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USTR Outlines Administration's Trade Agenda

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

In a major policy speech at Georgetown University in Washington, US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk called for a fresh approach to international trade that can help lift the United States and other nations out of the current worldwide recession and build a foundation for future growth and prosperity.

Kirk was highly critical of past trade policies, which he says "lacked rhyme and reason." He said people have wondered if the United States is getting a fair shake in trade agreements, that enforcement has been lacking and "our trading partners have run roughshod over us."

The newly appointed USTR, in one of his early policy speeches, said "an aggressive effort to keep trade flowing and open more markets to American goods and services absolutely must be a big part of our economic recovery here at home."

Noting that one in six jobs currently is supported by exports, Kirk said the way to get the economy back on track is to open more markets for US goods and "level the playing field to ensure that foreign governments play by the rules and treat our companies and workers fairly."

He cited examples of initiatives already underway, including a review of the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea that have been negotiated but await congressional consideration. He placed considerable emphasis on working through the World Trade Organization to strengthen a rules-based trading system employing dialogue or formal consultations where possible, but litigation if that fails.

Noting that the world's poorest nations have "a special place in the Obama trade agenda," Kirk said, "We are committed to promoting policies that help even the poorest developing countries succeed at trade." He believes a successful Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations is important, saying, "An agreement that takes the global terms of trade beyond the current status quo will provide benefits for years to come."

Kirk concluded by saying, "Working together with our people here, and with our partners in the world, we can make trade a vital part of a brighter future."

April 28, 2009