WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA), held a hearing on opportunities to expand U.S. trade relationships in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen existing trade agreements like United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).
Explaining why the Asia-Pacific region is so important for America’s workers and businesses, Chairman Reichert said in his opening remarks:
“Many of the largest and the fastest-growing economies in the world are in the Asia-Pacific region. … If we want to remain competitive, then we must focus on doing so in the Asia-Pacific region.”
“I firmly believe we need to pursue new bilateral agreements in the Asia-Pacific region. High-standard, ambitious, and enforceable agreements would benefit all Americans. … The longer we wait, the more we fall behind our competitors. We simply can’t afford to delay.”
Subcommittee members listened to testimony from trade policy experts and U.S. business leaders from across the country. Witnesses pointed to the success that U.S. industries have achieved in exporting to the Asia-Pacific region and reinforced the need for the U.S. to negotiate new trade agreements so that their workers and businesses can compete and win.
Matthew Goodman, Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, stressed that because the Asia-Pacific region encompasses 60 percent of global GDP and 48 percent of global trade, U.S exporters need improved access to Asian-Pacific markets:
“The United States can still recapture economic leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and take advantage of the huge opportunities there…but we have to have a strategy and policies to back it up. The President’s upcoming trip to Asia provides an opportunity to reaffirm our interest and commitment to the region.”
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) pointed to the significant number of farmers and ranchers in her district who depend on exporting goods. She asked Kelley Sullivan, an owner-rancher in Texas and member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, about the challenges that farmers and ranchers would face today if KORUS was eliminated. Ms. Sullivan responded:
“Right now we [beef and dairy producers] enjoy an 8% or so tariff within KORUS. What would happen with the elimination? It would jeopardize all of that and increase our tariff to 40%.”
When Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) asked the panel if anyone would advocate for the elimination of KORUS, every witness said no.
While discussing the steps the United States should pursue in negotiating new bilateral trade agreements, Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) said that we need to be more aggressive – noting that tariffs now levied upon U.S. products in the Asia-Pacific region (such as a 50% tariff on beef in Japan) are giving U.S. workers a bad deal.
Agreeing with Mr. Smith’s comments, Ms. Sullivan stated that we must conclude ambitious new trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region:
“There is no such thing as a perfect trade agreement. … But we need to aggressively pursue a bilateral agreement with our number one trading partner, Japan, right now.”
Chairman Reichert closed the hearing by noting that improvements need to be made in our trade agreements in this region, such as KORUS, but that these agreements are a good deal for America.
“We’ve got to move forward quickly on these bilateral agreements so that our industries – our ag industries, manufacturing, services, etc. – have the opportunity to compete fairly across this world.”
He further noted the need to move forward on new deals:
“We can not allow much more time to lapse in creating opportunities to have other agreements, and especially when you look at Japan. Also, looking at Vietnam, we’ve got to move forward quickly on these bilateral agreements so that our industries. … have the opportunity to compete fairly across this world.”
Ways and Means Members will continue our efforts to ensure that trade agreements work on behalf of American workers and businesses and that we are always on the lookout for opportunities to develop and strengthen our advantage, creating more jobs at home.