April 01, 2009

US To Get Tough On Trade Barriers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to be U.S. trade representative, three months after President Barack Obama tapped him for the job.

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has been officially confirmed as President Barack Obama's United States Trade Representative. The confirmation came after Senate testimony in which U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told the Senate she supported Kirk's nomination to the post. "I know that Mayor Kirk's leadership and experience will make him a strong ambassador for U.S. trade policy," Hutchison said. "Last week in his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Mayor Kirk pledged that as U.S. Trade Representative, he 'will work to increase opportunities for American entrepreneurs in the global marketplace.

During a short confirmation hearing on March 9 before the Senate Finance Committee, Kirk said that he will look at the trade agreements of the Bush administration and decide whether to continue those policies or make changes. 

Kirk said he and President Obama believe trade agreements should have high environmental standards and protect labor union rights for workers in trading partner nations. While Kirk has supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said agrees with Obama that it deserves another look in the face of the global recession.  

These economic opportunities are critical to America's prosperity.[5] "We agreed on the importance of achieving an ambitious and balanced outcome to the WTO Doha Development Agenda as soon as possible," said newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and E.U. Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton in a joint statement. Noting that the global economic crisis is "testing the resilience of the rules-based multilateral trading system," the two trade chiefs said they would intensify their efforts to cooperate on bilateral and multilateral trade issues. In briefing reporters at the start of their two-hour meeting, Kirk said both officials are aware that governments "are necessarily going to do what they have to do to restore and grow their economies" during the crisis, but that it has to be done without damaging the ability to trade in the future. Ashton, on a five-day trip to cement trade relations with the new administration, lawmakers and business groups, had dinner with Kirk on Wednesday - just hours after he was approved by Senate.

She told reporters after Thursday's meeting that the former Dallas mayor "understands trade issues" and seems ready to "take things forward." She said it is too early to tell where the Obama administration plans to go on Doha and other trade issues, but that she urged Kirk to keep an open mind on the seven-year-old trade talks that she considers 80% done. "We hope that he will look carefully at the advantages to the United States," said Ashton.

The U. S. government will develop a list of the most significant barriers to U. S. exports and then prosecute those cases through the World Trade Organization or the appropriate bilateral forum, the U. S. trade representative's office said yesterday. Mr. Kirk said he also will review agreements with such U. S. free-trade partners as Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Peru, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica for possible violations, particularly of labour and environmental provisions.

In a letter to Mr. Obama released on Monday, top Democrats on the House of Representatives ways-and-means committee outlined more than two dozen foreign trade barriers or foreign violations of trade rules they said were either ripe for litigation at the WTO or in need of more intensive U. S. pressure to resolve the problem. This is welcomed news from Centurion stand point as we move forward with our trade dispute with Canada.