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Public Statements

The U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the African Growth and Opportunity Act

Location: Washington, DC

PAGE S7426
June 24, 2004

(At the request of Mr. Daschle, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.)

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am pleased to announce today my support for the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The United States has a trade surplus with Australia and this agreement will boost our exports still further by eliminating Australian tariffs on our manufactured goods and on several key agricultural exports. Not only does the agreement promote our economic interests and job creation here in America, but Australia is also an important ally, and we must do all we can to ensure a healthy and vibrant relationship between our two nations.

I am, however, disappointed that the Bush administration did not build on the model of the U.S.-Jordan agreement by including strong and enforceable labor standards in the core of the agreement. Although Australia already has very strong labor rights and an effective enforcement regime, the agreement represents a missed opportunity to set a higher benchmark for future trade agreements by cementing the principle that labor and environmental standards are in the core of all new agreements.

In addition, I am disappointed that the Bush administration did not do a better job negotiating an agreement that would protect our important beef and dairy industries. I was happy to support an amendment in the Finance Committee that helps ensure a level playing field for our domestic beef industry.

I am also pleased to announce today my intention to cosponsor the Milk Import Tariff Equity Act, S. 560, a bill to impose tariff-rate quotas on certain casein and milk protein concentrates and help ensure fair competition for our nation's dairy farmers.

As we look ahead I want to reiterate that this agreement and others I have supported should not be viewed as models for all future bilateral agreements under negotiation. In particular, it is important to have strong ties with our Central American neighbors. However, the lack of strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards are more serious in the CAFTA agreement because of the poor history the Central American countries have with labor issues. I oppose the current CAFTA agreement, and I hope that over time it can be improved to strengthen labor rights and our ties to our neighbors. The goal is to make sure that trade lifts all people up, that it creates growth with equity.

[Page S7427]

I also understand that last night Majority Leader FRIST and Minority Leader DASCHLE discussed the possibility that the Senate will soon pass an extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. While some Senators have concerns with AGOA III that must still be resolved, and we should provide adequate time to address those concerns, I would like the record to show that I support this important legislation and would like to see it enacted.

Today, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa face some of the world's greatest challenges to export growth, including insufficient domestic markets, lack of investment capital, and poor transportation and power infrastructures. Perhaps most devastating, the region continues to be ravaged by the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic. AGOA provides a door to a brighter future for these nations. By enhancing and enabling economic, legal and political reform, AGOA sets the stage for economic growth and political stability in the region, and helps lift up the lives of the people of Africa.

Through our trading relationships, the United States can help spread effective political, economic and legal institutions to regions of the world that are vulnerable to political instability, civil war and global terrorism. Ensuring sub-Sahara African economic integration is one of the surest ways to cultivate new and powerful allies in the war on terror.

AGOA is an integral part of a broader partnership with Africa that must also include progress on debt relief and stepped-up efforts to fight the scourage of HIV/AIDS. Given the importance of AGOA to the future we share with Africa, I hope the remaining concerns of my colleagues can be addressed to ensure the passage of AGOA III. Passing this critical extension of AGOA will send a powerful signal to Africa and the world that the United States is committed to extending the benefits of the global economy to all those willing to make the necessary economic, legal and political reforms.

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