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  • 09/28/2012 10:06 AM

    Ambassador Kirk and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson hosted a meeting of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) on September 27th at USTR. TEPAC is comprised of a broad range of representatives from non-governmental organizations, the private sector, think tanks, and academia, and provides policy advice on issues relating to trade and the environment. Ambassador Kirk told the TEPAC about the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, as well as the next steps in the U.S.-European Union (EU) High Level Working Group. Ambassador Kirk also provided updates on recent developments in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, including a read-out of the APEC Leaders’ meeting in Vladivostok, Russia where APEC members agreed on a ground-breaking list of 54 environmental goods on which they will cut tariffs to five percent or less by 2015.

    TEPAC meeting
    Administrator Jackson, TEPAC Chair Joseph Black, and Ambassador Kirk at this week's TEPAC meeting.

    Administrator Jackson gave a report on the EPA’s export promotion initiative, including the creation of a new online web portal ( that will be launched October 1st at the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) with the Department of Commerce. In addition, Administrator Jackson also updated members on work being undertaken in the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, and outcomes from the recent CEC Council Meeting hosted by EPA last July. Following their remarks, Ambassador Kirk and Administrator Jackson answered questions from TEPAC members, that touched on a broad range of trade and environment matters.

  • 09/25/2012 1:27 PM

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) held its annual conference in New Orleans, and Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business Christina Sevilla was on hand to highlight some of the early successes of the Obama Administration’s Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA) initiative. The SBNA seeks to link U.S. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and the clients they serve to similar small business support centers and networks in partner countries through online trade platforms and business competitions.

    Taking a key step forward, representatives from the ASBDC, the University of Texas San Antonio Institute for Economic Development, and Brazil's Micro and Small Enterprise Service (SEBRAE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to link their trade platforms and clients on a central website ( This platform is expanding to include international SBDCs in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and the Caribbean, and will help small businesses take better advantage of trade agreements between the United States and countries in the region.

    DAUSTR Sevilla RemarksDeputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Christina Sevilla speaks to the U.S.
    Association of Small Business Development Centers International Interests section

    Precision 2000, a small general contracting and construction management business based in Atlanta, Georgia, is already benefitting from these new developments. Precision 2000’s CEO, Guiomar Obregon, received strategic advice and export counseling from Rick Martin and Antonio Barrios of the Georgia SBDC network at University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. Obregon and her workforce have used this guidance to actively pursue construction contracts in the Colombian market, and she anticipates that contracts secured for construction services in Colombia will help Precision 2000 support jobs in Georgia.

    Mickey Conway, a Colombian-American business development specialist at the Clemson University SBDC at Greenwood, is also looking to use the SBNA to help U.S. small businesses expand to Latin America. He hopes that “the expansion of the SBDC network to Latin America can create new business contacts for South Carolina companies.” Conway is organizing a visit to Colombia, the United States’ newest trade agreement partner, by a delegation of South Carolina and Arkansas SBDC counselors and small businesses owners, who hope to explore and pursue trade opportunities there.

  • 09/25/2012 12:07 PM

    Yesterday, eleven stakeholder witnesses spoke before the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) to give testimony on Canada’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The TPP is a multilateral trade agreement that will boost U.S. exports to the growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region. As preparations begin for Canada’s entry, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and its interagency partners are soliciting public comments to help inform negotiating work and strengthen U.S. proposals.

    USTR public hearing on TPP and Canada
    Stakeholders testify at yesterday's hearing.

    Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Barbara Weisel opened the hearing with a prepared statement in which she explained how Canada’s entry into the TPP could offer a promising platform for regional economic integration. Following the statement, stakeholders representing agriculture, pharmaceutical, intellectual property, automaker, and homebuilder industry associations, along with business, non-governmental organizations, and organized labor, testified before the Committee. They raised several topics for discussion including customs, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property, transparency, state-owned enterprises and enforcement.

    In a statement, William Roenigk, speaking on behalf of the National Chicken Council and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, said that Canada joining the TPP would be a positive opportunity for the poultry industry, “provided that Canada agree – in advance – to put its import protection policies on the negotiating table and if there is an appropriate and successful conclusion to the negotiations.”

    USTR public hearing on TPP and Canada
    Members of the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), at a hearing chaired by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Trade Policy and Economics, Doug Bell.

