled $16 million. Today America imports $1.1 billion of goods from Jordan as well as exports $940 million worth of goods. In the future, the United States looks forward to continuing to further our relationship with Jordan, knowing that it will bring tangible benefits to everyday Jordanians and Americans.
11/16/2009 4:40 PM
On Saturday in Tokyo, Japan, President Obama announced that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade. Here's what some people have been saying about this news:Emergency Committee for American Trade
For more general information on American trade with the Asia-Pacific and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please visit here.
For comments by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please visit here.
USTR Staff Meet with Trans-Pacific Partnership Counterparts, Prepare for Congressional Consultations on TPP11/16/2009 10:01 AM
In the wake of President Obama's announcement that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership to shape a trade agreement that includes the high standards and broad geographic scope necessary to successfully integrate Asia-Pacific economies, staff from the Office of the United States Trade Representative remained in Singapore on Sunday and Monday to meet with counterparts in Trans-Pacific Partnership countries. The United States intends to consult closely with Congress and with all stakeholders at home, and to engage with the TPP participants to shape an agreement that includes the high standards and broad geographic scope necessary to successfully integrate Asia-Pacific economies.
USTR staff and their TPP country counterparts met to discuss work that would need to be done to develop proposals to fill gaps in previous trade agreements and to shape a 21st century trade agreement. These discussions will inform consultations with Congress and with stakeholders about how best to move forward on TPP.
11/13/2009 11:25 PM
President Obama announced today in Tokyo that the U.S. will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade. Read the fact sheet below to find out more.
INCREASING U.S. EXPORTS, CREATING AMERICAN JOBS: ENGAGEMENT WITH THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP
On November 14, 2009, President Obama shared the United States' intention to engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other economies in the region in an effort toward regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. This effort will be pursued with the goals of increasing American exports in the region and creating good jobs at home, through robust engagement in a region that already represents more than 40 percent of world trade.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a potential platform for economic integration across the Asia Pacific region. The United States will engage with an initial group of seven like-minded countries, Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Australia, Peru, and Vietnam, to craft a platform for a high-standard, comprehensive agreement - one that reflects U.S. priorities and values - with these and additional Asia-Pacific partners.
American Opportunity in the Asia-Pacific
Over the past four and a half years (1st quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2009), trade has remained an important part of the U.S. economy. American goods and services exports to the world accounted for 40 percent of real GDP growth in the United States. The Asia Pacific's robust economies offer huge opportunities to grow U.S. exports, thereby creating and retaining high-quality, high-paying jobs in the United States.
According to the East-West Center, Asia already accounts for 27 percent of total U.S. jobs from exports and employment from exports to Asia grew 12 percent from 2002 to 2006. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the Asia-Pacific economies will grow faster than the world average through at least 2014. Expanding U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific region can contribute significantly to further job growth and economic recovery for America's working families.
A Foundation for Success
The huge markets of the Asia Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural and services suppliers. U.S. goods exports to the Asia Pacific totaled $747 billion in 2008, up 8.3 percent over 2007, with agricultural products comprising $76 billion in 2008 - a 30-percent increase over the previous year. U.S. services exports totaled $186.5 billion in 2008, up 7.7 percent over 2007. America's small- and medium-sized enterprises alone exported $173 billion to the Asia-Pacific in 2008.
Jobs supported by goods exports - the kinds of jobs that engagement in the Asia-Pacific can help to grow - pay 13-18 percent higher than the national average. A 2008 University of Michigan study estimates that an Asia-Pacific trade agreement would increase real U.S. income by 1.2 percent.
American Competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific
Engagement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership can help America ensure its share of the job-creating economic opportunities this region has to offer. While U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific increased by 63 percent during the past five years, our share of trade in the region has declined by three percent in favor of U.S. competitors. Asia-Pacific countries have negotiated bilateral trade agreements and regional agreements, including ASEAN + 3 (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma plus China, Japan, and Korea) and ASEAN + 6 (ASEAN plus China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand).
