Passage of the Central American and Dominican
Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) is one of the top
U.S. trade priorities, President Bush says.
In May 17 in remarks at the ceremonial swearing in of U.S.
Trade Representative Robert Portman, Bush listed other priorities
as completing World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations
and enforcing trade agreements, citing specifically commitments
The president urged Congress to pass CAFTA-DR, which he
said would not only make the Western Hemisphere more competitive
with Asia but also would strengthen democracy in the region,
as well as open additional markets and lower trade barriers
in key industries like textiles for U.S. businesses and
"This would put CAFTA countries and America in a better
position to compete with low-cost producers in Asia,"
Portman said that if the United States rejects the agreement
"we are taking away opportunities for our workers,
and we are turning our backs on good neighbors who need
On the WTO negotiations, formally called the Doha Development
Agenda, the president said an agreement would reduce tariffs
in key industry sectors, lower unfair agricultural subsidies
and open the global market in services.
Bush cited a number of issues, including piracy of U.S.
intellectual property and barriers to goods and services,
where China still must meet existing WTO commitments.
"When it joined the WTO, China also agreed to the
rules of international trade, and it's in the interest of
both China and the United States for China to abide by them,"
Following is the transcript of remarks by Bush and Portman:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2005
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SWEARING-IN CEREMONY FOR THEUNITED
STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
Presidential Hall Dwight D. Eisenhower
Executive Office Building
2:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I'm pleased to
congratulate a distinguished public servant, Rob Portman,
on becoming our new United States Trade Representative.
It's an honor to be with Rob's dad, as well as Jane and
Jed and Will and Sally. Glad you all are here. It's always
great when our Trade Representative has teenagers in the
house. (Laughter.) It helps him become a skilled negotiator.
(Laughter.) I appreciate the other members of the Portman
family who have joined us.
I thank members of my Cabinet who are here -- Josh Bolten,
thank you for coming. I appreciate Peter Allgeier, who is
the Deputy U.S. Trade Minister. Peter, good to see you,
sir. I want to thank the members of Congress who came --
David Camp from Michigan, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin -- and
Janna. I appreciate -- I'm not through yet. (Laughter.)
And Melissa Hart. Rick Lazio, former member, thank you for
I want to thank the ambassadors who are here, Diplomatic
Corps -- embajadores de Central America, as well as other
ambassadors -- welcome.
Ambassador Portman will be carrying on the superb work
done by Bob Zoellick. Under Ambassador Zoellick's outstanding
leadership, the U.S. Trade Representative's Office has worked
with Congress to pass trade promotion authority. We've completed
free trade agreements with twelve nations on five continents.
And those agreements will open a combined market of 124
million consumers for America's farmers, small businesses
and manufacturers. I want to thank all the men and women
at the USTR for the good work they have done.
Ambassador Portman is the right man to carry on this important
work. He has a great record as a champion of free and fair
trade. In his early days as an attorney, he specialized
in international trade law. Throughout his time in Congress,
he built a reputation as a steadfast proponent of the power
of open markets to spread hope and prosperity around the
world. As an Ohioan, Rob knows how much American farmers
and workers depend on our export markets and how the expansion
of agreements around the world can contribute to our economy
here at home.
To advance our trade agenda, we have three priorities in
the months ahead. Our first trade priority is to pass the
Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement,
known as CAFTA. That is an important priority of this administration,
and it should be an important priority of the United States
Congress. Last week I met with the six Presidents from the
nations. We all share an interest in prosperity for our
people and peace in the region, and CAFTA gives us an historic
opportunity to advance these common goals.
The agreement does four key things: It will level the playing
field for American farmers and businesses. It will help
our economy. It will make the region more competitive with
Asia. And it will strengthen democracy in our backyard.
At the moment, about 80 percent of imports from the region
already enter the United States duty-free. Our market is
open to the goods from CAFTA nations. CAFTA will open the
region's markets of 44 million consumers to our goods and
our services and our crops. CAFTA will also lower barriers
in key segments like textiles. This would put CAFTA countries
and America in a better position to compete with low-cost
producers in Asia.