    The United States trades more with its northern neighbor than with any other single nation, and as witness Jodi Bond from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the TPSC in her testimony, a quarter trillion dollars are spent by Canadians on U.S. exports every year, representing twenty percent of total U.S. exports and supporting 8 million American jobs. However, lowering tariffs, reducing non-tariff barriers to trade, and aligning regulatory measures could strengthen this relationship even further, acting as an “economic shot in the arm,” according to Bond, the Vice President of the Americas at the U.S. Chamber.

    At the conclusion of testimony, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Trade Policy and Economics Doug Bell thanked the stakeholders for their efforts and said the information shared would “be of great value” to USTR with respect to TPP negotiating positions.

     USTR public hearing on TPP and Canada
    Members of the public listen to testimony at the public hearing yesterday.

    The TPP provides the opportunity for the U.S. and Canada to update their trade framework to reflect the technological advancements and regulatory complexities of the twenty-first century, and holds great opportunities for supporting quality jobs in the U.S.

  • 09/24/2012 10:13 AM

    By Kate Villarreal, Press Assistant 

    On Friday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and interagency partners convened a public hearing to receive testimony on Mexico’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

    Counselor and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Trade Policy and Economics Doug Bell presided over the proceedings. He opened the hearing by inviting stakeholders to give testimony to be shared with interagency panel members and TPP negotiators. Barbara Weisel, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and John Melle, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Americas, also participated.

    Members of the public hear testimony at the TPP Mexico Hearing

    Ten speakers from a range of stakeholder groups gave testimony, addressing issues related to agriculture, intellectual property rights, labor, manufacturing, and other areas. Witnesses included members of the Sweetener Users Association, the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, the National Chicken Council, Knowledge Ecology International, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, Coalition for a Prosperous America, the Association of Global Automakers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.

    A representative from the International Intellectual Property Alliance testifies at the TPP Mexico Hearing

    Following each testimony, USTR representatives and agency counterparts asked questions to clarify stakeholder concerns. At the hearing’s conclusion, Assistant USTR Bell said comments would be taken back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators.

    Representatives from Knowledge Ecology International testify at the TPP Mexico Hearing

    Friday’s hearing follows last week’s conclusion of the most recent TPP negotiating round in Leesburg, Virginia. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on as soon as it’s available.

  • 09/20/2012 11:23 AM

    Yesterday Ambassador Kirk greeted Texas Panhandle Honor Flight veterans and joined them for a wreath laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial. Honor Flights transport veterans to Washington, D.C. each year to visit and reflect at various memorials honoring their service.

    Ambassador Kirk welcomed the group to Washington and thanked them for their past service and sacrifice on behalf of President Obama. “As the son of a World War II veteran and as a proud Texan, I am honored to be here to express my appreciation for you and your families and recognize your service,” said Ambassador Kirk.

    Ambassador Kirk Welcomes Veterans
    Ambassador Kirk Addresses Veterans from the Panhandle Honor Flight

    The Panhandle Honor Flight veterans are visiting Washington with America Supports You Texas, an Abilene, Texas-based organization which raises funds to sponsor the trips. This year’s Panhandle flight includes veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, as well as active military personnel and volunteer “guardians” who support and assist the vets during the three-day trip. Honor Flights prioritize the most senior veterans – WWII survivors – as well as terminally ill veterans. This marks the second year that Ambassador Kirk has received the visiting Honor Flight group.

  • 09/19/2012 3:37 PM

    Last Thursday, Ambassador Ron Kirk traveled to the Norridgewock, Maine factory of U.S. athletic footwear manufacturer New Balance. Ambassador Kirk, who was joined by the company’s President and CEO Rob DeMartini and Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-2), toured the facility and met with New Balance workers to discuss the footwear industry and the company’s footwear production techniques. After the tour, Ambassador Kirk took questions from workers on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

    Ambassador Kirk speaks with a New Balance workerAmbassador Kirk speaks with a New Balance worker in
    Norridgewock, ME

    "I want to thank the people at New Balance for giving me the opportunity to visit their Norridgewock factory, and for their willingness to engage with USTR as we negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement,” said Ambassador Kirk.

