Kirk Testifies Before Senate Committee

USTR vote scheduled for Thursday.

In the middle of the global economic crisis, world trade has taken its steepest plummet in 80 years. Trade is considered to be a key to economic recovery. At the same time the Obama administration appears to be taking a harder line with America's trading partners. It will seek new benchmarks before supporting already-written trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea and is suggesting that it will dig in its heels on global trade talks, demanding that other countries make broader concessions first.

The President's nominee as U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, says he believes in trade and will work to expand it, but also knows not all Americans are winning from it and U.S. trading partners are not always playing by the rules. Kirk spoke during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Finance Committee will vote Thursday on the nomination of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to be U.S. Trade Representative, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced Tuesday.

Across the Capitol, House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., held an organizational meeting for the 111th Congress, outlining a broad agenda ranging from a hearing on the trade aspects of climate change March 24 to renewal of expiring trade preferences programs granting numerous developing nations duty-free access to U.S. markets.

Levin said he was heartened by Kirk's testimony Monday, which signaled a shift away from negotiating new trade agreements and toward enforcement of existing ones. He said he hopes to move trade enforcement legislation that he introduced with Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., in January, but said the bill could be revamped in talks with Kirk and the Obama administration.

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