Tag: U.S. Trade Representative

Hearing Set on Trade Pacts as Senators, WaPo Call for Action

From the Senate Republicans, @Senate_GOP:

At 3:30 ET today, Leader McConnell, Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Sen. @robportman will hold a press conference on free trade agreements.

Sens. McConnell, Hatch, and @robportman will call for immediate action from the president on pending free trade agreements.

Washington Post editorial, “Time to act on free trade:U.S. agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should be approved — soon“:

The potential for a trade policy train wreck is real. Everyone needs to focus less on the political tit for tat and more on the policy case for getting these deals done as soon as possible, which is clear and strong. “It is time to identify the specific steps Colombia and Panama must take to move forward,” Mr. Baucus said Wednesday, “so we can finally approve our free-trade agreements with these countries, increase U.S. exports and create jobs here at home.” From a Democrat, that can hardly be considered unfriendly advice, and Mr. Obama would be wise to take it.

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, “Brady Announces First in a Series of Three Hearings on the Pending, Job-Creating Trade Agreements“:

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.

Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers will be William D. Marsh, vice president legal – Western Hemisphere — for  Baker Hughes. Also scheduled to testify is Ambassador Miriam Sapiro of the U.S. Trade Representatives Office.

The USTR on Tuesday also hosts the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea on its annual visit to Washington, D.C. Last week U.S. and Colombian officials met in Washington to discuss the pending FTA. (Also here.)

The Miami Herald reports on President Obama’s upcoming trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, “President Obama’s Latin agenda takes shape.”

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Senators Tell Administration: Move All Three Trade Agreements

U.S. Trade Representative Kirk testified on the President’s 2011 Trade Agenda at the Senate Finance Committee this morning. As expected, the focus was squarely on lack of progress on the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements. Unfortunately, despite an advance request by the Chairman and Ranking Member for a specific timetable on concluding the two agreements, Ambassador Kirk did not provide much of a road map on how the U.S. will proceed in addressing what the Administration feels are outstanding issues in both agreements.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk

When he appeared in front of the House Ways and Means Committee last month, Kirk promised the Administration wants to move the Korea trade agreement (KORUS) as soon as possible, and it would intensify efforts to resolve outstanding issues in the Colombia and Panama agreements so they could be moved as quickly as possible to Congress for approval –- by the end of 2011 if possible. At the time, we argued that all three agreements need to move as quickly as possible. We still absolutely believe this is the way things should proceed. The agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama have languished since 2007, while our competitors in Europe and Asia continue to move aggressively to open those markets and gain preferential access for their manufactured goods exports.

The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee made it very clear they feel the same way. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) was crystal clear: “The time is long past to ratify the Colombia agreement,” said, continuing, “None of these agreements will pass unless they are all packaged together this year.” Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Ambassador Kirk that he was tired of unfulfilled promises on Colombia and Panama. “It is the Administration’s inaction that speaks volumes – and these promises we’ve heard are inadequate,” the Senator said. Sen. Hatch pulled no punches in saying that he will view any attempt to move the KORUS FTA without action on Colombia and Panama in a very negative light. (continue reading…)

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For U.S. Manufacturers, Intellectual Property Rights are a Global Priority

The U.S. Trade Representative is holding a special 301 Review public hearing today at the USITC to examine trade and the protection of intellectual property rights. (Agenda) The National Association of Manufacturers submitted comments. Excerpt:

The NAM emphasizes to the Special 301 Sub-committee that IPR protection and enforcement is an issue for virtually all our members. Manufacturing, yes manufacturing, is as dependent on intellectual property like patents, trademarks, trade secrets, trade dress and copyright as copyright-based industries that receive considerably more attention. Counterfeiting and piracy are existential threats to manufacturers, the people they employ, and the consumers who come in contact with their products and services.

Theft is theft no matter if it is called three-syllable words like “counterfeit” or “piracy”. The trade in fake products supplants legitimate markets, steals our workers’ jobs and puts American and other consumers needlessly at risk as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, unsafe products and even hazardous materials are put into the stream of commerce on a daily basis.