    Ambassador Kirk poses for a photoAmbassador Kirk poses for a photo with Congressman
    Mike Michaud (ME-2), Factory Manager Raye Wentworth,
    and New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini

    New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini was pleased that Ambassador Kirk made the trip to Norridgewock. “We are encouraged by the Ambassador’s visit and by his openness to hearing our perspective on this crucial matter of public policy, manufacturing and American jobs,” he commented.

  • 09/18/2012 11:36 AM
    Pursuant to the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) “Request for Comments on Negotiating Objectives with Respect to Canada’s Participation in the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement” published in the Federal Register (docket number USTR-2012-0015) on July 23, 2012, USTR is pleased to call to the attention of the public the opportunity to attend a public hearing on this matter. The hearing will be held on Monday, September 24, 2012, at 9:30 a.m., at 1724 F Street, Rooms 1 & 2, Washington, DC 20508. Open seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Media inquiries should be directed to USTR’s Office of Public Affairs (202) 395-3230.
  • 09/18/2012 11:05 AM
    Pursuant to the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) “Request for Comments on Negotiating Objectives with Respect to Mexico’s Participation in the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement” published in the Federal Register (docket number USTR-2012-0014) on July 23, 2012, USTR is pleased to call to the attention of the public the opportunity to attend a public hearing on this matter. The hearing will be held on Friday, September 21, 2012, at 9:30 a.m., at 1724 F Street, Rooms 1 & 2, Washington, DC 20508. Open seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Media inquiries should be directed to USTR’s Office of Public Affairs (202) 395-3230.
  • 09/14/2012 10:59 AM

    On Wednesday, Ambassador Kirk joined Members of Congress at an event focused on the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The event marked the successful passage of bipartisan legislation to extend the third-country fabric provision of AGOA, which President Obama signed into law last month. The provision, which was due to expire at the end of September, will support sustainable economic growth and development by boosting trade with Africa.

    In his remarks, Ambassador Kirk emphasized President Obama’s commitment to a strong and enduring U.S.-Africa partnership for the 21st century.

    “AGOA is an integral part of our broad vision for strong partnership between the United States and Africa,” said Ambassador Kirk. “That is why the Obama Administration looks forward to working with Congress to extend AGOA beyond 2015, in order to provide the certainty businesses need to grow trade and create jobs.”

    Ambassador Kirk also described how the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) for sub-Saharan Africa issued this past June provides a blueprint for advancing cooperation and trade between the United States and Africa even further.

    Along with Ambassador Kirk, Lesotho Ambassador Molapi Sebatane, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, U.S. Senator Mark Begich, and U.S. Representatives Jim McDermott, Charles Rangel, Ed Royce and Karen Bass all spoke at the event. The program was sponsored by both the AGOA Action Coalition and the Africa Society and was moderated by Rosa Whitaker, the former Assistant United States Trade Representative for African Affairs.

  • 09/11/2012 5:07 PM

    Today, Ambassador Kirk traveled to Seat Pleasant, Maryland to commemorate the lives of those lost on September 11th, 2001 by participating in a local community service project at the Eastern Avenue Apartments. The apartment complex, run by the Volunteers of America Chesapeake, provides housing for families and adults who are on their way to self-sufficiency.

    At 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time, Ambassador Kirk led volunteers in a moment of silence to mark the moment that the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City eleven years ago. Following remarks by Ambassador Kirk and representatives of sponsoring organizations, the group undertook projects to beautify the apartments and surrounding community, including landscaping, planting flowers, and applying fresh coats of paint.

    This 9/11 Day of Service project was organized by MyGoodDeed and The Mission Continues, a local not-for-profit organization that mobilizes military veterans to continue leadership efforts in their communities. MyGoodDeed also helped secure the formal designation of September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. The event was sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).


    Ambassador Kirk participates in 9/11 Day of Service

    Ambassador Kirk participates in a service project at the Eastern Avenue Apartments.


    Group portrait at 9/11 Service Event

    CNCS Chief Executive Officer Wendy Spencer (left), Ambassador Kirk, and representatives from MyGoodDeed,

    The Mission Continues, and Volunteers of America Chesapeake

  • 09/11/2012 9:18 AM

    by Mawish Raza, Intern for Public and Media Affairs

    United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk spoke at a White House briefing yesterday for the National Farmers Union. Farmers from across the nation joined as senior administration officials discussed how federal agencies are incorporating agriculture into policy creation.

