WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a full Committee hearing on U.S. economic interests in Asia.
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this morning’s important hearing.
“Assistant Secretary Russell, Assistant Secretary Rivkin: welcome. Thank you for your testimony today, for your service to our country, and for keeping American foreign policy focused on our many interests across the Asia-Pacific.
“This year we mark 70 years since the end of World War II. In that time, American leadership has been indispensable in rebuilding the global economy and establishing the modern-day global economic order. American engagement has underpinned seven decades of relative stability and growth in Asia—growth that has benefited all the countries in the region as well as our own.
“But much work remains to be done and many opportunities remain unexplored. Due to a thriving middle class, the Asia-Pacific is the fastest-growing region in the world. In the years ahead, we need to do everything possible to ensure that growth in Asia translates to growth and job creation here at home.
“We’ve already made much progress. The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—ASEAN—are the fourth largest export market for American goods and services. According to the Commerce Department, our trade with ASEAN countries supports nearly half a million jobs.
“This success is no accident. The United States has long encouraged countries throughout the Asia-Pacific to play by the same set of rules. We’ve driven this message home through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC. The 21 members of this group on both sides of the Pacific accounted for 58 percent of global GDP in 2014.
“At the same time, we know that American economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region is an ongoing challenge. We continue to run large trade deficits with many Asian economies, including a staggering $327 billion deficit with China. And American companies are running up against non-tariff barriers and other unfair practices by Asian governments that make real competition in Asian markets impossible.
“So today, I’d like to hear from our witnesses about what we need to do to stay on the right track in Asia.
“How do we advance what the President called a “global economic order that continues to reflect our interests and values” that can succeed “against alternative, less-open models”?
“As China pushes one of those alternative models, how are we using the tools at our disposal to ‘set new rules of the road, strengthen our partnerships, and promote inclusive development?’
“From a geopolitical perspective, it makes sense for the U.S. to look at free trade, to pursue free trade. I think that’s important. However, we would do well to listen to those who are fearful that the current TPP, as written, will drive down wages and cause the U.S. to lose jobs. I think we have to listen to everybody’s voices.
“And how are our efforts being perceived in the region?
“In my view, two questions should guide our trade and investment efforts in Asia.
“Do they benefit American workers? Do they open new markets to the makers of American goods and services? If the answer to either question is ‘no,’ we put the progress we have made in Asia – along with the paychecks of American working families – at risk.
“We need to bring that perspective to individual cases, including the Trans Pacific Partnership talks. An acceptable TPP agreement must advance peace and prosperity in Asia, while at the same time creating new exports and export-related jobs for Americans. The TPP is a work in progress. But if an agreement is reached, we will have to take a hard look to make sure it measures up to those standards.
“Regardless of the outcome of TPP, America will continue to play an important role in Asia. The United States is a Pacific power. We need to keep building on the legacy of the last 70 years both to advance our own interests and promote our values in a way that benefits countries and individuals across the region, and of course, in a way that benefits ourselves.
“Thank you again, Mr. Chairman. And I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.”
Watch Rep. Engel's opening statement here