U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has the job of promoting what many Americans think is not good for them – trade. Many Americans believe that in the pursuit of trade deals, America has “swapped jobs for cheap T-shirts.”
Kirk shared with NCEW members at NCEW’s annual convention in Dallas the Obama administration’s message that trade has a key role in attacking America’s No. 1 problem – turning our economy around. He acknowledged the American public’s anger with the strategy, but made it clear the administration would stay the course. “I can assure you that this administration has no plan to retreat from this trade policy,” he said.
Increasing exports will create jobs in the United States and address our trade imbalance, which is weakening our economy, he said.
Larger Obama administration policy priorities of promoting clean tech, in order to reduce oil imports, and national health care reform, to make U.S. corporations more competitive because they have to compete with companies from countries that have
|Lois Kazakoff photo|
|U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk invited NCEW members to take a new look at the Obama administration's trade policies.|
national health care, also strengthen U.S. trade.
Kirk emphasized three points in the administration’s new approach:
1) Enforce trade rules, and confront situations that violate trade agreements, such Chinese tire imports flooding the market.
2) Address labor rights and standards: The emerging economic giants of China, India and Brazil have hugely benefited from trade liberalization, but need to recognize and respect labor rules and environmental considerations.
3) Move forward with three stalled trade agreements – South Korea, Colombia and Panama – and sign other free trade agreements. To do so, the United States needs to resolve differences with each of these nations. South Korea is concerned about the difference in access to their market versus ours; Panama needs to strengthen its labor laws; Colombia needs to stem violence toward labor leaders. “We’re trying to let everyone have their voice” and resolve these issues, he said.
“Going after new market agreements will change what trade means in the 21st century economy,” he said.
The administration has made some progress:
The United States has grown more jobs in 2009-2010 than in the previous eight years.
The nation is at a critical crossroads, he said. “We (in the Obama administration) feel the anger of the public, but anger isn’t a governing philosophy. We have to make choices.”
Lois Kazakoff is the deputy editorial page editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.