    During his speech, Ambassador Kirk discussed the importance of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in working closely with other agencies to maximize the full liberalization of trade negotiations. He highlighted the benefits that have resulted from trade agreements with Korea and Colombia that took effect earlier this year, including a significant increase in agricultural exports. Ambassador Kirk also mentioned the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for agricultural trade. As the 14th round of TPP negotiations continue this week in Leesburg, Virginia, he spoke of the positive impact that would result from this growing partnership with the Asia-Pacific region.

    Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Immigration, Rohan Patel, Associate Director for Public Engagement for the Council on Environmental Quality, Dan Utech, Deputy Director for the Office of Energy and Climate Change, Rob Johansson, Deputy Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor for the Domestic Policy Council, were also among those scheduled to present at the event.Ambassador Kirk speaks to the farmers union at a White House Briefing

    Ambassador Kirk speaks to the farmers union at a White House Briefing.

  • 09/09/2012 9:58 PM

    By Isaac Faz, Acting Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

    On Sunday, September 9th, USTR hosted stakeholder engagement events at the 14th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Leesburg, Virginia. Negotiators from all nine TPP countries took a break from negotiations in order to speak to and hear from the public about a wide range of issues in the agreement. Over 450 stakeholders registered to attend the engagement event – a 49% increase from registration for similar events at the 13th Round in San Diego, California in July. From 11 am – 2 pm, stakeholders were able to speak directly with delegates from all TPP countries and deliver presentations on a topic of interest.

    The registered stakeholders represented more than 200 organizations; more than 90 organizations registered for a table to display reports, blogs, studies and promotional materials at the "direct engagement" event. The Leesburg round of direct engagement participants increased by 75% from San Diego and included first-time attendees Third Way, Precision Tune Auto Care and the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce . This event also included past participants such as the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Public Knowledge, and Google, among many others.

    Stakeholders were also able to supplement their direct one-on-one table engagement through lecture-style presentations. The presentations allow stakeholders to choose a topic of interest and present to interested TPP delegates. This portion of the stakeholder event saw an 81% jump in participation from San Diego, and all who registered for presentations were accommodated. The interest was high and space was limited, but the presenters definitely had full audiences in each of the four rooms allocated for presentations. USTR was pleased to be able to expand the allotted presentation times slightly in light of cancellations by a few of the many registered presenters.

    To conclude the day, TPP Chief negotiators (excepting Brunei, whose chief was still en route to the talks) led a ninety minute stakeholder briefing and participated in a question and answer session. Over 150 stakeholders attended the briefing and asked questions on topics ranging from intellectual property issues, investor-state disputes, labor and the environment. The Trans-Pacific Partnership round in Leesburg will end on September 15th.

  • 09/07/2012 2:42 PM

    As the 14th Round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations kicks off in Leesburg, VA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is welcoming stakeholders to participate by engaging with negotiators, sharing their views and asking questions. Trade agreements like the TPP help small- and medium-sized businesses – like Fulton Bank, which will have a representative at the Stakeholder Engagement event this Sunday – support more jobs at home by opening up new markets for exporters and lowering tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. Many small- and medium-sized American businesses are in the services industry, and one of the most important goals of the TPP is to increase opportunities for those businesses.

    Fulton Bank, a full-service commercial bank operating in Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, stands to benefit from the TPP. Currently, service providers like Fulton Bank face many challenges in the global marketplace including local establishment requirements (laws that require banks to have a physical presence in a country to transact business) and significant restrictions on investment. In an increasingly competitive global environment, businesses like Fulton Bank want full and free access to the global marketplace to increase their sales and create more jobs here at home. Frederico Manno, a Vice President at Fulton Bank, shared his thoughts on the TPP and the benefits it would have for the commercial banking industry:

    “I believe the eventual passing of this Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will lower or reduce considerably tariffs and duties and, therefore, it will only help trade among [participating] countries. Consequently, it will just increase the flow of banking business around the world to include international wire payments, foreign exchange transactions, letter of credit instruments and financing to support the export-import trade business that is necessary for the well-being of our global societies. Fulton Bank and other commercial banks will benefit from this path.”

    As the TPP negotiations advance, USTR will continue reaching out to stakeholders across the country, seeking their input to craft a 21st century trade agreement that will help U.S. businesses stay globally competitive and support jobs for more Americans.

    The 14th round of TPP negotiations began on September 6.