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

April 03, 2014

Good morning.  I want to welcome Ambassador Mike Froman back to the Committee.  We are very aware and appreciative of how hard you and your dedicated staff work to advance U.S. trade policy.

A trade policy that opens markets for American exports, enforces international rules and ensures a level playing field for American workers is proven to promote broad economic growth and job-creation in the United States.  The success of American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers is directly linked to finding new markets, expanding existing ones, effectively dealing with market access barriers, and strictly enforcing our existing agreements.  

U.S. trade policy is at an important crossroads.  Congress passed the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama on a strong, bipartisan basis last Congress, and in the process the United States recaptured its leadership role in global trade negotiations.  This past December, U.S. leadership was critical to ensuring that the WTO Ministerial in Bali produced the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the first multilateral agreement since the WTO was created nearly twenty years ago.

We are in the midst of several major trade negotiations.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is nearing conclusion, and I hope it will be completed as soon as possible this year.  Progress in the EU negotiation is encouraging. The Trade in Services Agreement negotiations are well underway in Geneva, with 50 countries participating, as is the newly kicked off WTO negotiation on environmental goods.  We are trying to conclude an expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, assuming China acts more constructively.  We have an active bilateral investment treaty negotiating agenda with China, India, and others.

All these initiatives hold the promise of significant economic gains, supporting more good jobs that pay well here in the United States by dismantling barriers to U.S. exports and creating robust enforcement mechanisms to prevent future barriers.  These agreements will tackle both tariff and non-tariff barriers, including 21st century issues like state-owned enterprises, cross-border data flows, forced localization, regulatory coherence, and trade facilitation.  They will create more opportunities for U.S. companies by integrating them more deeply into global supply chains.  

To conclude and implement these negotiations, we need to pass trade promotion authority legislation. That’s why, this January, I introduced H.R. 3830, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act, along with then-Finance Committee Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch, as well as Rules Committee Chairman Sessions and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Nunes.

TPA is how Congress sets its priorities for trade agreements and instructs the Administration on how to achieve them.  Every President since FDR has had some form of this authority.  The legislation establishes specific rules for how the Administration must consult with us, and ensures Congress the final say in approving any trade agreement. This TPA bill is the strongest in history and includes new provisions to keep Members informed and provide a formal process to guarantee that Members’ views will be taken into account.  If the Administration does not meet our objectives or keep us informed, the bill provides that we can strip TPA.

The need for this bill is resonating powerfully among Members and key stakeholders – they know that TPA helps our negotiators get the very best deal and realize the economic benefits of our trade agreements.  But while the President called for TPA in his State of the Union speech, he has been silent since.  Ambassador, I know you have been working hard but if we are going to get TPA done, we need full engagement by the President himself and his entire Administration.  This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the Administration to engage with Congress and the American people on this bill.  I look forward to hearing from you, Ambassador, about the Administration’s plan to bring TPA across the finish line.

In addition to negotiations, we must also address the challenges and opportunities presented by trading partners around the world, including the major emerging economies – China, India, and Brazil.  They provide enormous potential but also significant, and growing, barriers.  We must engage these countries constructively but firmly and address trade and investment barriers, such as through an expanded Bilateral Investment Treaty agenda.

I’ll conclude by pointing to a recent Pew study on America’s place in the world, which found that 66 percent of Americans see benefits from greater involvement in the global economy because it opens up new markets and opportunities for growth.  With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our borders, Americans are keenly aware of the need for strong U.S. engagement abroad.  Let’s seize this opportunity on the trade front.