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  • 07/30/2012 4:49 PM

    Last Monday, Russia notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it had accepted its terms of accession and is prepared to become the organization’s 157th member on August 22, 2012. As the United States welcomes Russia’s Membership in the WTO, the Obama Administration is working closely with Congress to ensure that the WTO Agreement will apply between the United States and Russia. When the WTO Agreement is in full effect between the United States and Russia, U.S. exporters will be able to access all of the job-supporting benefits that come with Russia joining the rules-based global trading system.

    A significant benefit of Russia’s WTO Membership is improved market access for U.S. goods exports to Russia. Until now, Russia had no tariff bindings, meaning it could increase its tariffs without limit and without notice. Over the past few years, Russia has occasionally raised tariffs on a number of U.S. exports, such as combine harvesters, steel pipes and rolled products, rice, and processed cheese, just to name a few. As a WTO Member, Russia has not only reduced many tariff rates, it has established limits on the tariff level it can apply to all products, providing certainty and predictability to U.S. exporters.

    These commitments will bring significant benefits to American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. For example, soybeans are the largest source of farm cash receipts in Ohio. Under the WTO Agreement, Russia has committed to cut soybean tariffs to zero, which could create significant opportunities for soybean farmers in the Buckeye State. Importantly, the WTO Agreement also provides the United States with the enforcement tools necessary to ensure Russia fulfills its WTO commitments.

    Similarly, Russia has committed to provide greater and more predictable access to its services market. In sectors such as audio-visual, telecommunications, and financial services, Russia is allowing foreign companies to operate as 100 percent foreign-owned enterprises. These provisions will give U.S. service providers additional certainty and security to help them expand their businesses in Russia’s large and growing market.

    As part of its WTO accession terms, Russia has also committed to provide stronger protection for U.S. intellectual property rights. Russia’s enhanced IPR commitments will support well-paying jobs in America’s innovative and creative industries.

    Without the WTO Agreement in place, many of these job-supporting benefits would be unavailable to U.S. exporters, manufacturers, creators, and workers. At the same time, competitors from other WTO Member countries will soon begin to enjoy these benefits, which creates the potential for our exporters to be put at a disadvantage. That is why the Administration is working closely with Congress to secure legislation terminating the application to Russia of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which currently precludes permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia. When adopted, legislation authorizing PNTR with Russia will provide American businesses, workers, and families an equal opportunity to access the full benefits of Russia’s WTO Membership.

  • 07/30/2012 4:14 PM

    Last Week, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk attended an Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) Principals Meeting at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The meeting provided an opportunity for Cabinet officials to discuss opportunities and options for increasing exports and the Obama Administration’s overall trade agenda.

    A major topic of discussion at the meeting was the Administration’s new strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which is part of the President’s Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) released on June 14 during the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in DC. President Obama announced this new strategy of engagement with the region, stating that, “it is in the interest of the United States to improve the region’s trade competitiveness, encourage the diversification of exports beyond natural resources, and ensure that the benefits from growth are broad-based.” The strategy sets forth four strategic objectives: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development.

    The Office of the United States Trade Representative is playing an integral role in implementing President Obama’s new plan. One of the most important aspects of this strategy is to increase bilateral trade and investment by facilitating the interaction between America’s private sector and Africa. Many small- and medium-sized businesses are unaware of the vast opportunities in Africa. Some of the steps taken by the Administration to render these opportunities more accessible include focusing on improving infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa to decrease transportation costs; increasing economic governance and transparency to lessen dependence on aid; and establishing institutional reforms to create an enabling trade environment. To further home in on this point, the theme of this year’s AGOA forum was “Enhancing Africa’s Infrastructure for trade.”

  • 07/27/2012 5:27 PM

    Washington, D.C. – Senior U.S. and Chinese trade officials provided updates on recent developments in U.S.-China trade and investment relations at today’s U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) mid-year review meeting in Washington.

    Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez and Deputy United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis co-chaired the meeting with Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Chao. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agricultural Negotiator, USTR, and Janet Nuzum, Associate Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, also participated in the meeting.

    The two governments reviewed implementation of commitments made at the 2011 JCCT and began preparations for the 2012 JCCT meeting, which is to be held in the United States later this year.

    Ambassador Marantis said, “We leverage the JCCT process to resolve trade and investment policy challenges, and the Mid-Year Review is a key opportunity to develop momentum for this year’s JCCT plenary and ensure that China fully implements last year’s commitments.”

    “The U.S.-China trade relationship remains one of the most important in the world, but the relationship must be fair, balanced, and mutually beneficial,” Sánchez said. “We will continue to push China to take concrete steps that open its markets to and level the playing field for U.S. goods and services, to ensure that these principles guide our bilateral trade ties.”

    China is a critical destination for U.S. manufactured goods and services, as America’s third largest export market, following neighboring Canada and Mexico. Between 2009 and 2011, U.S. goods exports to China grew by nearly 50 percent.

    The JCCT, established in 1983, is the main forum for addressing bilateral trade concerns and promoting commercial opportunities between the United States and China.

  • 07/25/2012 4:00 PM

    Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis visited the Bay Area on July 23 and 24 to discuss and solicit input on various Obama Administration trade initiatives in the Asia-Pacific, especially ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

    Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, DAUSTR for Intellectual
    Property Probir Mehta, and AUSTR for Public Engagement Christine Turner visit
    Google's headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

    During that time, Ambassador Marantis met with key San Francisco and Silicon Valley based companies -- including Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Square -- where he discussed the importance of promoting innovation in the TPP, and highlighted USTR's new proposal on copyright exceptions such as fair use in the intellectual property chapter of TPP, e-commerce provisions, and other issues. Ambassador Marantis also discussed challenges in Asia-Pacific trade with the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences and electric vehicle designer and manufacturer Tesla Motors.

    Ambassador Marantis visits the Tesla Motors manufacturing facility in Fremont, CA.

    While in San Francisco, Ambassador Marantis also joined Department of Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez for a working lunch event organized by the Bay Area Council. There the two officials briefed local business leaders on recent developments in U.S. trade policy, including negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and U.S. trade and investment relations with China and India.

  • 07/25/2012 10:20 AM

    Yesterday, Ambassador Kirk visited with the U.S.-Russia Business Council to discuss the Obama Administration’s commitment to securing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia as soon as possible. The meeting took place just a day after Russia notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it has accepted its terms of accession to the WTO; Russia will become the 156th Member of the WTO on August 22, 2012.

    In opening remarks, Ambassador Kirk stressed the importance of terminating application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and extending PNTR to Russia.

    After his remarks, Ambassador Kirk engaged in direct dialogue with U.S.-Russia Business Council members about PNTR for Russia and related issues.

    Ambassador Kirk at a meeting of the U.S.-Russia Business Council
    Ambassador Kirk discusses Russia PNTR with U.S.-Russia Business Council Chairman Ed Verona at a
    meeting with U.S.-Russia Business Council members.

  • 07/23/2012 4:05 PM

    At USTR, we pride ourselves on our commitment to public engagement. We try to solicit input from every end of the opinion spectrum when we craft new trade policies, because we know that successful trade agreements depend on buy-in from concerned stakeholders. We apply that same commitment to our efforts to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values and seeks to create jobs here at home.

    Today, we posted two announcements in the Federal Register. These two notices request input from the public, stakeholder groups, and members of Congress on how we should update our TPP negotiating priorities in light of the inclusion of Canada and Mexico in the list of TPP member countries. Instructions for participation online, or in person, are included in the documents posted below. The next negotiating round of the TPP will take place in Leesburg, Virginia from September 6-15, 2012. For more information on TPP engagement, please visit

    Request for Comments on Negotiating Objectives With Respect to Canada's Participation in the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

    Request for Comments on Negotiating Objectives With Respect to Mexico's Participation in the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

  • 07/23/2012 3:22 PM

    On Friday, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to meet with local labor and business leaders and discuss opportunities to support more American jobs through exports. This was his fourth visit to Pittsburgh as U.S. Trade Representative.