As it opens the Western Hemisphere markets, CAFTA will
also bring the stability and security that can only come
from freedom. Today, a part of the world that was once characterized
by unrest and dictatorship now sees its future in free elections
and free trade, and we must not take these gains for granted.
These are small nations, but they are making big and brave
commitments, and America needs to continue to support them
as they walk down the road of openness and accountability.
By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful free trade
area, we will promote democratic governance and human rights
and the economic liberty for everyone. CAFTA is a really
important piece of legislation.
Our second trade priority is to encourage the Doha Development
Agenda now being pursued by the World Trade Organization.
This new framework is the largest negotiation of its kind
in history, and it would reduce and eliminate terrorists
in key industry sectors, and unfair agricultural subsidies,
and open the global market in services.
Finally, our third trade priority is to ensure that those
who sign trade agreements live up to their terms. China's
membership in the World Trade Organization has been a good
thing for America. Our exports to China have increased 81
percent since China's entry into the WTO. When it joined
the WTO, China also agreed to the rules of international
trade, and it's in the interest of both China and the United
States for China to abide by them.
One reason I selected Ambassador Portman for this job is
because I know he'll work to see that our farmers and our
workers and service providers are treated fairly. Ambassador
Portman will work to ensure that China stops the piracy
of U.S. intellectual property, lifts the barriers that are
keeping our goods and services out of China, and demonstrates
its commitment to transparency and distribution rights for
America is a nation founded on the idea of open exchange,
and free and fair trade is a win-win for all sides. By opening
new markets, we'll increase prosperity for our small businesses
and farmers and manufacturers, and create jobs for American
workers. By enforcing trade laws and agreements, we will
ensure a level playing field for America's workers. American
workers can compete with anybody, any time, anywhere when
the rules are fair.
Rob Portman is America's Trade Representative; he's also
my friend. I know his integrity and his wisdom and his dedication.
And I know he's the right man to carry out our bold agenda
at this important moment for world trade.
I want to thank you all again for coming. Congratulations,
AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Thank you all. And thank you, Mr. President,
for those remarks, and for the extraordinary opportunity
that you've given me to be able to make a positive difference
in people's lives through promoting that very ambitious
trade agenda you just outlined. And I want to thank Andy
Card, my dear friend and the Chief of Staff, for being willing
to swear me in today. In the first Bush administration,
I had the pleasure of working under Mr. Card, and I now
have the opportunity to work with him again, and I look
forward to it.
I'm so glad that so many friends and family are able to
be here today, Mr. President. This is a neat opportunity
for me to be able to say thank you to so many of them. I'm
particularly grateful, of course, to my family -- my wife
Jane, our three kids, Jed, Will and Sally. And per your
comments about negotiations, let me tell you, these three
are superb negotiators. (Laughter.) I just hope I'm half
as good at negotiating access for U.S. products as I am,
and have become, on allowances and curfews. (Laughter.)
If I'm that good, I'll do a good job for you.
I'm grateful to my family because they have allowed me
to pursue the privilege of public service, despite the sacrifices,
but even more grateful that they've encouraged me and supported
me in this. They've all given this job their blessing. Will
Portman has taken to calling me TROTUS -- Trade Representative
of the United States. (Laughter.) Jane has become the First
Lady of Trade. And I'm very, very proud of them.
I'm also glad my dad was able to be here today. He's also
been very encouraging of my work in public service even
though he's a small business guy. He started a business
from scratch and taught us the values of hard work and ethics.
And I'm delighted he's here today. And, of course, the same
is true of my brother, Win, who's here, and my sister, Jenna,
and their wonderful families who have also joined us.
I also see I've got some constituents here from back home,
Mr. President, and it's great to have them here. My friends
from Ohio who have gathered for this special day are the
people who gave me the opportunity to serve in Congress,
and gave me the opportunity now to be able to serve our
nation in this capacity. I will be forever grateful to them.