A 2001 study by Robert Scollay forecasts that America could lose as much as $25 billion in exports annually solely from the static discriminatory effects of an East Asia Free Trade Area excluding the United States.
11/13/2009 11:15 PM
In a speech to the APEC CEO Summit today, Ambassador Kirk commented on U.S. engagement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Visit here to find out more.
11/13/2009 10:59 PM
In Singapore today, Ambassador Kirk spoke to the APEC CEO Summit on "The United States and APEC Partners in Global Trade Today."
Click here to read the text.
Ambassador Kirk is greeted onstage at the APEC CEO Summit by Peter Loescher, President and CEO of Siemens AG.
11/13/2009 11:18 AM
Earlier this week, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for APEC Affairs Wendy Cutler sat down to talk about this week's APEC meeting in Singapore. Watch the video below.
You can read her remarks below.
"Hello, my name is Wendy Cutler and I am the Assistant United States Trade Representative for APEC affairs.
On November 14th, The United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will join President Obama in Singapore for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, also known as APEC.
APEC was established in 1989 for the purpose of providing an venue for cooperation and dialogue on economic issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.
This meeting is important because the 21 member economies of APEC account for over half of global GDP and 44 percent of global trade.
Since 1994, American exports to APEC economies have increased over 137 percent to over $2.1 trillion dollars.
And the Asia-Pacific market presents American companies and workers unparalleled potential.
APEC represents a tremendous opportunity for the United States to work with other nations to reduce trade and investment barriers in order to provide new markets for American goods and services.
At the November APEC Summit, we will work to advance and ambitious and balanced conclusion to the WTO Doha Development Round, promote regional economic integration by addressing specific barriers to trade and investment, and make it cheaper and easier to do business in the region, particularly for small businesses, by cutting red-tape and making rules and regulations more transparent.
Through APEC we are working to open more markets to more American products and services.
Because when Americans are able to do business around the globe, that can create jobs here at home.
We look forward to working diligently with our counterparts to make the APEC meeting a success and we very much look forward to 2011 when we will be hosting the APEC meeting in the United States."
11/12/2009 12:16 PM
In Singapore on Thursday, trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum member economies took steps to make it easier to trade across the region - which can help to increase U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific and create well-paid jobs at home. In a closing plenary session, Ambassador Kirk and other trade ministers endorsed principles to govern the trade of cross-border services, and agreed to simplify the documentation for certifying the origin of goods under trade agreements.
At the close of the Singapore gathering, ministers also welcomed a statement by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama welcoming the delegates to Japan when that country hosts APEC in 2010. The United States will host APEC in 2011.
Ambassador Kirk met on Thursday with Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, who traveled to Singapore for the APEC gathering. Assistant United States Trade Representative for Congressional Affairs Luis Jimenez has accompanied Ambassador Kirk on this week's APEC visit.
Ambassador Kirk also on Thursday briefed members of the U.S. business community who are in Singapore for the APEC CEO Summit. Ambassador Kirk will formally address the CEO Summit on behalf of President Obama this weekend.
This week's APEC action will also feature the launch of the Environmental Goods and Services Information Exchange (EGSIE), an innovative new website that will promote information-sharing and collaboration related to cutting edge environmental technologies in the Asia-Pacific region. It will also promote the dissemination of such technologies globally and is a practical step towards addressing climate change and other environmental concerns. Keep watching ustr.gov for an alert when the site goes live.
11/10/2009 12:44 PM
On October 14, the United States Government submitted proposals to the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to list six shark species and over 30 species of red and pink corals in Appendix II of the Convention and to uplist the polar bear to CITES Appendix I. Additionally the United States submitted a proposal to remove the bobcat from the CITES Appendices and several other documents relating to technical implementation issues. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to CITES will be held in Doha, Qatar, during March 13- 25, 2010, where the Parties to the Convention will discuss relevant issues concerning the trade in animal and plant species, including the aforemented U.S. proposals.
CITES is an international agreement with 175 Parties. The purpose of the Convention is to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival. Current data indicate that International trade in wildlife is worth billions of dollars annually.