    He kicked off his visit with a roundtable discussion hosted by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC). The event, entitled “Winning in the Global Economy,” focused on the role of international trade and investment in the success of America’s economy. Ambassador Kirk highlighted the Obama Administration’s continuing efforts to create new export opportunities for American businesses and workers. Ambassador Kirk and NFTC members discussed recently implemented trade agreements with Korea and Colombia, and the pending implementation of the Panama trade agreement. They also discussed forward-leaning trade initiatives including the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, an ambitious agreement created to enhance trade and investment among the TPP member countries, and new World Trade Organization initiatives such as the International Technology Agreement.

    Ambassador Kirk at the National Foreign Trade Council Luncheon

    Following his event with NFTC, Ambassador Kirk toured economic development projects surrounding Pittsburgh International Airport. He was joined on the tour by Export-Import Bank Vice Chair Wanda Felton, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Allegheny County Executive Richard Fitzgerald, and Executive Director and CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority Brad Penrod. The area surrounding the airport has office buildings, research and development space, a hotel, and jet hangars. Airport and local government authorities are hoping to turn a 195-acre tract of land into a major new economic development site. The area is already part of a foreign trade zone, which allows companies to import goods, create products, and resell them outside of the United States without having to pay import fees. To advance trade goals, Allegheny County and the airport authority also plan to designate the complex as a licensed World Trade Center. The World Trade Center designation is expected to benefit Pittsburgh’s economy by facilitating international business, trade, and investment.

    Ambassador Kirk Tours the Airport Park with (from left):
    Allegheny County ExecutiveRichard Fitzgerald, Export-Import Bank
    Vice Chair Wanda Felton, and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard

    After the tour, Ambassador Kirk and the delegation met with other local business and civic leaders to discuss plans for the development of the airport, market-opening measures, exports, the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase trade enforcement, and Pittsburgh’s economic transformation.

  • 07/23/2012 10:35 AM

    On Friday, July 20, 2012, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro gave remarks at PortMiami in Miami, Florida to highlight the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and to celebrate Colombian Independence Day. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez also spoke at the event. During the event, both the Mayor and the Commissioner honored Ambassador Sapiro and the Office of the United States Trade Representative by presenting her with the key to Miami-Dade County.

    After the formal program, Jose Perez-Jones, Senior Vice President of Seaboard Marine – the largest ocean transportation company operating out of the Port of Miami – guided the group to view the unloading and reloading of a ship called the M/V Vega Scorpio Voyage # 1, which is carrying U.S. goods destined for Colombia. Some of the commodities being shipped to Colombia include: department store merchandise, auto parts, cotton, yarn, locomotive parts, machinery and equipment for mining, float glass, foodstuffs, trucks, vehicles, orange juice concentrate, frozen foodstuffs, deli foodstuffs, confectionary products, and fresh fruits.

    After the event at PortMiami, Ambassador Sapiro spoke about the Obama Administration’s trade agenda at a round table hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Her remarks focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Russia’s accession to the WTO, and the Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.

    Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro tours the Port of
    Miami in front of the M/V Vega Scorpio Voyage #1, which
    carries U.S
    goods destined for Colombia, including auto parts,
    cotton, and
    fresh fruits.


  • 07/20/2012 10:09 PM

    Ambassador Marantis addresses the Washington Council on International Trade
    Ambassador Demetrios Marantis gives remarks before the Washington
    Council on International Trade

    Following yesterday's speech before the Washington Council on International Trade, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis met with key stakeholders today, including union leaders and representatives of NGOs, to hear their views and address their concerns, particularly regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

    Ambassador Marantis meets with labor stakeholders
    Ambassador Marantis hears concerns from stakeholders during a roundtable meeting at the
    Labor Temple in Seattle, WA.