Finally, I want to acknowledge my congressional staff --
the most incredible staff, the best on the Hill -- and my
colleagues who are here. I see these three colleagues that
you mentioned earlier -- all three of them. (Laughter.)
And there are others who are going to join us at the reception.
They're from both Houses and both parties, and they are
good friends. And I will be seeing lots of them, because,
as this last couple of weeks has taught me, I'll be spending
a lot of time on Capitol Hill, and I look forward to that.
In the last two weeks, in fact, Mr. President, my team
and I have been very busy. In fact, the day after I was
confirmed, you sent me on a plane for Europe where I met
with trade ministers from all around the world. And there,
I worked with our trade partners to rejuvenate the ongoing
global negotiations you just talked about, called the Doha
Development Agenda. By reducing barriers to trade across
the board, Doha has the potential to substantially expand
U.S. exports and also to spread hope and opportunity to
the developing world. And when we were in Europe 10 days
ago, we were able to make a major breakthrough to be sure
that that Doha Development Agenda continues on track.
Doha talks are one part of a more comprehensive trade agenda
that I will pursue, as the President has laid out: First,
to expand export opportunities by opening markets around
the world; second, to be sure that we are enforcing our
trade agreements and our trade laws; and third, to spread
economic and political freedom. By opening new markets for
American workers and farmers, we create more and better-paying
jobs right here at home. In fact, over 12 million American
jobs now are supported by exports, and those jobs pay about
15 percent higher than the average wage. One in every three
acres of American farmland is planted for export, and one
in every five manufacturing jobs in this country is dependent
on the export of our products.
Our first opportunity to open new markets is the Central
American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. It's
a classic win-win situation. We have the opportunity here
to open new markets for our workers, for our farmers, for
our service providers, while, at the same time, leveling
the playing field with a region that already enjoys mostly
duty-free access to the United States. At the same time,
we can help lift people out of poverty in Central America
and the Dominican Republic, and we can help solidify those
fragile democracies and staunch allies.
This is a situation where the Congress should have an incentive
to move, and move quickly, to approve the agreement, because
it's good for our workers and farmers, service providers,
and it's also good for those countries. If we turn down
this agreement, we are taking away opportunities for our
workers, and we are turning our backs on good neighbors
who need our help.
Opening new markets is critical, but we must also ensure
that our trading partners play by the rules. To ensure that,
I will use all the tools available to us. This includes
consultation and negotiation, but, when appropriate, it
also means taking legal action to enforce our rights and
to defend American interests.
A top priority of mine will be China. The President already
mentioned this and I concur with him that China's entry
into the WTO was, and remains, in the best interests of
the United States. It brought China into a rules-based system,
which is very important. It also allowed us to significantly
expand U.S. exports, good and services. But our trade relationship
with China also presents challenges. We face a trade deficit
that is too high, in part because the Chinese do not always
play by the rules. I have already begun a top-to-bottom
review of China trade issues, and I will work closely with
Congress to see that American workers, farmers and businesses
are treated fairly.
Finally, Mr. President, as you articulate better than anyone,
trade is central to our freedom agenda. Freer trade means
more open, transparent markets, undercuts corruption and
cronyism, promotes prosperity. In doing so, it deepens the
roots of democracy.
As a former congressman, I know that economic change and
foreign competition can be difficult for people. We cannot
ignore these concerns. But we also cannot retreat to economic
isolationism. The evidence is overwhelming that free and
fair trade is in the best interest of our economy and makes
Americans better off. I believe the right way forward is
smart economic engagement, opening markets, tough enforcement,
and using trade as a powerful weapon to spread freedom.
Mr. President, you have a great team of dedicated professionals
as USTR, some of whom are here today, and I am very proud
to follow my friend, Bob Zoellick, in joining them to promote
your ambitious agenda.
I thank you for the trust you've show in me and for this
opportunity to serve. I will give you and the American people
my very best. Thank you.
END 2:49 P.M. EDT