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Live Blogging the Ron Kirk Hearing

I'll be attempting to live blog the Ron Kirk hearing before Senate Finance Committee.

  • 5:06 pm: Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is kicking things off things. "Those who have followed internatinoal trade agreements are battered... your job will be to fight rearguard action on slipping on these commitments."
  • Baucus says that Kirk's tax problems should not be a dealbreaker.
  • Things are off to a good start with TAA.
  • Baucus is introducing customs reauthorization and and an enforcement bill, and a preference bill.
  • 5:08 pm: "I want to pursue 3 pending agreements. We should start with Panama. That is the one that is most ready for action and least controversial. I am also ready to set benchmarks on Colombia and Korea."
  • We need to export more to Asia. Bilateral engagement is necessary; a regional approach might also bear fruit.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): 5:12 pm: You just released your Trade Agenda. You don't have staff to explain to our committee what it means. It was vital that you said trade would play most valuable role in the recovery.
  • It raises some concerns. I don't know what president means that we should build on labor standards in existing agreements. I'm reserving judgment on what these issues mean. The May 10 compromise was hard to reach, and we have yet to see 3 pending FTAs approved. IF the president reopens the May 10 compromise, he risks losing support for the trade agenda.
  • I was also concerned that the report said trade may not reflect equity and employment. Our trade has reflected that for some time.
  • I am concerned about mixed signals on NAFTA renegotiation. If we open up NAFTA, Mexico may want to change tariffs on corn.
  • 5:18 pm: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introducing his constituent Mayor Ron Kirk.
  • USTR must be clearly and calmly against protectionism.
  • As mayor of Dallas, Kirk supported NAFTA and attracted investors to Dallas.
  • Mayor Kirk may not be first choice of those who oppose trade, but he is first choice of president.
  • Kirk: 5:22 pm: The president and I believe that trade plays a key role in our economy, and that the US will be a leader in setting the rules. Cheaper foreign products help hard pressed American families, and exports help create jobs. The overarching benefits of trade are diffuse, and the pain is concentrated.
  • I am a raging pragmatist.
  • We're not going to do deals just for the sake of doing them.
  • Our focus will be on enforcement.
  • We'll work with our partners in the WTO to advance Doha forward in the right direction. We'll see how we can get pending bilateral agreements moving, and negotiate new ones.
  • In an appropriate time, Obama will require authority to negotiate new agreements and bring them to you for approval.
  • Restoring the bipartisan negotiation will take time.
  • 5:26 pm: Baucus hurried Kirk up, and is asking him the 3 standard questions on his background.
  • How will you restore biparistanship? I want 45 sec answers.

  • Kirk: I will talk to you.
  • Baucus: How do you engage China?
  • Kirk: This will require a comprehensive strategy. We'll use all resources within WTO, we need to make them a consumer society.
  • Baucus: Softwood lumber?
  • Kirk: We'll mvoe forward in a collaborative way.
  • Baucus : SPS?
  • Kirk: We will press EU to get SPS measures based on sound science, and not fear.
  • Baucus: Your enforcement prioirites?
  • Kirk
  • Baucus: Is Panama FTA ready to move?
  • Kirk: We believe Panama is closest to being ready, and we're going to do an expedited review of all pending agreements.
  • 5:32 pm Grassley: How do we reverse downturn in trade. Implementation of Colombia FTA is my number one prioirity. Will you do it this year?
  • Kirk: I cannot commit to a certain timetable. We're going to advance in a strategic, not tactical manner.
  • Grassley: There was good faith negotiations two years ago. When you ahve good faith between two political parties, you shouldn't look for other consensus or rengotaition.
  • Grassley: It was hard for me to accept May 10 labor compromise. I am worried that it has not yielded 4 agreements. I don't know that I will move from that standard.
  • Kirk: we are going to look at all agreements. The 5 elements of the Peru FTA will help move us forward so that people cna believe in trade.
  • Kirk: Domestic labor law should be set by Congress.
  • Grassley: will you commit to reject agricultural renegotiation in NAFTA.
  • Kirk: I don't see how levying new tariffs will help strengthen the agreement.
  • Stabenow: I am deeply concerned about Korea FTA on autos.
  • Kirk: I realize that there are two sides to the story. I don't have "deal fever," but I didn't accept this job just to enforce what's already there. We need to create that level playing field. It's also a huge market.
  • QUESTION ON COOL. 5:40 pm
  • Kirk: We want to make sure that foods we eat are safe.
  • Wyden: the middle class does not like these trade agreements. What do you plan to increase support of middle class?
  • Kirk: We're going to utilize technology to tell the real story. Our website is "so" 1987.
  • Snowe: 5:44 pm: USTR has not taken any action on a public petition since 1996. I am worried about enforcement. What actions would you take?
  • Kirk: I am going to honor president's commitment to you.
  • Cantwell: 5:46 pm: We need a CHina bilateral on energy. What kind of benchmarks on Korea?
  • Kirk: Part of restoring America's confidence is to meet benchmarks. We don't have these defined yet. In case of status quo, it's not acceptable.

My editorial note: Wow. That was the shortest and least substantive hearing on ANY matter I've ever heard. And this was for a confirmation for the official responsible for implementing the fair-trade agenda that helped win Democrats their elections in 2006 and 2008. Pretty offensive.

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yes! a better USTR website! That will address all of our concerns. Why didn't we think of that sooner??


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