    In a roundtable meeting hosted by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, Ambassador Marantis met with Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase and representatives from the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, Witness for Peace, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, among others, to discuss issues of concern related to trade policy and the TPP agreement. This meeting again highlighted USTR's ongoing engagement with a broad range of stakeholders with diverse points of view. Ambassador Marantis pledged to continue the discussion, offering stakeholders the opportunity for in-depth briefings with subject matter experts from USTR's negotiating team.

    Ambassador Marantis and Senator Maria Cantwell visit the FC Bloxom produce export
    Ambassador Marantis and Senator Maria Cantwell visit the FC Bloxom produce export
    facility south of downtown Seattle, WA.

    Ambassador Marantis also met with officials from the Gates Foundation and traveled to Everett, Washington to view the Boeing 787 production line and to meet with Boeing officials. Finally, Ambassador Marantis met with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to highlight the benefits of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement experienced by Washington State thus far. Since the agreement's implementation on March 15 of this year, Washington State growers have reported significant increases in exports of produce to South Korea. Producers of cherries in Washington State, in particular, have reported a doubling of cherry exports to South Korea compared to the same period last year.

    ambassador marantis at Boeing
    Ambassador Marantis at Boeing in Everett, WA after viewing the 787 production line.

  • 07/20/2012 2:35 PM

    By Ambassador Ron Kirk

    As the nineteenth International AIDS Conference kicks off in Washington, DC, experts and activists from around the world are bringing together their best ideas to fight this disease. As part of this conversation, some are taking a careful look at trade policy issues and so is the Obama Administration.

    Stakeholders on all sides of this issue recognize the need to balance trade’s long-standing role in the promotion of pharmaceutical innovation through intellectual property rights with the imperative to ensure access to life-saving medicines for people around the world.

    The Obama Administration is committed to developing policies that do both. We believe that we can increase access to medicines and support innovation for the development of new and improved drugs for HIV/AIDS and other diseases. And with input from the public, global health and development experts, innovative and generic drug companies, and Federal agencies that serve these sectors, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is working in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a major Asia-Pacific trade agreement now under negotiation – to get this balance right.

    We all know that innovation is essential to create new tools in the fight for global health, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, FDA, NIH and U.S. generic and innovator companies with voluntary licensing programs are demonstrating that innovation and access can thrive together with the right policies.

    We have never wavered in our support for the Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health, including affirming that the TRIPS Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO members' right to protect public health.

    We have underscored this priority in the TPP, and stated clearly that the “TPP countries have agreed to reflect in the text a shared commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.”

    Furthermore, in the TPP we are seeking to expand U.S. exports of both innovative and generic drugs in a way that drives access to medicines in the developing world while promoting innovation.

    It is a difficult balance to strike. We have heard a great deal of feedback on our early proposals -- including on the treatment of lesser-developed countries, such as Vietnam -- and are carefully reflecting upon that feedback.

    We want to get the balance right and to work with the public and with our trading partners to get there. This process will take some time and, as we work over the course of the next several months, we will be very interested in additional input.

    Trade alone can’t provide access to medicines. So these trade policies we are refining will go hand in hand with other approaches by the Obama Administration to encourage pharmaceutical innovation and promote access to medicines. Here are some great examples of what’s going on across the government in this regard:

    • Anti-retroviral drugs purchased by PEPFARare now over 98 percent generic and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, to which the U.S. is the largest donor, also procures a high percentage of effective and low cost generic medicines to treat HIV/AIDS.

    • Innovative approaches by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide tentative approval for generic drugs have contributed to PEPFAR’s success. This has led to nearly 150 antiretrovirals being made available, at lower cost; as a result, the U.S. will directly support life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 6 million men, women and children worldwide by the end of 2013.

