WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) today delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Opportunities to Expand U.S. Trade Relationships in the Asia-Pacific Region.”
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Remarks as delivered:
“Good afternoon. The Subcommittee will come to order. Welcome to the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing on Opportunities to Expand U.S. Trade Relationships in the Asia-Pacific Region. Before hearing from our witnesses, I’d like to make a few points.
“Many of the largest and the fastest-growing economies in the world are in the Asia-Pacific region. The 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, members account for around 59 percent of global GDP and 49 percent of world trade. U.S. companies can sell only so much to the four percent of the world’s population that lives in the United States, so we must improve our access to global markets. f we want to remain competitive, then we must focus on doing so in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Washington is one of the most trade-dependent states in the country, with 40 percent of all jobs tied to trade. Given our location on the West Coast, my constituents are very aware of the importance of export markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Far too often, U.S. companies are held back in this region by high tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and discriminatory policies and regulations. All too often, it is much more difficult to do business in the region than it should be. Reducing these barriers would increase opportunities for U.S. companies to compete and win and would also increase prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific, enhance security in the region, and set high standards for future agreements.
“One important tool that the United States can use to address these issues is negotiating trade agreements. But we have trade agreements with only three countries in the Asia-Pacific: Korea, Australia, and Singapore. We must expand our presence.
“I am convinced that KORUS, our trade agreement with Korea, has been a great success for both the United States and Korea. KORUS has been in place only five years, and some of the tariff reductions are still being phased in, especially for sensitive agricultural products, so we can expect even greater gains in the future. Even still, we have seen the benefits of KORUS throughout the United States, and particularly in my home state of Washington. Among other success stories, we have nearly doubled our cherry exports to Korea, making it our third largest market for cherries.
“At the same time, Korea’s implementation of certain portions of the agreement has been very disappointing, and I know some tough conversations are ongoing to address those problems. The best way to resolve these issues and instill confidence in both countries about the future of the agreement is to use the committee structure set up under KORUS. That structure has helped us put an end to several disputes already, but Korea needs to do much more.
“I am eager to hear from each of our witnesses today about your experiences in Korea and throughout this region – both where you’re having success and where you see continuing challenges. I hope that this hearing will help us as policymakers to more effectively push our trading partners to ensure a level playing field for U.S. companies and their employees.
“When we have a trade agreement in place, we can work to enforce the agreement and push our trading partner to live up to its side of the bargain. But our limited number of trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region greatly reduces our leverage relative to competitors in other countries that have been more aggressive in negotiating trade agreements.
“Therefore, 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, including farmers, ranchers, workers, fishermen, manufacturers, and service providers. The longer we wait, the more we fall behind our competitors. We simply can’t afford to delay. I am eager to hear from our witnesses about how such new agreements can help us force markets open and make sure we are treated fairly.
“I will now yield to Ranking Member Pascrell for the purpose of an opening statement.”