It is simply amazing what products and trademarks counterfeiters and pirates are so willing to steal. While most people are familiar with the counterfeiting of luxury brands because of the cachet that can command premium prices, counterfeiters are willing to engage in criminal activities by selling everyday items such as circuit breakers, extension cords, batteries, fireplace tools, golf clubs, kitchenware, toothpaste, cigarettes windshields – the list can go on and on. Even semiconductor chips that can be used in guidance systems for America’s defense have been counterfeited and found in the United States.

As this nation looks to our economic recovery, it is important to note that IPR theft is an impediment to that recovery. Markets once lost through counterfeiting and/or damaged brands are not readily and easily recovered.

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We Need To Lead Public Opinion On Trade, Not Follow It

It was troubling to see U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk’s comments in The Dallas Morning News today on pending trade agreements. According to the article, “Trade pacts could boost Texas, but other states wary,” Ambassador Kirk does not want to rush all of the pending agreements to Congress because of American public opinion on trade and the unemployment rate in the United States.

These comments are alarming as trade agreements not only help create jobs but they also contribute to economic growth. While it may be true many people are misinformed or unaware about the benefits of trade, that’s a reason to explain the facts, not to delay. America continues to stand on the sidelines while our competitors reach trade agreements with each other.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s data show that the U.S. trade agreement partners have never been a major factor in our U.S. trade deficit and have actually given us a trade surplus for the last three years in manufactured goods.

Further, trade agreements reduce foreign barriers or the cost of doing business for U.S. companies. As a result, these companies are able to hire more employees and make more investments. The United States is already a wide open market, with very few barriers, while others are not. When a foreign country is willing to enter into a trade agreement with us, we are the winner: Our barriers to their imports fall only a little, while their barriers to our exports fall a lot.

The article correctly reports how important the growth of exports to our trade partners has been for Texas. But then it follows with this erroneous claim: “But what’s good for Texas is not necessarily good for states like Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which have lost millions of manufacturing jobs because of America’s great appetite for imports.”

To set the record straight, two-thirds of Michigan’s manufactured goods exports go to U.S. trade agreement partners that have eliminated barriers to our exports, and over the last five years Michigan employment related to manufactured goods exports grew 26 percent. In comparison, other private employment in the state fell by 10 percent.

The story is similar for North Carolina, where more than 40 percent of its exports go to U.S. trade agreement partners, and employment related to manufactured goods exports grew 24 percent while other private sector employment grew only 5 percent. And Wisconsin? Half of its manufactured goods exports go to trade agreement partners, and employment related to manufactured goods exports grew 51 percent while other private employment fell 3 percent. State after state tells the same story.

Rather than hesitancy about moving forward with the pending trade agreements including Colombia and Panama as well as Korea, the Administration should move full speed ahead at educating the public with the truth about trade agreements and should hurry the agreements to Congress.

(continue reading…)

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USTR: ‘Substantial Progress’ Made on U.S.-Korea Trade Pact

A flurry of news reports this morning about a deal being reached between U.S. and South Korean negotiators on a free trade negotiation.

U.S. Trade Representative’s Office:

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk made the following statement on Friday morning in Columbia, Maryland, at the conclusion of meetings with Korean Minister for Trade Kim Jong-hoon to discuss issues related to the U.S.-Korea trade agreement.

“We’ve made substantial progress in our discussions. It’s time now for the leaders to review this progress before we move forward.”

From The Hill, “U.S. cites ‘substantial progress’ in trade talks amid report of possible deal“:

President Obama’s trade chief says the U.S. and South Korea have made progress but stopped short of announcing a trade deal.

In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he and Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon had made “substantial progress” and that it was time for leaders to review their work “before we move forward.”

Kirk spoke after South Korean media reported a possible deal between the two sides. The Yonhap News Agency, quoting the South Korean embassy, reported the two sides had reached “a substantial outcome.”