    • The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and co-patent owner the University of Illinois at Chicago were the first patent holders ever to share their intellectual property with the Medicines Patent Pool Foundation. President Obama leveraged our contribution and last year along with the other G-8 Leaders called on all rights holders – public and private – to consider entering into license agreements with the Foundation. USTR supported that call by citing this kind of patent-sharing practice in its 2012 “Special 301” Report.

    • The NIH successfully licensed a technology developed by the FDA to the international non-profit PATH to develop MenAfriVac, a lifesaving meningitis vaccine for sub-Saharan Africa. The Serum Institute of India Limited now produces that vaccine at low cost. Over 20 million people have been vaccinated in Africa’s meningitis belt at below USD $0.50 because of this effort. To replicate this success and expedite technology transfer to not-for-profit institutions with a demonstrated commitment to global health, the NIH developed a model licensing agreement which was subsequently adopted by the G8.

    • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) launched Patents for Humanity to reward companies that use patented technologies for humanitarian endeavors. Winning participants will receive vouchers for accelerated processing for select matters in front of the PTO.

    With a full complement of efforts, the Obama Administration intends to ensure that access to medicines is as robust as in prior administrations, and to ensure that important programs like PEPFAR remain effective. We’ll continue to work with you to deliver on that promise.

  • 07/20/2012 1:45 PM

    This week, Ambassador Kirk received the Distinguished Service Award at the Washington International Trade Association and Foundation (WITA/WITF) annual awards dinner.

    Congressman Kevin Brady presented the award to Ambassador Kirk noting that the Ambassador “consulted relentlessly with Members of Congress of every stripe” as the Administration worked to secure bipartisan support for trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

    Kirk at WITA
    Congressman Kevin Brady presented Ambassador Kirk with the WITA/WITF Distinguished Service Award

    Ambassador Kirk accepted the award on behalf of all USTR employees, and in observance of USTR’s 50th anniversary this year. He spoke particularly about the privilege of working with the staff of USTR. These smart, passionate, and dedicated professionals have upheld a strong tradition of public service for the last five decades, and the work of USTR – opening markets, leveling the playing field, and keeping America competitive – is enormously relevant for hard-working families across the United States. That’s why trade and exports remain a vital part of President Obama’s blueprint to build an economy that lasts with better jobs for more Americans.

    Kirk at WITA
    Ambassador Kirk accepts the WITA/WITF Distinguished Service Award on behalf of all USTR employees

    Ambassador Kirk also thanked and congratulated Congressman David Dreier who received WITA/WITF’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his statesmanship and tireless devotion to advancing bipartisan U.S. trade policy.

    USTR was created through the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, in which Congress called for President Kennedy to appoint a Special Representative for Trade Negotiations to conduct U.S. trade negotiations. To find out more about USTR’s 50th anniversary this year, please visit

  • 07/17/2012 11:04 AM
    We’ve agreed that the United States and Thailand will resume our formal dialogue under our bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.  During a visit to Bangkok late last week, Assistant USTR for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Barbara Weisel reached agreement with her counterpart, Commerce Department Director General Srirat Rastapana, to resume regular meetings under the TIFA to address bilateral trade issues, to coordinate on issues in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forums, and to develop specific initiatives that would further build our bilateral relationship.  In addition, they discussed regional trade initiatives and pathways to Asia-Pacific trade integration, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The United States and Thailand will hold a TIFA meeting as soon as for updates from USTR.
  • 07/16/2012 11:28 AM

    Last week, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk traveled to Accra to promote increased trade between the United States and Ghana. Ambassador Kirk consulted with U.S. businesses in the area, met with Ghanaian government officials, and visited the USAID West African Trade Competitiveness Hub. Ambassador Kirk also highlighted President Obama’s recently announced Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) for Sub-Saharan Africa. The President’s new strategy puts a special emphasis on increasing trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, a region which is home to 6 of the 10 fastest growing markets in the world, including Ghana.

