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Seizing Opportunities to Support American Jobs, American Values in Trade

Ambassador Kirk wrote a guest blog post on earlier today. Check it out below.

Seizing Opportunities to Support American Jobs, American Values in Trade
Posted by Ambassador Ron Kirk on March 18, 2011 at 02:33 PM EDT

President Obama has set an ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, supporting at least two million additional American jobs. As the President departs for Latin America to promote U.S. exports and U.S. jobs, we at the Office of the United States Trade Representative are continuing to work on three pending free trade agreements – with Korea, Panama, and Colombia – that can support these National Export Initiative goals.

In December, President Obama announced that the United States and South Korea have finalized an historic trade deal that will increase U.S. exports to Korea by $11 billion annually while supporting 70,000 American jobs. The news has been met with high praise from a wide range of groups, including the United Auto Workers, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, the U.S. Chamber and the American Farm Bureau Federation, to name a few stakeholders. They know the positive impact this agreement will have on U.S. businesses and families, from auto workers to cattle ranchers to high-tech manufacturers and service providers.

The U.S.-Korea trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years, creating a more open and fair Korean market for U.S. auto companies and workers, and new opportunities for U.S. manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. In real terms, U.S. beef producers could expect to save $90 million annually with the progressive elimination of Korea’s existing tariff.

With this landmark deal struck, it is now Congress’ turn to ratify it quickly – especially important since South Korea’s trade agreement with the EU takes effect on July 1.

Trade agreements with Panama and Colombia can also be key boosters of American exports. At the President’s direction, we are working hard to resolve outstanding issues related to these agreements as soon as possible this year, so that we can move them to Congress for consideration immediately thereafter.

The Administration’s hard work is encouraging significant labor reforms and greater tax transparency in Panama. Last month, I met with Vice President Varela, and our teams have met subsequently and agreed upon actions that, when taken by Panama, will ready that agreement for Congressional consideration.

We also are dedicated to resolving issues regarding Colombia so that agreement can move forward as well. We are working without delay to address concerns from members of Congress and other stakeholders involving labor rights protections and violence against labor leaders. In the past month alone, the Administration sent a team to Bogota and held several productive meetings with Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee staff and other stakeholders. This week, the President’s team met with high-ranking Colombian officials to continue our work to ensure a level playing field for American workers and to make certain that our trade agreements reflect core American values on labor rights around the world.

While we continue to achieve real progress on outstanding issues with Panama and Colombia, the significant U.S.-Korea trade agreement is ready to move. Our goal is the passage of three good agreements, with outstanding issues resolved, so that we can realize the jobs and economic growth that come to the American people through responsible trade policy.

Ron Kirk is the United States Trade Representative