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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda

July 18, 2013

Good morning.  I want to welcome everyone and extend a special welcome to United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Mike Froman.  First of all, let me congratulate you on your confirmation.  You are now leading one of the most professional and productive agencies in the U.S. government.

You take the helm of USTR at a critical juncture.  We are in the midst of three major trade negotiations, all of which will need strong Administration leadership to complete.  We are deep into negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I hope will be finished this year.  Earlier this month, you held the first round of negotiations for a U.S.-EU trade and investment agreement, which holds enormous potential economic benefit.  And negotiations for a Trade in Services Agreement have begun, promising huge commercial gains and attracting new participants.

We had initially seen some encouraging movement at the WTO on expansion of the Information Technology Agreement and a trade facilitation agreement, but that progress seems to have stalled, particularly with yesterday’s announcement about China forcing us to suspend ITA negotiations.  We need to find a way around these obstacles in Geneva.

Each of these negotiations will support more, better-paying jobs here in the United States by dismantling barriers to U.S. exports and creating robust enforcement mechanisms to prevent future barriers from emerging.  These agreements will tackle tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well new 21st century issues like state-owned enterprises, regulatory coherence, and trade facilitation.  In addition, these agreements help to more deeply integrate U.S. companies into the global supply chains that are the reality of today’s marketplace.  

Quick movement on these negotiations is important because other countries are signing agreements that open markets and increase their competitiveness, at our expense. I look forward to continuing to work closely with you on each of these negotiations to ensure that each is ambitious, comprehensive, and concluded as soon as possible.

However, finishing these negotiations will not be easy.  For example, in the TPP, I have serious concerns about Japanese non-tariff barriers in the auto, insurance, and agriculture sectors.  In the EU, we face regulatory barriers to U.S. exports that must to be resolved, particularly in agriculture.  I look forward to hearing your testimony on these issues and working together to ensure that these barriers, and others, are fully addressed before any negotiation is completed.

Another critical issue that has raised considerable concern is how to deal with currency in our trade agreements.  I believe that currency misalignment is a serious problem, and I look forward to hearing more from you about how the Administration plans to address this issue.

Last Congress, we passed, and the President signed into law, seven bipartisan trade bills, including legislation implementing trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.  I hope to build on that bipartisan cooperation to move a bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority bill.  TPA is essential so that we in Congress can outline our priorities for you, establish how you consult with us, and create the mechanism for considering implementing legislation.  It is no overstatement to say that the success of your work at the negotiating table absolutely depends on passing TPA, and we simply will not be able to enjoy the benefits of what we negotiate unless we have it.  I look forward to hearing today from you, Ambassador, about how the Administration plans to engage on this issue.

In addition to negotiations, we must also pay attention to the challenges and opportunities presented by trading partners around the world.  Take, for example, the major emerging economies – China, India, and Brazil.  Each provides enormous potential opportunity but also significant, and growing, barriers.  We must seek ways to engage these countries constructively and address trade and investment issues.  We should use our Bilateral Investment Treaty agenda as one tool to address these concerns, and also seek to expand our BIT agenda to new partners.

Finally, I also note that we continue our work here in Congress on several important initiatives.  I will continue to seek a path forward to pass as soon as possible the bipartisan Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, which Ranking Member Levin and I introduced yesterday, to provide tariff relief to U.S. manufacturers for products not made in the United States.  Our bill remains a model of transparency with benefits available to any entity that uses the products covered by the bill, and I am very aware that last December duties increased for over 600 products.  

Ranking Member Levin and I also introduced legislation yesterday to renew the Generalized System of Preferences, and we will continue to work together to find a path forward in the Senate that ensures that the Senate can move the bill without amendment.  In addition, I hope to move a bipartisan customs reauthorization bill quickly.   

A robust international trade agenda puts U.S. job creators back on the offense.  Let us seize this opportunity.