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Obama Outlines Trade Policy Agenda in USTR Address

Mar 09, 2009

Bilateral free trade agreements, export competitiveness and trade adjustment assistance reform were a few of the many trade policy priorities that President Obama outlined last week in his address to the office of the U.S.Trade Representative. Several of the priorities will enhance trade opportunities and reduce barriers for dairy processors and exporters.

In his address, Obama called for actions that will push aside protectionist tendencies and make all U.S. businesses, large and small, more effective and competitive exporters. He also emphasized the need to make labor concerns and environmental enforcement high priorities in trade negotiations.

Looking to pending and future trade agreements, Obama encouraged Congress to renew the Trade Promotion Authority, which allows the Executive branch to negotiate agreements and bring them to Congress for an up or down vote. IDFA has consistently supported renewing this fast-track authority since it expired in 2007, because it's a critical tool in international negotiations.

On the bilateral front, the president expects to complete the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement "relatively quickly." He also plans to push forward on pending agreements with South Korea and Colombia, which have stalled while waiting for these countries to adhere to labor, social and political requirements mandated in the agreements.

Because these countries are located in key target export regions, the free trade pacts will offer enhanced business opportunities for domestic dairy processors. U.S. dairy exports to Panama, South Korea and Colombia have consistently increased since 2004, with combined export values totaling over $136 million in 2008.

The president also applauded the expanded trade adjustment assistance package that was included in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. Crafted in a bipartisan effort by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), along with Representatives Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Dave Camp (R-MI), the new package includes provisions that will mitigate the impact that global commerce has on some American workers. In addition, the new provisions will serve as an alternative to other government programs designed to combat unfair foreign subsidies and illegal dumping practices. The new and expanded provisions of the trade adjustment assistance package will remain in place until December 31, 2010.

"Increased international trade is the one of the best ways to expand markets for U.S. dairy products," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. "This package does a good job of pinpointing the benefits of open markets while offering solutions to those negatively affected."

On the multilateral front, Obama addressed the need for a successful Doha development round, the current trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization that embody open market access and opportunities. Obama acknowledged, however, that it would be "necessary to correct the imbalance in the current negotiations" that limits U.S. access to foreign markets in some sectors. IDFA believes that the Doha round represents the best step forward for global trade and the dairy industry.

With the administration's trade policy agenda now in place, the stage is set for today's confirmation hearing of the president's USTR nominee, Ron Kirk.

For more information on trade agenda developments, contact Katie Sparrow, IDFA international affairs manager, at or 202-220-3507.


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