By  on March 2, 2010

After few fresh trade initiatives during his first year in office, President Obama wants to double U.S. exports over the next five years to support 2 million jobs as part of the National Export Initiative. Leading the campaign is U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. During a visit to MAGIC Marketplace in Las Vegas last month, Kirk previewed with WWD the agenda for his office in 2010, which was released on Monday.

WWD: What are the priorities for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this year?

Ron Kirk: Our number-one objective has to be to incorporate meaningful job expansion and growth as part of this overall economic recovery. No one in the administration is pleased with the unemployment numbers. Our focus is on how we demonstrate to Americans that not only do they benefit from trade in terms of extraordinary consumer choices and innovations and product development, but that, as the President said, exports and trade can help drive economic recovery and job growth.


WWD: What are the next steps in President Obama’s National Export Initiative? How will these programs benefit apparel and textile companies?


R.K.: The Obama administration does not see enforcing our existing agreements as counterintuitive to expanding market access. But in order to export more, you have to have market access. That can happen in several ways. One, you can enter a new trade agreement and that’s why we are working to resolve the outstanding issues we have on the three pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and [South] Korea. We are trying to bring the Doha Round to a successful conclusion….Ours is one of the most open economies in the world, but in many cases our trading partners haven’t given us reciprocal rights.


WWD: Your office will begin negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year.

R.K.: The exciting thing for us about the Trans-Pacific Partnership is it gives the United States the opportunity to be involved on the ground floor in crafting what we believe will be the most highly ambitious, forward-thinking free trade agreement of this new century. It gives us a foothold in what will be one of the fastest growing economic zones in the world in the next 15 to 25 years and that’s Asia-Pacific. With our hosting the APEC Summit in 2011, we believe this was a great time to move forward on this. We have already begun consultations with the relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction. We have begun consultation with domestic stakeholders so that they can be involved from the very beginning.


WWD: What are the main points you want to emphasize in the Trans-Pacific Partnership? What kind of provisions will you have in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to help the domestic apparel and textile industry?


R.K.: I go back to that one number: 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. It’s our job to try to get them access to those markets. The more that we provide that access, the more that allows us to create jobs….Our overall trade policy is about creating more access for American manufacturers so that they can create jobs here at home. America has to do more than be the world’s biggest consumer. President Obama said we have to rebalance our economy the more healthy way in that, first of all, Americans save more, but we also need to make things that we can sell to the world. The one thing I have had validated for me in just my short tenure as a U.S. trade representative is that “Made in America” is still a powerful brand around the world.

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