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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda and the Future of U.S. Trade Negotiations

February 29, 2012

Good morning. I want to welcome everyone and extend a special welcome to our guest, the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, as well as our second panel of witnesses. I am looking forward to a discussion of the Administration’s trade policy agenda and the future of U.S. trade policy.

We are coming off a strong year in which we saw more action on trade than in the past five years. We secured bipartisan passage of our trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which had languished for far too long.  This achievement signified that Congress and the White House, House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats could come together to pursue pro-growth, pro-job policies.  Our trading partners around the world have taken notice that we are back at the negotiating table and ready to lead.

And there is further good news.  The United States and South Korea quickly took the necessary steps to allow for entry into force of the U.S.-South Korea agreement, which will take effect in two weeks.  Discussions paving the way for the Colombia and Panama agreements are also underway, and I encourage an expeditious completion.  

Our recent trade successes have created a momentum that we must continue.  Hesitation and delay allow our competitors to take our market share and our jobs.  As such, I’d like to flesh out today how this Administration and this Congress can best promote economic growth and job creation through trade.  

The one trade agreement negotiation underway is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama announced he’d like to complete this year. This agreement will allow U.S. goods and services to more easily reach consumers across the Asia-Pacific, and the TPP also serves as an effective counterbalance to China in its own backyard.  I welcome interest by Japan, Canada, and Mexico as long as they will take on what is already negotiated without delay and build confidence that they can and will address outstanding bilateral issues.  

We also face Russia’s WTO accession.  Clearly, our ongoing relationship with Russia is a complex one, but I would note that only if we grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations will we be able to obtain the benefits of the concessions Russia made to join the WTO.  We would give up nothing – not a single U.S. tariff – but we would obtain a new enforcement tool and bring our two countries closer on multiple fronts.  This is a matter the Committee will have to carefully consider, and I look to the Administration to build confidence and provide leadership on the economic and non-economic issues.   

One of largest trade issues remains China.  With a population of over 1.4 billion people, the Chinese market provides tremendous opportunities to sell more U.S. goods and services, which means more jobs here at home.  

Despite this potential, there are far too many problems with China that continue to put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage – from indigenous innovation policies to subsidies to intellectual property theft to currency undervaluation – just to mention a few.  We must push China on every front, and the Administration must ensure that China’s commitments are fully implemented.  This Committee has asked the Administration several times to define clear, concrete metrics to verify success.  Tomorrow, Committee Members will be meeting on a bipartisan basis with Secretary Geithner, Secretary Bryson, and USTR Ron Kirk to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by our China relationship.  In addition, Ranking Member Levin, Chairman Brady, Ranking Member McDermott and I are introducing targeted legislation today to make sure that we have the tools we need to address unfair Chinese subsidies through our countervailing duty law in a WTO-consistent manner.  We expect to move this legislation shortly.

I’ve spent time talking about the issues on our plate right now.  But what about what comes next? An important aspect of this forward thinking is renewing Trade Promotion Authority, and I hope that Ambassador Kirk will share the Administration’s views on that topic.

And because the WTO Doha negotiations are dormant, we should focus on a “post-Doha” strategy with those countries that share our views and ambition.  Given that 80 percent of U.S. employment is in services, an international services agreement holds great promise to enhanced market access abroad, and I support the Administration’s current discussions.  

Similarly, expanding our very successful Information Technology Agreement would provide us with more tariff-free access to foreign markets for our information technology products.  A trade facilitation agreement could significantly reduce the cost of doing business in the age of global supply chains.

Expanded investment opportunities are also vital to U.S. growth.  For the last three years, the Obama Administration has placed all bilateral investment treaties on hold.  Moving forward on BITs already begun with China and India and launching new negotiations should be a top priority.  

Finally, we have to think defensively about our strategy when other countries conclude sub-par agreements that don’t meet WTO standards.

So in conclusion, today I’d like to have a comprehensive discussion about the present and future of U.S. trade policy and what it means for job creation here in the U.S.