Obama agenda would boost exports, creating more jobs in United States

During my confirmation hearing, I told Congress that as USTR I would work to bring home the benefits of trade — more and better jobs, higher wages, fairer prices and greater choices — to American workers and families.

When I was invited back to Congress this month, I had a lot to share about the work the Obama administration is doing to deliver on that promise. 

We have put together an ambitious Trade Policy Agenda that will support economic recovery and American job growth by expanding the United States’s market access abroad through new agreements and tougher trade enforcement. 

My office is actively pursuing the objectives outlined in that agenda, because we know that if this country is to achieve the president’s National Export Initiative — a doubling of American exports that would support 2 million new jobs — we must pursue a broad-based trade strategy.

Trade can be a two-way street on which American families and businesses find success and prosperity. And I’ve taken the time to talk to American workers, small-business owners and entrepreneurs in person about how to make that happen.

I’ve traveled from Detroit to New Orleans and from Iowa to South Carolina to Montana.  I’ve seen the impact of trade on manufacturing towns and agricultural centers. I’ve paid attention to what works and what doesn’t to deliver the jobs Americans need today.  And USTR is taking what we’ve learned into discussions with our trading partners around the world.

We are working hard to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to fairly compete around the world. In the past year, we’ve used the tools of enforcement to level the playing field for all kinds of American businesses and workers — from lumber producers to tire companies to industrial manufacturers. 

And we are stepping up the fight against global counterfeiting and piracy through ACTA and ensuring our partners are living up to their IP obligations.

As the president has said, our competitors have to play by the rules. We are making sure that they do, because we can’t afford to cede jobs or markets to unfair trade practices.

Instead, we must work to create more jobs and economic opportunities for American businesses, workers, farmers and ranchers. 

USTR negotiators are on their way home today from the first round of negotiations toward a new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that can expand U.S. opportunities in the Asia-Pacific under an ambitious, high-standard, 21st century pact. 

Through this agreement we hope not only to build what will become the largest, most dynamic trade collaboration of our time, but also to create and retain jobs in the United States and set a new bar for trade agreements – on environmental cooperation, on workers’ rights and protections, on support for small- and medium-sized businesses, and in many other areas.

As the United States prepares to host the APEC forum in 2011, we are also working with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries to make it less expensive, easier, and faster for Americans to trade in the Asia-Pacific.  We hope to foster job-creating trade opportunities by eliminating obstacles to the flow of goods through supply chains and improving the transparency and accessibility of APEC economies’ customs information and regulations. 

And the United States is working to further strengthen our relationship with key existing partners, like the EU, Canada and Mexico, to enable more businesses to take advantage of trade opportunities. For instance, we are working with our North American trading partners to craft closer cooperation on labor and environmental issues, as well as regulatory cooperation.

We are also moving forward with initiatives already in progress when President Barack Obama took office, doing so with a fresh perspective and with respect for the needs and values of American workers and businesses. 

U.S. negotiators are at the table in Geneva, leading efforts to forge a balanced and ambitious agreement that creates new export opportunities for America’s farmers, manufacturers and service providers — pressing hard for key emerging markets like China, Brazil and India to put on the table market openings commensurate with their fast-growing economies and increased roles in the global trading system.

And we are working to address outstanding issues on trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama, which we recognize have the potential to bring significant economic and strategic benefits to the United States. We hope to move these agreements forward at appropriate times, in a manner that responds to concerns and that allows American businesses and workers unfettered access to these three growing markets.  

Expanding trade that reflects our values and provides market access that supports good-paying American jobs is our goal in our enforcement efforts at the WTO, in our negotiations abroad, and in our extensive consultations with Congress and stakeholders. 

We can use common sense to find common ground on trade.  As on that common ground, we can work together to help Americans workers and businesses win in the global marketplace. 

Kirk is the United States Trade Representative.