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Republicans to press trade representative on Obama agenda


President Barack Obama speaks on the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement next to Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington December 4, 2010. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Barack Obama speaks on the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement next to Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington December 4, 2010. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be pressed to lay out President Barack Obama's trade priorities for 2011 when testifies before a congressional trade panel next week, a Republican congressman said on Wednesday.

"I look forward to hearing Ambassador Kirk in his first appearance before the committee as he lays out the president's trade priorities," House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement.

Camp said he would press Kirk next Wednesday on when the White House plans to submit free trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia to Congress for votes.

The hearing will also focus on China trade concerns, prospects for finishing the Doha round of world trade talks, U.S. trade negotiations in the Asia Pacific and Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization, Camp said.

Kirk has never testified in public before the House Ways and Means Committee although he has been Obama's chief trade negotiator since March 2009.

That reflects the low priority that Democrats put on approving the three pending trade agreements when they controlled the House from 2007 through 2010.

In contrast, Camp said he wants to start action on all three agreements in the first six months of this year.

Obama, who has had frosty relations with business, is scheduled to speak on Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of a new White House outreach efforts.

The U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Michael Punke, said last month he expected Obama to address trade issues in that speech.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Chris Wilson)

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