Camp Opening Statement: Non-Markup of the Pending Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea

July 7, 2011 — Opening Statements   

Washington, DC – Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) today delivered opening remarks at the Committee on Ways and Means Non-Markup of the Pending Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.  Below are excerpts, followed by the full remarks.

We Must Act Now
“Despite questions about how the House, Senate and Administration proceed on TAA, one thing is perfectly clear: we cannot afford to let these trade agreements languish any longer.  The rest of the world is fast moving forward, and we risk losing market share and jobs if we fail to act.”

These Trade Agreements Are Cost-Free Job Creators

“The three trade agreements are a sure-fire way to create American jobs by growing U.S. exports of goods and services – and they do not require one dime of new government spending.  The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three pending trade agreements together would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion.  These agreements will create and support jobs here in the United States – 250,000 jobs, using the President’s own measure.”

The Trade Agreements Will Help Small & Medium-Sized Businesses

“It’s not just big companies that benefit from these agreements.  More than 80 percent of exporters to Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are small or medium-sized businesses, with fewer than 500 employees.  In many ways, these dynamic businesses and their employees have the most to gain from these agreements – and the most to lose if we delay. ”

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I would like to welcome all of you to the non-markup of draft legislation to implement our trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.  U.S. farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers have waited over four years for the jobs, increased exports, and economic growth that these trade agreements will generate.  We owe it to them to ensure Congressional consideration of all three agreements this summer, and this meeting is an important step in making that a reality.  

Before elaborating further on the trade agreements, I know there has been much confusion of late over the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and how it relates to these agreements. On that topic, I want to make two points clear.  

First, I support the substance of the compromise announced last week on a scaled-back version of TAA.  

I understand many have concerns about the substance of TAA, but I would like to point out that in reaching an agreement with Chairman Baucus and the White House on an extension of TAA, we have secured significant reforms to the program, reducing the overall costs compared to 2009 law and ensuring it is fully offset with other spending cuts.  

Second, the agreement reached on TAA was limited to the substance of the package and did not include a consensus on the process for moving it forward, whether on its own or as part of one of the FTAs.  I have made clear many times that a decision about the process for voting on these items is something for the Speaker, House and Senate Leadership and the White House to make.

So, although Senator Baucus included TAA in the South Korea bill he released last week, there was no agreement to do so, and this Committee will limit its focus today to just the three trade agreements.  

However, I recognize that the White House has said that reaching an agreement on TAA is necessary for it to send the three job-creating free trade agreements to Congress.  Therefore, if the Administration formally sends up the agreements to Congress without TAA, I intend to formally mark up those agreements and TAA on the same day.  Despite questions about how the House, Senate and Administration proceed on TAA, one thing is perfectly clear: we cannot afford to let these trade agreements languish any longer.  The rest of the world is fast moving forward, and we risk losing market share and jobs if we fail to act.

All three trade agreements enjoy broad bipartisan and bicameral support. Here at the Ways and Means Committee, we have held a total of five hearings on the three trade agreements and the U.S. international trade agenda since January.  We have worked tirelessly with our own Members and leadership, and have reached across the aisle.  In other words, a lot of good, bipartisan work has gone into bringing these three agreements to where we are today.  The Administration also deserves credit for pushing forward with all three of these trade agreements, and the President’s leadership will be critical to bringing them across the goal line this summer.

The three trade agreements are a sure-fire way to create American jobs by growing U.S. exports of goods and services – and they do not require one dime of new government spending.  The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three pending trade agreements together would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion.  These agreements will create and support jobs here in the United States – 250,000 jobs, using the President’s own measure.

These agreements maintain and improve U.S. competitiveness vis-à-vis exporters from other countries like China.  They also create important new tools for addressing trade barriers and enforcing our rights.

It’s not just big companies that benefit from these agreements.  More than 80 percent of exporters to Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are small or medium-sized businesses, with fewer than 500 employees.  In many ways, these dynamic businesses and their employees have the most to gain from these agreements – and the most to lose if we delay.   This Committee heard from many such businesses at our hearings this year.

We’ve come a long way on each of these three agreements.  Last year, the President seized the initiative on the South Korea agreement and concluded a robust supplemental autos agreement that enjoys broad bipartisan support.  His leadership was essential.

In addition, the Panama agreement is long overdue.  Panama has made numerous changes to its labor laws as well as signed and ratified a Tax Information Exchange Agreement to improve its tax transparency and bilateral information sharing. Panama has addressed all outstanding issues and is ready to move forward today.

As for Colombia, I’m pleased that the Administration finally set defined markers by agreeing to a labor action plan with Colombia in April.  Colombia has been hard at work to implement that plan.  Several of us were in Colombia in April and saw that Colombia has taken impressive strides to dramatically reduce violence, increase prosecutions, and improve labor laws.  The Santos government has proven its commitment and its ability to deliver results, and the Colombians have met all the obligations that are due.  

We also cannot overlook the fact that Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are key allies in critical regions of the world.  These agreements are important not only for their economic benefits but also for U.S. national security and geopolitical interests.

I look forward to quick movement on all three agreements and to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure prompt submission of all three agreements to ensure Congressional consideration this summer.  

SUBCOMMITTEE: Full Committee    SUBCOMMITTEE: Trade