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Public Statements

Hearing of the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee - Expanding U.S. Services Trade Through an International Services Agreement

Hearing

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This hearing provides an opportunity to consider the importance of trade in services and the prospects of negotiating an International Services Agreement under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.

But before thinking about this future prospect, let's briefly recall where we were just a few years ago with the WTO Doha negotiations.

Doha was slowly proceeding to a dead end. And yet some in the internationally community were cheering us on: "We're almost there!"

Fortunately, USTR wasn't interested in proceeding on a path to a dead end. Ambassador Punke, you deserve a great deal of the credit for helping to steer the WTO Members onto a more constructive path -- one that I think will strengthen the WTO as an institution in the long run.

And, what's more, our stakeholders and trading partners appreciated your frank but respectful and deliberate approach to these challenges. Thank you for your work on these issues, and for testifying before us today.

This new path is just beginning to take shape, but it looks as if trade in services -- a major and growing component of world trade, and an area where the United States enjoys a trade surplus -- will be an important part of that path forward.

In my view, an International Services Agreement under the auspices of the WTO is an exciting opportunity. It appears to be the best way to achieve two objectives that often compete with one another in trade negotiations: ambition and inclusion.

We want an ambitious agreement -- one that significantly opens new markets for U.S. companies and workers. At the same time, we want to promote a more inclusive international trading system, one that encourages the participation of all countries that are willing to make ambitious commitments.

The WTO is the best place -- it may be the only place -- for such an agreement to be negotiated.

To open new markets, we will need to tackle new barriers.

Among other things, that means ensuring state-owned enterprises compete on a level playing field, that data flows are not subject to unjustifiable restrictions, and that standards are not used to discriminate against foreign suppliers.

I hope the United States and other interested WTO Members will lay the groundwork this fall for a successful negotiation. In particular, I will be interested in getting a better understanding of the position of our European partners in this endeavor.

At the end of the day, I am confident that the EU will recognize that a Services Agreement would benefit European service suppliers just as much as American suppliers. I also expect Brussels will recognize the systemic importance of negotiating an ambitious new Agreement under the auspices of the WTO.


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