CITES lists species in three appendices, depending on the level of protection needed. Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction and bans all commercial trade. Appendix II lists species that are not immediately threatened with extinction, but might be without strict trade controls. Trade in Appendix-II species is allowed if the exporting country can find that the wildlife was legally acquired and the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. Listing in Appendix I or II requires a two-thirds majority of the voting Parties. Countries that ask for a species to be placed in Appendix III are requesting international cooperation regarding the regulation of trade in that species. Appendix-III listings can be done unilaterally. Currently, more than 30,000 animal and plant species are listed in one of the appendices to CITES, including sea turtles, American ginseng, and the giant panda.
11/10/2009 11:20 AM
After arriving in Singapore overnight for this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering, Ambassador Kirk on Tuesday began his schedule of bilateral meetings with APEC trading partners and with congressional leaders in Singapore for APEC as well. Ambassador Kirk is working to reduce both long-standing and new trade barriers among APEC members and to make it cheaper and easier for Americans to do business in the region - facilitating economic growth and job creation at home in the United States.
Ambassador Kirk and USTR officials sat down for a bilateral luncheon meeting with Singaporean Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang and Singaporean trade officials. Singapore is the host for this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings; after Japan hosts in 2010, the United States will host APEC in 2011. Topics at Tuesday's U.S.-Singapore luncheon included work among host countries to make these APEC years a success, as well as key market-opening, job-creating initiatives on which APEC members can begin and build over the next few years. Areas of particular interest include trade in environmental goods and services.
Ambassador Kirk hosted House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) for a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore. As USTR works to craft trade policy that is responsible and more responsive to the needs of America's working families, Ambassador Kirk has committed to working closely with congressional leaders and stakeholders to strike the right balance on trade policy.
11/06/2009 2:07 PM
Ambassador Kirk and Ethiopian Trade Minister Girma Birru met to discuss the growing U.S.-Ethiopian trade and investment relationship, including the vital role that the African Growth and Opportunity Act is playing in strengthening the relationship. The Ministers also discussed Ethiopia's efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization. Ambassador Kirk encouraged Ethiopia to continue making progress on reforms to increase investment, trade, and economic growth, as well as make Ethiopia more competitive in the global economy.
11/05/2009 10:50 AM
Ambassador Kirk met yesterday with Korea's Ambassador to the United States Han Duk-soo.
Ambassador Kirk and Ambassador Han discussed the Administration's review of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), as well as the upcoming meetings between Ambassador Kirk and his counterpart, Trade Minister Kim, on the margins of next week's APEC meetings in Singapore and the summit meeting between President Obama and President Lee in Seoul on November 19.
Later today, Ambassador Kirk will be giving a speech at the U.S.-Korea Business Council Dinner. Check back for more information.
11/05/2009 10:02 AM
We frequently receive questions about pending and prospective Free Trade Agreements with our trading partners. This one comes from Josh in Virginia. He writes:
"Dear USTR Kirk, In May John Kerry sponsored a Senate Resolution (S.RES.136) "expressing the sense that the U.S. should initiate negotiations to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of Georgia." Has the USTR investigated the possibility of such an agreement? What is the USTR's stance on the issue?"
Ambassador Kirk responds:
"Thank you for your inquiry, Josh.
In 2007, we concluded a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Georgia aimed at strengthening and expanding bilateral trade and investment. The agreement establishes a United States-Georgia Council on Trade and Investment, which I chair along with the Georgian Minister of Economic Development. The United States and Georgia work through this forum to accomplish our mutual goals of augmenting and diversifying the products and services we trade and minimizing policies of protection and distortion.
I appreciate Senator Kerry's interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with Georgia. We work closely with members of the Senate and the House to assess appropriate ways to grow our trading relationships around the world. We are currently working to resolve outstanding issues with regard to our pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and Korea. We are also considering whether it would be advisable to launch additional free trade negotiations. At the same time, we continue to work with nations such as Georgia to maintain robust trade relations.