Yonhap News Agency (Korea), “S. Korea, U.S. reach deal on FTA: embassy“:
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States have reached a deal on a free trade agreement (FTA) pending for more than three years over U.S. demands for wider access to the South Korean auto and beef markets, the South Korean embassy here said Friday.

“We’ve produced a substantial outcome on the autos and other limited areas during the ongoing talks,” the embassy said in a statement. “A final announcement will be made after the delegations reported outcome to their respective governments for confirmation.”

The chief South Korean trade negotiator will leave for Seoul early Friday after concluding the fourth and final day of talks on a free trade deal with the United States here, a South Korean official said.

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Congrats to Senator-elect Rob Portman, a Manufacturing Supporter

Rob Portman has been declared the winner of the U.S. Senate race in Ohio, holding the seat for the Republicans.

As a House member, Rep. Portman — who represented Ohio 2nd, which included the Cincinnati suburbs — was a three-time recipient of the NAM’s “Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence” for his voting record in support of priority manufacturing issues.

Portman was also the well-respected U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush before switching to OMB Director. A supporter of free trade agreements elected statewide in Ohio? How about that!

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Ambassador Kirk’s Reminder: Global Operations Create U.S. Jobs

The U.S. Trade Representative’s blog includes this Oct. 14 entry, “Ambassador Kirk Meets with Honeywell International CEO “:

Today Ambassador Kirk met with Honeywell International CEO David Cote. Mr. Cote serves on the President’s Deficit Commission and was named co-chair of the U.S.-India CEO Forum by President Obama in 2009.

Honeywell International is a global company headquartered in New Jersey that supports about 58,000 jobs in the United States and 122,000 total jobs worldwide. The company strives to invent and manufacture new technology that will help increase global safety and security.

It’s a company that thrives on trade to do business. In fact, it’s a leading exporter in over 100 countries worldwide. USTR is dedicated to opening markets and maintaining a level playing field so that companies like Honeywell can export more in support of U.S. American jobs.

And right beneath it, an Oct. 13 post, “USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke tour FedEx global export operations in Memphis, Tennessee“:

This week, Ambassador Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke are visiting the front lines of global trade in Memphis, Tennessee. That’s where Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Locke got a behind-the-scenes look at the FedEx global operations hub, one of the busiest transportation and logistics centers in the world. They toured the site at midnight to get a sense of how FedEx operates around the clock, sending over eight million packages daily to more than 220 countries. That enormous volume of trade activity supports 230,000 FedEx jobs in the United States, including 30,000 in the Volunteer State.

That’s right on. U.S. manufacturers and logistics/shipping companies support domestic U.S. jobs through their global operations.

These USTR blog posts serve as a timely rebuke to those who for political purposes misrepresent overseas operations as somehow deleterious to the U.S. economy and job creation.

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Calling China to Account on the Doha Round

Back in May, the NAM issued a statement on just-concluded WTO discussions in Paris that commented, “The only way that a balanced Doha Round outcome that benefits all nations – including the United States, but especially including the least developed countries – can be obtained is if U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his negotiating team make it plain that the United States will settle for nothing less.”

As the G-8/G-20 talks begin in Toronto, we are particularly pleased to see a very senior member of Ambassador Kirk’s negotiating team is making it plain.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke is the U.S. ambassador and America’s top negotiator at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In an interview with Reuters, he quite pointedly blames China for stalling negotiations in the ongoing Doha Round, saying “When it comes to China we’re getting no engagement whatsoever, not even in terms of process.” (continue reading…)

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Brazil Cotton Deal Prevented Intellectual Property Rights Retaliation

The Wall Street Journal editorial Friday (“The Madness of Cotton“) on resolution of the U.S.-Brazil Cotton dispute overlooks completely the most salient and important point – that the U.S. deal with Brazil forestalled the imposition of ruinous retaliatory duties not only on American manufactured products and agricultural goods, but on the key currency of America’s best hopes for 21st century economic growth and innovation – intellectual property rights (IPR).

