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Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at The Beacon Council on President Obama’s Plan to Grow American Jobs and U.S. Exports

Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at The Beacon Council on President Obama’s Plan to Grow American Jobs and U.S. Exports

The Beacon Council
Miami, FL
September 28, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery* 

“Thanks to The Beacon Council for hosting this event, and for your leadership in helping to make Greater Miami a premier location for international trade and investment. From Fort Lauderdale to Tampa to Tallahassee, trade and exports support jobs and businesses of every size here in the Sunshine State. Today, I appreciate the opportunity to share with you President Obama’s plan to grow American jobs and strengthen the middle class. In particular, I want to highlight how the Administration’s trade policy is contributing to rising U.S. exports, economic growth, and job creation.

“But first, I want to take a step back and frame this discussion, because it’s important to recognize that there is a distinct vision that guides President Obama’s leadership on the economy and has defined our path since the day he took office. It’s a simple but powerful belief: that in order to create strong, sustained growth, it is imperative that we take a balanced approach to cutting the deficit, revising the tax code, promoting job creation, and investing in our future. We’ve brought more balance to trade policy, too, with a stronger emphasis on enforcement and unprecedented outreach to a wide range of stakeholders. Broadly speaking, the President’s policies are based on the principle that America does best when we’re all in it together; when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same set of rules.

“I don’t have to remind you that we’re still fighting our way back from the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression. Remember the headlines four years ago? When the stock market was plunging hundreds of points a day. When we were losing more than half a million jobs a month. It was truly scary.

“But fortunately, President Obama made the right calls in a series of tough decisions to prevent total economic collapse and bring us back from the brink. And thanks to his leadership, we are headed in the right direction today.

“Businesses like yours have created 5.1 million new jobs over the last 30 months. American manufacturers are adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. And the Commerce Department estimates exports supported 1.2 million more jobs last year than they did in 2009. So we’re making steady progress. But to be sure, we won’t be satisfied until there is a good job available for every American who needs one. The real question facing us today is: what can we do to accelerate this economic recovery, to create jobs at a faster pace, and to keep moving forward?

“The President has put common sense solutions on the table to both overcome our current challenges and build a stronger foundation for future growth. For example, last September, President Obama sent Congress a jobs bill full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that could have put more than a million Americans back to work and helped bolster our economy against outside shocks. He sent them a plan that would take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit by $4 trillion. That means paying for the investments we need in education and innovation by cutting unnecessary spending and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more in taxes.

“Since then, Congress has sent a few parts of that jobs bill to the President’s desk, including tax relief for working families and small businesses. In addition, the President was pleased to sign separate legislation last October that approved job-supporting trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, and that also renewed Trade Adjustment Assistance and our trade preference programs. This year, Congress still needs to act on critical legislation necessary for U.S. businesses and workers to benefit fully from Russia becoming a member of the World Trade Organization.

“We also need bipartisan cooperation beyond trade. Because on most of the President’s proposals that would create jobs and grow our economy, key leaders in Congress haven’t lifted a finger. In fact, many in Congress have endorsed an alternative to the President’s budget that would gut key investments in our future and hollow out our global competitiveness. Their plan slashes funding so severely in critical areas like education, clean energy, and vital infrastructure that it would endanger our students, our families, and our economic stability. It then uses the savings from those cuts to give huge tax breaks to Americans who don’t need them, at a time when we can’t afford them. And to top it all off, their plan doesn’t even result in meaningful deficit reduction. The math just doesn’t add up. The notion that we can cut our way to prosperity and stability is just wrong, and it undermines the firm footing that you need to continue to grow your businesses.

“In order for the United States to remain the greatest place on Earth to do business, in order for U.S. companies to benefit from a booming American middle class, we can’t cut education and other critical programs that benefit working families here at home. Not now, not when we’re striving to stay on top in a period of global economic turbulence. As business leaders, you know that to succeed over the long term, you have to make smart investments and stay at least one step ahead of the competition. That same logic applies to America as a nation in the 21st century.