U.S. exports to Georgia have increased from just $16.5 million in 1992 to over $586 million in 2008. Similarly, imports from Georgia have grown from $7.3 million in 1992 to over $207 million in 2008. I am encouraged by this positive trend. I also appreciate the importance of promoting increased trade and investment with Georgia - particularly in the wake of last year's conflict, as foreign trade and investment can help to improve stability and aid in Georgia's recovery from both the conflict and the global economic downturn.
You will find a link to our TIFA with Georgia, along with other similar agreements, here on the USTR website."
Thank you for continuing our dialogue on trade. Please keep submitting your questions and comments for the Ambassador.
11/04/2009 6:17 PM
On Wednesday, USTR Ron Kirk highlighted the connection between health care reform and international competitiveness in an address to District Export Council members. DEC members have dedicated themselves to supporting exports from their local communities; health care reform could be a critical boost to many of the small businesses that come to Council members for advice.
An excerpt of Ambassador Kirk's remarks on health care:
"In almost every community in America, big or small, rural or urban, a homegrown company is supporting jobs and families by engaging in international commerce.
You know that because you work with many of those companies in your own communities. You also know that economic worries at home can impede their ability to do business around the world. And right now, many Americans have no bigger economic worry than health care. That's why, to ensure that America's companies and workers can truly take advantage of all of trade opportunities, we must reform America's health insurance system. That is a trade priority. American businesses and workers can't take full advantage of job-creating trade opportunities as long as our health care system drains their resources.
The bottom line is: no family should lose their home and no business should go broke because someone gets sick in America. As President Obama has said, this isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue - it's a moral issue. The time for bickering is over. Now it's time to act.
President Obama's health insurance reform plan addresses three simple goals: If you have health insurance, it will give you more security and stability. If you don't have insurance it will give you quality, affordable options. And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government. To find out more about President Obama's plan for health care reform, I encourage you to visit healthreform.gov."
11/03/2009 7:36 PM
The second meeting of the Joint Committee responsible for supervising the operation of the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) took place today in Washington. United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk headed the U.S. delegation and Minister of External Commerce Abdellatif Maazouz led the Moroccan delegation.
Ambassador Kirk, Minister Maazouz and their delegations discussed bilateral trade, investment and economic issues of mutual interest, as well as the administration of the FTA. Both governments acknowledged the progress and collaborative work that has taken place since the last meeting of the Joint Committee in Rabat in March 2008. The delegations stressed that the Joint Committee meetings are an important aspect of the continued development of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Morocco. The FTA contributes significantly to the strong bilateral relations between the United States and Morocco and both delegations acknowledged the importance of engaging their respective private sectors to take advantage of the FTA.
The two sides agreed to continue their work to strengthen cooperation in trade, investment and other economic issues.
11/03/2009 4:20 PM
Earlier today, Ambassador Demetrios Marantis spoke at the U.S.-Japan Business Council Annual Business Conference.
Japan is the United States' fourth largest trading partner, with $270 million goods and services being traded on a daily basis. The Obama Administration believes, however, that we can strengthen our trade and economic ties with Japan further, including expanding our focus on pursuing common agendas.
Ambassador Marantis shared his ideas on how to increase bilateral trade this morning. Read excerpts of his speech below.
"Bilaterally, we need to maintain a focus on resolving issues of concern that are raised by our respective business communities and other stakeholders. Much of this work has taken place to date under our bilateral Regulatory Reform Initiative. It is important to keep this work going - but also update and strengthen it in new ways.
One way is to begin to use this forum as a venue to pursue new building blocks in our relationship - projects that require joint action to address practical or emerging regulatory and business environment issues of common interest.
It is also important for us to step-up our bilateral cooperation to address issues in third countries where we have common concerns. We are already working together to address information technology policy issues in third countries like China, including bringing a joint dispute settlement case in the WTO against the EU relating to the WTO Information Technology Agreement. We believe there is more that can be done jointly to tackle common concerns around the world.
On the multilateral front, the United States and Japan share a common goal of advancing the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations as the primary mechanism to reduce trade barriers and further accelerate global trade liberalization.