    U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk visited the USAID West African Trade
    Hub in Accra, Ghana.

    The United States and Ghana have maintained a robust and growing trade relationship over the last thirteen years. In 1999, the U.S. and Ghana signed a Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) which provides a strategic framework and principles for a constructive dialogue on trade and investment issues between the two countries. Ghana has also benefitted from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted in 2000, a Clinton-era bill that helps to stimulate economic growth in the region and assists eligible countries like Ghana in exporting goods to the United States. The increase in trade has led to growth for both economies. Since AGOA was enacted, U.S. exports to Ghana have increased by over 1 billion dollars from 2001 to 2011, and U.S. imports from Ghana have increased by nearly 600 million dollars during that same period.

    Increased trade with Ghana has helped many U.S. businesses grow and create jobs. Ambassador Kirk visited one such business, the Cargill Cocoa Processing Facility in the port of Tema, Ghana last week. Cargill, a U.S.-based company, expanded its operations to Ghana in 2007 in order to take advantage of Ghanaian cocoa beans, which some consider to be the finest in the world. Cargill’s expansion to Ghana helped the company to improve its product, created new Ghanaian jobs, and also helped to support the jobs of thousands of Americans employed in the cocoa/chocolate sector, and related sectors such as dairy, nuts, baked goods, and baking products. Cargill’s success shows the promise of the vibrant and growing trade and investment relationship between Ghana and the United States.

    For more information on how your small business can benefit from increased trade with West Africa please visit: USAID West Africa Trade Hub.

  • 07/12/2012 4:47 PM

    Ambassador Kirk continued his visit in Ghana today with a visit to Lucky 1888 Textile Mills. Lucky -- located in the free trade zone of Tema just outside of Accra -- is a true U.S-Ghana trade success story. Approximately 500 Ghanaian women have quality jobs at the factory making medical scrubs that are exported to the United States for sale at Walmart stores. Lucky Mills wouldn't exist if it weren't for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The factory specifically benefits from the Third Country Fabric provision of AGOA, which is due to expire in September. Given the importance of the Third Country Fabric Provision to the Employees of Lucky Mills, the people of Ghana, and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, Ambassador Kirk looks forward to working closely with Congress to secure the urgent renewal of this provision.

    U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk visits with workers at the Lucky Textile Mills in
    Tema, Ghana.

    Following Lucky Mills, Ambassador Kirk then toured Cargill's cocoa processing facility in Tema. There are currently about 420 people that are directly or indirectly employed as a result of this investment. During the tour, Ambassador Kirk and the delegation were able to see first-hand how cocoa beans are processed into cocoa powder that is exported to Europe and the United States for use in baking products for companies like General Mills and Kraft.

    Lucky Mills and Cargill are proof that AGOA is working to create jobs in Africa, while helping to provide quality exports to the U.S. and world markets.

  • 07/11/2012 4:28 PM

    Ambassador Kirk is in Accra, Ghana this week on his first trip to this West African country as United States Trade Representative. Since Ghana's independence over a half century ago, the United States has enjoyed a strong partnership with Ghana -- which continues to grow stronger to this day. This is why President Obama visited Ghana during his first official trip to Africa as President of the United States three years ago. And now Ambassador Kirk is visiting Ghana to focus attention on the growing trade and investment relationship between the two countries.

    He kicked off the day today by visiting Ghana's Ministry of Trade and Industry to meet with Trade Minister Hannah Tetteh. During the meeting they discussed both countries' mutual interest in considering the possibility of a U.S.-Ghana bilateral investment treaty (BIT), which would fit well into Ghana’s strategy of attracting private investment and diversifying its economy. It would also represent a major milestone in our bilateral economic relationship. A BIT with the United States would send a powerful signal to American and other foreign investors that Ghana is committed to adopting and maintaining a favorable investment climate. Ambassador Kirk and Minister Tetteh have had a strong, productive working relationship over the last few years and they expressed their mutual interest in continuing to work together as they explore the possibility of pursuing a U.S.-Ghana BIT.