The United States was found to be in violation of subsidies on cotton by the World Trade Organization, and Brazil was authorized to retaliate against American products because those subsidies still exist. However, in a precedent-setting decision that should send chills down the spine of every advanced manufacturing nation on earth, Brazil was also given the right to retaliate against our IPR. Break patents, steal licenses, refuse payment of royalties – this is far from the standard practice of tariff retaliation that follows some WTO dispute settlement decisions.

Can you imagine the economic devastation to American companies that would have resulted from a billion dollars worth of retaliation against American IPR by Brazil? The ability to generate new ideas and new products, new processes and innovations is at the heart of America’s manufacturing competitiveness. Facing a very real threat to this key element of our economy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be commended for reaching a deal with Brazil.

Keep in mind, this is a stop-gap deal. If we could prevail upon Congress to immediately make changes to this particular subsidy, Brazil would lose its rights to retaliate. However, that won’t happen, and the best place for alterations is the next Farm Bill. Until we can get the necessary changes made, we’d be facing enormous retaliation on manufactured goods AND IPR by Brazil. Rather than have more than a billion dollars worth of U.S. goods and IPR face retaliation, USTR and Agriculture signed this shorter-term agreement. It’s the right move, it’s the smart move, and the business community strongly supported it.

In that deal, the United States agreed to provide funding for agricultural research in Brazil for a short time period while we reform the underlying cotton subsidy practices in the 2012 Farm Bill that resulted in the WTO judgment against us. That’s how the WTO works – an unfair trading practice is identified and most often immediately or quickly modified. The U.S. Congress will need to examine these subsidy programs and modify them to prevent future trade disputes.

But this is a far less onerous task than to watch the innovations, inventions and uniqueness of our manufacturers’ intellectual property rights be taken and used against us. Retaliation against our goods and farm products would have been bad enough – we’ve been watching it happen in the Mexico trucking dispute for over 14 months. But to have IPR targeted would have been a terrible precedent that, in the future, would have emboldened China, India and other nations to action as well.

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Trade, Export Control Officials Among the Recess Appointments

President Obama’s decision to make 15 recess appointments contributed to the Administration’s trade agenda by filling several top trade-related spots.

  • Eric L. Hirschhorn: Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration and head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce
  • Francisco “Frank” J. Sánchez: Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce
  • Michael Punke: Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative
  • Islam A. Siddiqui: Nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk issued several news releases welcoming the new USTR appointees:

USTR Kirk Welcomes Deputy USTR Michael Punke“, excerpt:

Michael Punke will be a valuable asset as WTO Ambassador as USTR works to conclude a balanced and ambitious Doha Round of trade negotiations that will benefit American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers. Michael will also work on behalf of American businesses and entrepreneurs at the WTO – helping USTR to remove trade barriers, increase exports, and support well-paying jobs here at home.

USTR Kirk Welcomes Chief Agricultural Negotiator Isi Siddiqui“:

I am proud to officially welcome Isi Siddiqui as USTR’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator. He brings to this office incredible agricultural expertise built over years of work in both the government and private sector, and can be counted on to stand up for American farmers, ranchers, and families in all our negotiations – from the Doha round talks to bilateral discussions. If we want to double American exports in the next five years, we have to seize every opportunity to grow agricultural exports, as well as exports of goods and services. Isi is going to make sure we don’t leave any of those opportunities on the table.

Kirk’s hometown paper, The Dallas Morning News, reported the appointments, “Obama recess appointments include help for trade ambassador Ron Kirk,” citing Kirk’s recent objections to the vacancies made in a recent speech at the National Press Club:

At some point, this begins to strain our credibility and the good will that we have worked so hard to regenerate around the world, because the world believes you don’t care. You don’t have an ambassador in Geneva, how can you be serious about the Doha Round?

The Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) had blocked the nominations of Siddiqui and Punke to apply pressure on U.S. trade negotiators to address a dispute over Canada’s handling of Kentucky tobacco.

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