The United States is committed to the successful completion of the Round as soon as possible. This goal can be met - but substance will drive progress. Success depends on everyone's efforts and contributions. For our part, the U.S. negotiating team is ready to go into the endgame, and we are looking for concrete signs that others, including Japan, are ready to do the same.
As the two largest economies in the Asia-Pacific region, our work in APEC is also of great importance. And we have before us a particularly valuable opportunity to advance our mutual goals in APEC while strengthening our own relationship.
After the APEC economy leaders meet in Singapore a few days from now, attention will quickly turn to Japan's 2010 host year for APEC. We have already been working with Japan very closely to make both Japan's 2010 APEC host year and the United States' 2011 APEC host year as successful as possible. Our cooperation will only intensify in the coming months. These two years present a major opportunity for our governments to strengthen and update APEC. This will ensure APEC remains relevant and meaningful, and allows us to use APEC to pursue new initiatives of common interest."
For more from Ambassador Marantis's speech, click here.
11/03/2009 2:18 PM
During last week's meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, Ambassador Kirk, Secretary Gary Locke and Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke with Rui Chenggang of Chinese Central Television (CCTV) about the 2009 U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting held in Hangzhou, China. The three Obama cabinet officials discussed the importance of the U.S.-China relationship and how the JCCT helps to address bilateral trade matters and promote commercial opportunities between the two countries. The following videos begin in Mandarin, but the interview segments with Ambassador Kirk, Secretary Locke and Secretary Vilsack are in English.
11/03/2009 10:48 AM
Today Ambassador Kirk joined Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, the Washington state Congressional delegation and businesses from the state to discuss the importance of trade.
The discussion began with the fact that one-in-three jobs in Washington depend on trade and the state leads the country in exports. All of the participants agreed that a robust trade agenda was critical to the U.S. economy and to the state of Washington.
Ambassador Kirk and his team were applauded for their efforts in China and encouraged to do more to strengthen IP rights, advance export opportunities and promote fair competition in the global marketplace.
One of the big issues for the members of the Washington delegation was Innovation and the export of clean technology to emerging markets.
The Washington delegation emphasized that their state was at the forefront of innovation and was ready to lead in the exporting of energy efficiency.
Ambassador Kirk thanked the members of the delegation for their continued support and promised to continue working to open markets for American businesses in order to create jobs and prosperity.
11/02/2009 6:47 PM
Ambassador Ron Kirk and Moroccan Minister of External Commerce Abdellatif Maazouz met this afternoon to discuss bilateral trade relations. Today's meeting was in preparation for tomorrow's session of the Joint Committee of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
You can read this week's USTR.gov trade topic on Morocco for more information on U.S.-Morocco trade relations, and check back tomorrow for more information on the FTA meeting.
11/02/2009 6:35 PM
Every week, the USTR website explores a new trade topic with background information and current trade data. On November 3rd United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will meet with Moroccan Minister of Foreign Trade Abdellatif Maazouz under the auspices of the Joint Committee established under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.
Morocco and the United States have a long history of friendship and cooperation. Morocco became the first country to publicly recognize the United States in 1777 and has remained an important ally of the United States in the Middle East. In 1787 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams formalized America's relationship with Morocco in the form of a Treaty of Friendship. The United States and Morocco signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2004 in an effort to stimulate commercial ties between the two countries.
Over the past 222 years, bilateral trade benefiting both nations has been a hallmark of America's relationship with Morocco. In 2008, bilateral trade in goods between the United States and Morocco totaled $2.4 billion, which is an increase of 148% since 2005. This increasing volume in trade is due in large part to the FTA, which entered into force in January 2006. While bilateral trade has declined during 2009 due to global economic conditions, the United States is hopeful that the multi-year positive trend will soon return.
The Joint Committee is chaired by the United States Trade Representative and the Moroccan Ministry on Foreign Trade. Its purpose is to oversee the implementation of the FTA and resolve any issues that arise. The Joint Committee has been successful in finding cooperative measures to expand trade and improve the business climate between the United States and Morocco by focusing on concrete problem-solving. Ambassador Kirk looks forward to discussions on a variety of important bilateral trade topics, primarily focusing trade and investment.