March 03,2010

Grassley: President’s Trade Agenda Lacks Focus on Pending Trade Agreements; Raises Concern About Export Growth, Jobs

Opening Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley
Hearing on “The 2010 Trade Agenda” with
Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This is an important opportunity for the Committee to engage Ambassador Kirk in a detailed followupto the President’s recently-released trade policy agenda for 2010. I’ve looked at the trade policyagenda, and I’m disappointed by some of the gaps I see in the level of detail provided by thePresident.

For example, the trade agenda states that our government “will continue to engage with theGovernments of Panama, Colombia, and Korea” as the Administration further refines its analysis ofoutstanding issues. But it doesn’t indicate where we are on that engagement, or when futuremeetings are planned with the governments of Colombia and South Korea to iron out resolutions tothe Administration’s concerns.

It’s been almost three years since each of our pending trade agreements was modified to reflect whatis commonly known as the “May 10th” agreement between congressional Democrats and the BushAdministration. This delay in implementation hurts U.S. credibility around the world, not justeconomically, but geopolitically as well. On top of that, it creates some confusion with respect tothe Administration’s own trade initiatives. The Administration has articulated forcefully thepotential benefits of a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. And, I agree with theAdministration on that.

But there is some disconnect between this enthusiasm for negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnershipagreement, and the apparent lack of urgency to resolve the outstanding issues cited by theAdministration as cause for delay in implementing our pending trade agreements. There may wellbe political reasons for this lack of urgency. But that doesn’t justify delay as good policy — quitethe opposite.

Though some may dismiss this focus on our pending trade agreements, the world won’t wait for us ifwe sit on the sidelines. South Korea has already concluded a trade agreement with the EuropeanUnion, and Colombia has reportedly just done the same. Such erosion to global U.S. competitivenessconcerns me. We were left on the sidelines once before — in the latter 1990s — and I don’t want tosee us repeat that experience. The trade agenda also reiterates the President’s goal of doubling U.S.exports in the next five years, and touts the President’s National Export Initiative as a means ofachieving that.

But beyond another bureaucratic incarnation — in the form of a new “Export Promotion Cabinet”—the details for achieving that growth in exports are missing. In fact, the relevant executivedepartments and agencies have been given six months to submit detailed plans to the President onhow they will spend monies that have already been accounted for in the President’s budget toachieve an increase in U.S. exports. This top-down spending mandate is a recipe for waste. Beforeadditional resources are appropriated, this Administration must provide a detailed justification forwhy current spending levels are insufficient — and the fact that agencies can find ways to spendmore money is not an acceptable reason.

The trade agenda does acknowledge the important role that international trade plays in creating andsustaining good-paying jobs here in the United States, and I commend the President for that. I alsoagree with the President that we need to remain mindful of the needs of American workers who aredisplaced by trade. But we’ve already done that. Congress enacted a comprehensive overhaul andexpansion of our trade adjustment assistance programs last year. So, we’re left waiting for thePresident to act. We’re left waiting for more details. I look forward to Ambassador Kirk’s testimonyto help fill in the blanks.