HEARING ADVISORY: Brady Announces First in a Series of Three Hearings on the Pending, Job-Creating Trade Agreements

March 10, 2011 — Hearing Advisory   

           Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a series of hearings on the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.  According to the President’s own statements, these agreements have the ability to create over 250,000 American jobs. The first hearing will address the agreement with Colombia.  The hearing will take place on Thursday, March 17, 2011, in the main Committee hearing room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 A.M.  The Subcommittee will soon advise regarding hearings on the trade agreements with Panama and South Korea.

           In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only.  However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.  A list of invited witnesses will follow.

            In 2007, the United States concluded a trade agreement with Colombia, which is still awaiting Congressional consideration.  On January 25, 2011, the Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on this agreement, along with the pending trade agreements with Panama and South Korea. 

           The Colombia trade agreement was also discussed at the Ways and Means Committee hearing with Ambassador Kirk, on February 9, 2011.  At that hearing, in response to Chairman Camp’s request that Ambassador Kirk set forth a concrete timeline for Congressional consideration of the Colombia trade agreement within the first six months of the year, Ambassador Kirk said that he would be sending a delegation to Colombia and would then develop “a workable plan” for moving the Colombia agreement forward.  Ambassador Kirk stated that, prior to the submission of the FTA, “it will be imperative to resolve issues regarding laws and practices impacting the protection of internationally-recognized labor rights, as well as issues concerning violence against labor leaders and the prosecution of the perpetrators.”  He further noted that the President had “directed us to intensify our engagement with Colombia so that we can resolve these outstanding issues this year.”  The delegation sent by Ambassador Kirk was in Colombia the week of February 15.

          The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would open new markets to U.S. exports and, in turn, benefit American businesses, farmers, workers, and consumers.  The independent U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has estimated that implementing the agreement would increase U.S. exports by $1.1 billion and add $2.5 billion per year to U.S. GDP.  The benefits of trade agreements are also long-lasting.  Since 2000, U.S. exports to the 13 countries with which the United States has implemented trade agreements have grown almost twice as fast as our worldwide exports. 

            Colombia has concluded trade agreements with major trading partners and export competitors of the United States, so U.S. failure to implement our own trade agreement with Colombia could severely disadvantage U.S. exporters and jeopardize U.S. job creation.  The Canada-Colombia trade agreement is expected to enter into force around July 1 of this year, removing significant Colombian tariffs for Canadian agriculture exporters while similar tariffs remain in place against U.S. agriculture exports.  In 2008, Colombia implemented a trade agreement with the MERCOSUR countries, including Argentina and Brazil.  Subsequent to implementation of that agreement, key U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia have decreased significantly.

            Over the years, several objections have been raised to our trade agreement with Colombia.  Some have argued that sustained progress to address concerns about Colombian labor law and violence against workers in Colombia must occur before it is appropriate to consider the agreement.  However, supporters of the agreement argue that passing the agreement will improve labor protections and express frustration the Administration has not identified concrete steps for Colombia to take to address concerns. 

           In announcing this hearing, Chairman Brady said, “Failure to move forward with the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement is undermining U.S. influence and leadership in our own hemisphere and putting at risk both good U.S. jobs and the competitiveness of U.S. exporters.  The United States cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while Colombia implements trade agreements with other major countries, putting American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, service providers, and other exporters at a competitive disadvantage.  We need a concrete plan now from the Administration for moving forward with the Colombia agreement, to allow Congressional consideration of all three pending trade agreements by July 1.”

           The focus of the hearing is on Congressional consideration of the pending trade agreement with Colombia.  The hearing will address the economic benefits this agreement will bring to American businesses, farmers, workers, consumers, and the U.S. economy.  In addition, the hearing will examine the national security and geopolitical implications of the agreement and will explore developments within Colombia that have occurred since the trade agreement was concluded.

Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms.  From the Committee homepage, https://waysandmeans.house.gov, select “Hearings.”  Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Click here to provide a submission for the record.”  Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. ATTACH your submission as a Word or WordPerfect document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Thursday, March 31, 2011.  Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-6649.

The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.  As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee.  The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines.  Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below.  Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word or WordPerfect format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.

2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased.  All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears.  A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.

The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.  If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested).  Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.

Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/