Hoeven Meets With U.S. Trade Ambassador Kirk to Advance Free Trade Agreements

WASHINGTON –Senator John Hoeven yesterday afternoon met with U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk to continue his efforts to get the South Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Hoeven has been advocating for passage of the agreements, and asked Ambassador Kirk if there was anything more the Administration needed to move them forward. Kirk indicated he feels that they’re prepared to bring the agreements to the floor by September, and he thanked the Senator for his efforts to find a way to advance them.

The meeting followed a letter sent to President Barack Obama last week by Hoeven and 11 Republican senators urging the Administration to forward the agreements to the U.S. Congress for approval. In the letter, the senators agreed to support an up or down vote on a reformed Trade Adjustment Assistance bill in exchange for the President’s agreeing to forward the trade agreements separately. The president is insisting that Congress consider the agreements and TAA together.

The TAA bill now reflects bipartisan reforms negotiated by the White House as well as U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). This commitment should provide enough votes to ensure the reformed TAA bill can pass the Senate.

South Korea has a $1 trillion economy and 49 million consumers. It’s the 15th largest economy in the world and the United States’ 7th largest trading partner. The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement will eliminate or reduce more than 85 percent of the tariffs between the United States and Korea, including the eventual elimination of a 40 percent Korean tariff on American beef, which Hoeven said will benefit North Dakota.

The three trade agreements combined represent more than $13 billion in increased economic activity for U.S. manufacturers and farmers. The South Korean Free Trade Agreement alone will increase the nation’s exports to that country by more than $10 billion and create 280,000 American jobs, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Hoeven and U.S. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this year met in Seoul with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and prominent Korean business leaders to advance the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Hoeven also delivered the national Republican Radio Address in June pushing for passage of the three measures.