April 21,2005

Opening Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley for the Nomination of Robert J. Portman to be United States Trade Representative

Opening Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley for the Nomination of
Robert J. Portman to be United States Trade Representative
Thursday, April 21, 2005

It is my pleasure to welcome Congressman Rob Portman to the committee today. Congressfirst mandated the appointment of a Special Representative for Trade Negotiations in 1962. Sincethat time, our trade representative has played a vital role in shaping much of our internationaleconomic policy. Today, it is an important position that requires a unique blend of technical andpolitical skills for success. In that regard, we are fortunate to have Rob Portman as the President’snominee. Congressman Portman has a strong commitment to public service, having served thepeople of Ohio in the House of Representatives for the past twelve years. His thoughtfulconsideration of complex issues and determination to achieve sound public policy has made him aneffective leader. He has played major roles in pension, tax, and IRS reform. He is well-known forhis leadership in the fight against drug abuse. And, as a member of the Ways and MeansSubcommittee on Trade, Congressman Portman has been intimately involved in a number of keyinternational trade policy initiatives.

There is a long tradition of legislative and executive branch cooperation on internationaleconomic policy. The importance of working together became most evident following the passageof the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act which helped plunge our economy into the Great Depression. In1934 President Roosevelt recognized that high tariff barriers were strangling our economy. To spureconomic growth, he sought and received legislative authority to negotiate reductions in tariffbarriers. That bill, the Trade Agreements Act, embodied the basic partnership between thelegislative and executive branches of government that we know today as Trade Promotion Authority.It is a partnership that has served this nation well for the better part of the last century, and hopefullywill continue to do so for the next.

But the battle for economic freedom is far from over. We cannot afford to return to thetyranny of tariffs embodied by Smoot-Hawley. Decisions we make in the near future on economicpolicy will have a significant impact on generations to come. They are decisions we cannot takelightly. Strong leadership at the Office of the United States Trade Representative is key. Congresswill soon be considering free trade agreements with Central America, the Dominican Republic andBahrain. We also have a number of important bilateral and regional negotiations under way that willbring significant benefits to the U.S. economy. And, perhaps most important, are ongoingnegotiations at the World Trade Organization. Successfully concluding these negotiations andensuring their implementation will take a skilled champion of America’s interests. I am confidentthat Rob Portman will effectively fill that role. There is strong interest in moving the nominationquickly. There are a number of important events coming up over the next few weeks including ameeting of the World Trade Organization ministers in early May. I would certainly like to see youconfirmed by the Senate before that time.