“The world economy is evolving, presenting new challenges for our workers and businesses. Countries like China and India are educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and sciences. And they’re investing in research and new technologies in an effort to get a head start on the next big thing. So to ensure Americans can compete for and win the jobs and industries of the future, we absolutely must out-smart, out- educate, and out-build the rest of the world.

“President Obama is committed to making sure that ‘Made in America’ remains the most powerful brand in the world, and that the United States remains the best place in the world to innovate, invest, build a business, or get a job. That’s why the President has set complementary goals to create one million new American manufacturing jobs and to double U.S. exports under the National Export Initiative. Because the President understands that the more we produce here and the more we sell abroad, the more we can put people to work in the United States.

“In terms of trade, we are opening up markets abroad so that leaders like you can expand your businesses internationally. Goods exports from the greater Miami region were up more than 20 percent last year to $43.1 billion overall. That total includes, for example, $10.2 billion worth of computers and electronic products, $5.8 billion worth of transportation equipment, and $3.8 billion worth of machinery. More importantly, those dollar amounts support real paychecks for tens of thousands of Floridians working in export industries. And we are working to help you do even better.

“As a gateway to Central and South America, Miami is benefitting from the Obama Administration’s comprehensive approach to trade. As you know the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement took effect in July, shortly after implementation of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement in March, and we anticipate the U.S.-Panama trade agreement will be implemented very soon. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated has the potential to open up even more trade opportunities by linking North and South American supply chains with dynamic markets across the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region. Our current TPP partners include Chile and Peru, along with Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam, and we are excited that Canada and Mexico will be joining the negotiations in the coming weeks. TPP could be a real game changer in terms of increased trade and jobs, since all TPP partners have committed to securing an ambitious, high-standard agreement.

“We’re also enforcing U.S. trade agreements more than ever before. When I accepted this job, President Obama made it very clear that his trade policy – and therefore, my responsibility – would be to make sure American workers get a fair shot in the global economy. The President put an equal priority on trade enforcement, because he recognized that our agreements aren’t useful for American businesses and workers as long as other countries are allowed to get away with breaking the rules.

“Now, of course, anyone can talk a good game about the need for a level playing field, but the difference is, under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve actually done something about it. We’ve brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two. And every case we’ve brought that's been decided, we won. When some said that stopping unfair surges in Chinese tires would be bad for America, President Obama ignored the naysayers and instead focused on the jobs at stake. His unprecedented decision to take action in that case has helped put more than 1,000 Americans back to work on tire factory floors.

“Earlier this year, the President doubled down on strong trade enforcement by creating the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), which brings together experts and resources from across the federal government. With increased capacity through the ITEC, we are investigating and challenging unfair trade practices from China to India to South America and beyond. Of course, we always prefer to resolve issues through dialogue or negotiation. Our bottom line is what’s going to get the best result for U.S. businesses and workers as quickly and efficiently as possible. But the message we’ve sent is clear – under President Obama, the United States takes action when necessary and appropriate to enforce the rules to which our trading partners have agreed.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done on behalf of American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers over the past four years. We are well on our way to helping big factories and small businesses double their exports. U.S. producers are selling more goods around the world stamped with ‘Made in America,’ which is steadily supporting more jobs here at home. But we’ve got much more to do.

“More broadly, the task before all of us, in government and the private sector, is to work together to rebuild an economy not just restored from crisis, but ready for tomorrow – an economy built to last. Because in today’s economy, companies like yours are going to place their bets on the country with the best colleges and universities; the most highly-trained workers; the smartest, fairest tax code; and the fastest transportation and information networks. President Obama wants America to be that country. And he knows you do, too. If we continue to work together, if business leaders continue to lend their voices to these ideas, a thriving, competitive America is within our reach. We just need to seize it. Thank you."