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Remarks By Ambassador Ron Kirk to the Washington International Trade Association

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative 

Washington International Trade Association
Washington, DC
April 28, 2011

* As Prepared for Delivery *


“Good morning. Thank you, Steve. And thank you, James.

“It’s a pleasure to be here with so many people who care deeply about trade. Each of you here plays a key role in helping to keep the global economy growing with trade that supports jobs in America and around the world.

“Through collective dialogue and constructive consensus-building together we can bring greater shared prosperity to our peoples through trade.

“In that spirit, I’d like to give you a brief update on President Obama’s busy trade agenda, and how it fits into the broader framework of the Administration’s overall jobs agenda.

“President Obama’s plan for America to win the future is focused on doing the big things that will ensure we continue to attract the best jobs and industries to our shores.

“That’s why we’re making investments in key areas so that we can sell more to the world by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building our competitors, even as we work to bring down our deficit and cut what we cannot afford.

“We are working to meet President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. I’m pleased to report our efforts are getting results. Exports were up 17 percent last year. Increased exports have contributed to 13 straight months of overall private sector job growth, which has added a total of 1.8 million overall private sector jobs.

“By any measure, we’ve been busy at USTR. There are so many highlights, I could keep you here all day.

“Just last month, our legal team scored a major enforcement victory when a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel confirmed what we have been saying for the last 20 years – that the WTO-inconsistent subsidies that the Europeans gave to Airbus dwarf anything that the U.S. government has done for Boeing.

“That’s important, because it demonstrates clearly that the steps the federal government and the states have taken – and will always take – to create a positive environment for our workers and industries are generally consistent with WTO rules.

“In early March, President Obama and Mexican President Calderon announced a path to resolving the cross-border long-haul trucking dispute. Now, a new program will allow for the lifting of retaliatory tariffs on more than $2 billion dollars of U.S. goods, provide opportunities to increase U.S. exports to Mexico, and expand jobs on both sides of the border.

“Similarly, last year, we avoided almost $1 billion in costly retaliation by negotiating a settlement of the Cotton dispute with Brazil, we closed negotiations on the largest anti-counterfeiting trade pact by bringing ACTA to a conclusion, and we resolved key trade concerns with Russia as we worked to help them advance toward accession to the WTO.

“We’re also making steady progress preparing trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama for congressional consideration.

“Last December, we successfully concluded negotiations with Korea to provide market access and a level playing field for U.S. auto workers and manufacturers.

“Last month, President Obama and President Santos agreed to an Action Plan Related to Labor Rights that will allow us to move forward with the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement.

“Just last week, Panama completed the final remaining steps regarding tax and labor issues necessary for us to move forward with that agreement.

“While the pending free trade agreements were negotiated under the previous administration, the Obama Administration’s approach to them shows how we feel trade policy should work.

“Even with agreements we didn’t negotiate, we’re serious about insisting on a level playing field on which Americans get a fair chance to compete.

“We went back to Korea and worked for a better deal – even walking away in Seoul when it wasn’t good enough. We were pilloried in the press. But we were right to stick it out.

“While the issues in Panama and Colombia were different, our metric was the same: raise the standards we bring to our trading partners, and stand firm, and move forward when deals are good for American businesses and workers.

“We made promises to the American people on trade – that we’d fight for a more level playing field and make our partners play by the rules. That’s not an empty pledge.

“With that work moving forward, now the Administration is considering timing of next steps on the Korea, Colombia and Panama agreements in the context of a larger discussion about sequencing a comprehensive trade agenda this year.

“Specifically, the Administration is seeking to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance, as well our trade preference programs (ATPA, GSP), and to secure PNTR for Russia as it accedes to the WTO, so that American exporters can benefit when Russia fully enters the rules-based trading system.

“Even as we open more markets we are mindful of the need to assist U.S. workers who are negatively affected by trade through TAA.

“And we also believe trade can and should enable economic development, helping poor families around the world while at the same time fostering the growth of new markets for U.S. products, through trade preference programs, like ATPA and GSP.

“The calculation on Russia PNTR is simple. Russia is the largest economy outside the WTO and an important but challenging trading partner. Bringing Russia into the WTO gets them into a rules-based system where we have more tools to ward off problems and to address them once they arise.

“PNTR for Russia will ensure that American businesses get the full advantage of Russia’s accession.

“We’re taking a similar approach to coordinating with Congress and engaging stakeholders in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with events on the APEC 2011 host year agenda, among other initiatives.

“We are building on the strengths of our existing trade agreements and striving for even more robust commitments that can be supported ever more widely.

“In addition to ambitious goals for greater market access, we are seeking high standards to foster and protect innovation, to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade, and to respect and protect labor rights and the environment.

“We believe that we can garner support for a robust TPP agreement in part because the Obama Administration has shown a strong commitment to making our trade agreements – and our trading partners – live up to what they say. This Administration promised to enforce our trading rights and hold our trade partners accountable. That is a promise kept.

“Enforcing our agriculture rights has meant American ranchers are selling more beef to Europe than they have in decades. We have successfully reopened to U.S. pork the Russia, Indonesia and China markets that were closed following the outbreak of H1N1. “And we initiated the first ever labor enforcement consultation under a U.S. trade agreement.

“At the same time, as I said, we’ve successfully defended our rights in the WTO – from Airbus to trade practices by China that we believe disadvantage American producers.

“We have much to show for our trade enforcement agenda, and a commitment to expand this important facet of a comprehensive trade policy.

“Finally, a word on the Doha round. You will all have seen that Doha is – not for the first time – undergoing a challenging period. Reports and texts issued last week in Geneva confirm what we and others, including Director General Lamy, have been saying – the gaps are large after more than two years of dedicated efforts to narrow them through bilateral negotiations with key partners.

“Nobody wants to give up on Doha, because we all know that this negotiation offers unique opportunities for deep and comprehensive trade liberalization on a multilateral level. We are continuing to work so that we can seize every available chance to achieve those opportunities.

“But the United States can’t do this alone. We continue to hope that key partners, including the spectacularly successful emerging economies, will work with us to find a deal that makes sense for the economy we are all now a part of.

“The bottom line is that our practical approach – the Obama Administration approach – is working for U.S. producers who want to sell more ‘Made in America’ goods and services around the world, in support of better jobs here at home.

“We knew that we couldn’t get different results by doing the same things that had been done in the past. So our new model put more attention on enforcement of our trade agreements and engagement with stakeholders, including both skeptics and supporters.

“Now we’re headed in the right direction with growing momentum. We are advancing an ambitious trade agenda, opening up markets while being more responsive to the needs and concerns of American businesses, workers, and families.”