White House pushes fight against un­fair for­eign trade

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY DAVID HOOD

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, look­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on an im­prov­ing econ­omy, ris­ing poll num­bers and a sud­denly more re­cep­tive Congress, went to Capi­tol Hill Wed­nes­day to ask law­mak­ers to give the pres­i­dent more lee­way to crack down on un­fair trade prac­tices of China and other coun­tries.

U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Kirk, the pres­i­dent’s top trade of­fi­cial, ap­peared be­fore the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee to urge mem­bers to act quickly on leg­is­la­tion that would en­able the ad­min­is­tra­tion to raise tar­iffs on coun­tries vi­o­lat­ing trade deals.

At the hear­ing, Mr. Kirk asked law­mak­ers to quickly ap­prove leg­is­la­tion mov­ing through both the House and the Se­nate that would over­come a fed­eral ap­peals court rul­ing last De­cem­ber re­strict­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s abil­ity to im­pose puni­tive du­ties on im­ports.

The leg­isla­tive push on trade is­sues comes on the heels of Mr. Obama’s Fe­bru­ary vic­tory in the stand­off with con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans over the ex­ten­sion of the pay­roll-tax cut and last year’s bi­par­ti­san deal on longde­layed trade agree­ments with South Korea, Panama and Colom­bia.

Mr. Kirk also touted a new trade en­force­ment unit, the In­ter­a­gency Trade En­force­ment Cen­ter, that Mr. Obama out­lined Tues­day dur­ing a speech to the United Auto Work­ers.

The pres­i­dent said the unit will help level the play­ing field for U.S. work­ers.

Rep. San­der M. Levin, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, ap­plauded the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move to crack down on un­fair prac­tices and urged the new unit to im­me­di­ately fo­cus on China.

“I urge the ad­min­is­tra­tion to en­sure that the ITEC is de­signed and equipped to fun­da­men­tally al­ter the way trade cases are de­vel­oped and pros­e­cuted,” the Michi­gan Demo­crat said. “I also urge the ITEC to fo­cus im­me­di­ately on China’s . . . lack of trans­parency and use of in­tim­i­da­tion as a trade pol­icy tool.”

Mr. Kirk said the White House also wants more au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate trade deals.

“We will work with the com­mit­tee,” Mr. Kirk told re­porters. “But . . . we’re go­ing to have to have trade pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity and at the right time we’ll work out the terms of that when the lead­er­ship of the com­mit­tee comes to­gether.”

Mr. Kirk said con­clud­ing the Trans-pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a trade agree­ment be­ing ne­go­ti­ated with coun­tries such as Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Sin­ga­pore and Viet­nam is a top pri­or­ity for the pres­i­dent.

“Of course, we have and will con­tinue to con­sult closely with Congress on the TPP,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Kirk urged the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee to act quickly on a mea­sure to raise tar­iffs against trade vi­o­la­tors.

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