    Ambassador Kirk then met with George Aboagye, Chairman of Ghana's Investment Promotion Centre to discuss options for increasing investment in Ghana. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ghana was 974 million dollars in 2006 -- the last year for which data is available. However, Chairman Aboagye mentioned Ghana's eagerness to expand its range of U.S. investment beyond oil exploration to include energy services and non-energy sectors.

    U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and USAID West Africa Trade Hub Director
    Vanessa Adams take questions from members of the press at the West Africa Trade
    Hub in Accra, Ghana.

    Following meetings with Ghanaian government officials, Ambassador Kirk visited USAID's West Africa Trade Hub in Accra. The Trade Hub focuses on economic development and job creation by providing technical assistance and training to export-ready West African companies -- which has helped to significantly increase their competitiveness. Since 2007, the Trade Hub has facilitated over 100 million dollars in exports from the region and trained more than 7,000 people in business skills. Ambassador Kirk met with Trade Hub officials and their West African partners to discuss the Trade Hub's success over the last eight years in breaking down barriers to trade within the region and increasing the skills and competitiveness of many West African companies.

  • 07/09/2012 3:59 PM

    As the 13th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations continues in San Diego, California, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is providing stakeholders with the opportunity to speak with negotiators, ask questions, and share their views. By opening up new markets for exporters and lowering tariffs, trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership help small- and medium-sized companies support more jobs at home. FruitPros LLC, a three-person small business headquartered in Chula Vista, California, is a good example of a company that would stand to benefit from the TPP.

    FruitPros, like many small businesses, relies on exports for nearly all of its total sales. Carlos Velarde, a representative from FruitPros, explains that large U.S.-based companies like Costco and Walmart generally only purchase fruit in bulk; businesses like FruitPros that deal in smaller quantities usually “export to Mexico and other Latin American countries.” This situation makes companies like FruitPros particularly vulnerable to trade restrictions. When Mexico implemented punitive duties on U.S. products in 2010, FruitPros sales dropped by over 60 percent.

    The certainty that the TPP would provide with respect to tariffs, duties, and trade infrastructure would undoubtedly help small businesses like FruitPros compete in the global market. According to Mr. Velarde, “If we [the United States] do not have favorable trade agreements with our key trading partners, the U.S. economy loses out to other countries like Chile, China, or Argentina, who are also big producers of agricultural products.” For Velarde and his team at FruitPros, favorable trade agreements create opportunities to target more customers and create jobs.

    In addition, Mr. Velarde believes that more open markets will benefit U.S. producers and consumers. “Successful trade opens up markets for our many producers…Many people don’t realize how many products we are blessed to produce. Our nation is vast with technology and natural resources…Opening up markets enables our consumers to purchase products at lower costs and it also allows our producers to target other consumers for their products.”

    FruitPros ships fine fruit to clients around the world

    Stakeholders like FruitPros LLC play an essential role in shaping trade policy, and a good opportunity for those stakeholders to interact with negotiators is at TPP Stakeholder Engagement Events, where delegates from each participating nation spend time with members of the public to talk about progress and goals. In San Diego, nearly three hundred stakeholders registered to discuss trade policy and the TPP with representatives from each country. In fact, 85 percent of stakeholders surveyed said that they were able to communicate their message to negotiators whose work is relevant to their interest.

    USTR’s engagement efforts aren’t limited to stakeholder events at negotiating rounds. USTR has worked for years to involve stakeholders, visiting 35 states over the course of the TPP negotiations to meet with citizens, business leaders, and employees. In addition, trade officials have participated in hundreds of town-hall meetings to get input and perspective from a wide variety of stakeholders.

    As part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive and balanced approach to trade, USTR will continue to seek input from a wide range of sources including citizens, NGO representatives, business owners, government officials, and any other interested parties in the process of trade negotiations.

