US trade nominee Ron Kirk approved by Senate committee

March 13th, 2009 - 4:42 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 13 (DPA) President Barack Obama’s choice to be the top US trade official was approved for the post Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee, paving the way for a vote by the full chamber in the coming days.
Ron Kirk’s nomination as US trade representative was accepted by a voice vote in the committee more than two months after he was picked by Obama. The former Dallas mayor’s confirmation had been delayed primarily over a tax problem related to his donations to charity.

In his confirmation hearing Monday, Kirk said the Obama administration was in no rush to approve new trade deals in the midst of the deepening economic crisis, and would instead focus on enforcing existing agreements.

Trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama have stalled. The Obama administration wants to see more protections in each agreement for US workers and goods.

In further written testimony released Wednesday, Kirk said he was prepared to take China, Europe and other countries to task before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for violations of their trade obligations.

Kirk said a WTO case brought against European subsidies for planemaker Airbus by former president George W. Bush’s administration would remain a top priority for Obama.

Kirk also suggested the US may bring China before the WTO for currency manipulation, saying the Obama administration was in the process of reviewing China’s policies “for consistency with its WTO obligations”.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner set off a war of words earlier this year, telling the Congress he believed China was keeping its currency artificially low. China strongly denied the charge, which has been a long-running issue between the two economic powers.

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