Kirk set to talk trade on Capitol Hill

“We are now at an important juncture to move forward aggressively on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and other initiatives to make sure that last year’s momentum is not lost,” he said. 

Camp said it is “a critical time for us to look ahead for future trade and investment opportunities with important trading partners like the European Union, India, and Latin America to maximize American competitiveness and ensure that we do not fall behind.”

While the Korean trade deal — the first of three passed in October — is set to go into effect on March 15, trade officials are still working on implementing the other two agreements with Colombia and Panama, and lawmakers will likely ask Kirk for details on those talks. 

Kirk has said his office is moving as quickly as possible to complete work on the accords.  

Meanwhile, Congress will need to provide permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia by waiving the Jackson-Vanik Amendment — a 37-year-old provision crafted to put pressure on communist nations for human-rights abuses and immigration policies. 

Russia was formally invited to join the WTO in December, and has until July 22 to accept a several-hundred-page report of rules it must follow. 

The United States won’t enjoy full trade benefits with Russia unless they move forward with permanent normal trade relations. 

At this point, lawmakers are getting up to speed on the issue and could aim to take up legislation this spring, although there isn’t a clear timeline. 

President Obama has said he wants to work with Congress to repeal Jackson-Vanik. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is in Russia discussing a whole host of issues related to trade opportunities for U.S. businesses along with various concerns. 

In addition, U.S. officials also are taking a hard look at expanding the nations involved in TPP talks to Japan, Canada and Mexico. No decisions have been made yet on that front. 

Negotiations on the Asia-Pacific pact have moved swiftly with the eight other nations involved — Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru and Brunei. The TPP could be completed this year.

Kirk has said that any nations allowed to join the negotiations would have to get up to speed and not slow down talks. 

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