Ron Kirk hasn't exactly been burning the candles at both ends as U.S. Trade Representative. And I don't expect he'll be racking up the frequent flier miles anytime soon, given his recent assessment of the trade policy scene. Here's what he had to say, as reported by Jerry Hagstrom of Congress Daily:
Speaking at the USDA Annual Outlook Forum, Kirk said members of Congress "are more open and receptive" to the idea of creating a trans-Pacific agreement because it could be written from scratch.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership comes "without any of the biases of the three [agreements] under consideration," he said. Kirk added members of Congress also like it because it would take 18 to 24 months to develop and would not come up for approval until after the 2010 elections.
Basically, Kirk's planning to hang his trade expansion hat on some future trade agreement that's still in the conception phase and years away from a shot at reality, while giving up on the already-signed agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama because those agreements are too much of a burden politically for Congress, who would prefer to start from scratch.
That's trade leadership from the Obama administration!
At this point, though, likening Kirk to the Maytag repair man might be too optimistic an analogy. The USTR hinted that he might find something to do on the enforcement side of his job description. According to Hagstrom:
Kirk stressed the administration's commitment to enforcing trade agreements, saying that "enforcement is not protectionist."