Senate confirms former Dallas mayor as trade chief

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Ron Kirk, formerly the mayor of Dallas, received Senate confirmation March 18 to be the nation's top trade official with responsibilities for advancing free trade at a time when many Americans see foreign competition as a threat to their livelihoods, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Kirk was confirmed as U.S. trade representative after the Senate voted 92-5 in his favor.

At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Kirk said he would work to expand trade but did not come to the job with "deal fever." He would try to help American workers hit by the negative aspects of trade and put more effort into ensuring that trade partners aren't violating existing agreements on open trade, he said.

"During his political career, Ron Kirk has worked with both sides of the political aisle and is known as a coalition builder, attributes that will serve him well at U.S.T.R.," said Don Butler, president of the National Pork Producers Council. "N.P.P.C. looks forward to working with Ambassador Kirk on many important pork trade issues, and we will continue to promote an aggressive trade agenda in Washington."

N.P.P.C. hopes to work closely with Mr. Kirk to maintain important U.S. pork export markets such as China, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan. The organization also looks forward to a successful conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations. N.P.P.C.’s biggest objective in those multilateral trade talks is significant new market access for U.S. pork in the European Union and in Japan.

The organization was heartened by the new ambassador’s vow to enforce existing trade rules, especially given some countries’ — China and Russia, for example — use of dubious sanitary and phytosanitary claims to block U.S. pork imports, N.P.P.C. said.

"We’ll be looking to Ambassador Kirk to hold those countries’ feet to the fire to live up to their trade agreements," said Nick Giordano, N.P.P.C. vice president and international trade counsel. "Our trading partners need to play by the rules."

N.P.P.C. also will be urging the new ambassador to press for congressional action on pending free-trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Korean agreement alone would raise live hog prices by more than $10 per animal when fully implemented.

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