    The 13th round of TPP Negotiations is being held in San Diego, California, from July 2nd to July 10th.

  • 07/03/2012 12:17 PM

    The copyright system is an engine of free expression and a major building block in the world economy. It plays a critical role in promoting and disseminating American works of authorship, and the balance of rights and exceptions and limitations achieved in U.S. law provides diverse benefits for large and small businesses, consumers, authors, artists, and workers in the information, entertainment, and technology sectors.

    A robust copyright framework ensures that authors and creators are respected, investments (both intellectual and financial) are promoted, that limitations and exceptions provide an appropriate balance, and that enforcement measures are effective.

    An important part of the copyright ecosystem is the limitations or exceptions placed on the exercise of exclusive rights in certain circumstances. In the United States, for example, consumers and businesses rely on a range of exceptions and limitations, such as fair use, in their businesses and daily lives. Further, under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the United States provides safe harbors limiting copyright liability, which help to ensure that legitimate providers of cloud computing, user-generated content sites, and a host of other Internet-related services who act responsibly can thrive online.

    TPP -- Copyright Exceptions and Limitations

    For the first time in any U.S. trade agreement, the United States is proposing a new provision, consistent with the internationally-recognized “3-step test," that will obligate Parties to seek to achieve an appropriate balance in their copyright systems in providing copyright exceptions and limitations for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. These principles are critical aspects of the U.S. copyright system, and appear in both our law and jurisprudence. The balance sought by the U.S. TPP proposal recognizes and promotes respect for the important interests of individuals, businesses, and institutions who rely on appropriate exceptions and limitations in the TPP region.

    The United States is proposing this at the current round of TPP talks in San Diego.  The proposal has benefited from the input of a wide range of stakeholders, and we look forward to discussing it further and sharing more information as the TPP negotiations progress.

  • 07/02/2012 9:28 AM

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was created to enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries. These countries include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Chile and Peru. Both Mexico and Canada have also been invited to join the TPP but will not be participating in this week’s negotiations.

    Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Congressional Affairs Mac Campbell
    talks with stakeholders at the TPP negotiations in Dallas in May. 

    This week, trade policy makers and stakeholders from nine Asia-Pacific nations will be gathering in San Diego, California to participate in the 13th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. TPP negotiators are seeking creative and balanced approaches to 21st century trade and investment issues that greatly affect California, the second largest state exporter in the United States.

    U.S. negotiators will be discussing how to enhance trade and investment opportunities in some of California’s leading goods exports. These include innovative computer and electronic products, transportation equipment, machinery, and chemicals, for example. In addition, TPP negotiators are seeking to enhance trade in services, which employ 3 out of every 4 California workers on average.

    Companies like Casa Herrera, a family-run food production manufacturing company in Southern California, see the negotiations as creating opportunities that allow them to add more jobs. Casa Herrera was founded by Frank Herrera in 1951 and now employs 130 employees, including 11 members of the Herrera family. The company is known for selling food manufacturing machinery that can produce more than 92,000 tortillas per hour.

    Jonathan Lacour, Casa Herrera’s Vice President for Legal Affairs, believes the success of the TPP will benefit the company. He says discussions to increase and modernize food production among TPP countries could provide more employment opportunities within the company. “A ten percent increase in sales would mean an additional 50 or so jobs,” he said.

    Overall, the TPP represents a significant opportunity for California exporters to build on their already strong ties to the Asia-Pacific region. In 2011, the state exported $66.1 billion worth of goods to the Asia-Pacific region, and current negotiations will strengthen ties to this region – a region that represents 40 percent of total global trade. And with Mexico and Canada set to join TPP negotiations following Congress’ 90-day consultation period, the TPP also offers California an opportunity to further develop its trade relations with its top two export markets. In 2011, California exported $26 billion to Mexico and $17.2 billion to Canada.