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Weekly remarks: GOP's John Hoeven says trade pacts would spur new jobs; Obama salutes Father's Day

June 18, 2011 |  3:00 am

Capitol Hill

Weekly remarks by Sen. John Hoeven, as provided by Republican Party leadership

Hi, I’m Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, and I’d like to talk to you today about our nation’s fiscal challenges –- in particular, about the vital role that international trade can play to help us create jobs and reduce our deficit.

Almost exactly one hundred years ago, at the start of another century, President Theodore Roosevelt launched a U.S. Navy mission known as the Great White Fleet on a voyage around the world.

It was a show of American strength, but it was also a show of American goodwill and prosperity. That voyage would open the doors of trade with the vast, untapped markets of Asia, and help usher in what became known as the ‘American Century.’

President Roosevelt’s leadership put the world on notice that the United States of America -- with the freest, most dynamic economy the world had ever seen -- was open for business.

It’s a legacy felt to this day -- but a legacy now in jeopardy.

We’re all keenly aware of just how serious our nation’s current fiscal situation is. No....

... American family could spend 60 percent more than it’s taking in and survive -- no less prosper -- but that’s exactly what our country is doing.

The result is a $1.5-trillion deficit, and a $14-trillion debt that is dragging down our economy and burdening us and our children.

To put all that in human terms, nearly 14 million of our fellow Americans are without a paycheck, and they have been for some time.

To turn that around, our country needs the kind of pro-jobs, pro-growth policies that will help us live up to our vision of a strong, peaceful, prosperous America.

We have an opportunity right now to advance that vision and jump-start the nation’s economy. Robust international trade can help us do it, and we can start by ratifying long-pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

All of these agreements have been languishing for years, but with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and a spiraling deficit, the president can no longer hold these agreements back. Currently, he is holding them up in order to negotiate the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program. TAA can be addressed separately in the context of Trade Promotion Authority, as it generally has been in the past since 1974.

For the good of our economy –- and our country –- he needs to send these free trade agreements to the United States Senate for approval now so that U.S. workers and businesses can begin to realize their benefits.

You know, I recently had an opportunity to travel to South Korea with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of senators to meet with President Lee Myung-bak and prominent Korean business leaders about the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven

President Lee said he believes Korean lawmakers will approve the free trade agreement, but they’re waiting for America to lead the way.

They want and expect us to lead the way because –- to South Korea and nations around the world –- America has always been a beacon of liberty and opportunity.

Nearly everyone we spoke with in Korea -- on the street or the meeting room –- expressed their deep appreciation to the United States, and especially to our military and our veterans.

They’re keenly aware that U.S. service members sacrificed so much to give them a free society and a free-market economy where they could pursue their dreams.

South Korea is now a prosperous, modern nation, with a $1 trillion economy and 49 million consumers, in large part because American service members won and now help preserve the peace. Korea is the 15th-largest economy in the world, and our country’s seventh-largest trading partner.

Per capita income in South Korea today is more than $20,000 annually. In communist North Korea? Just over $1,000 annually. A free and open economy made the difference.

Today, again, America needs to lead the way, starting with the president.

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement will eliminate or reduce more than 85 percent of the tariffs between the United States and Korea, including the eventual elimination of a 40 percent Korean tariff on American beef.

Just one project we’ve been working on in my home state, a new beef processing facility, could mean a $100 million investment in our economy and 500 new jobs. In North Dakota that’s a big deal.

But these free trade agreements are an even bigger deal for America. The South Korean Free Trade Agreement alone will increase our nation’s exports to that country by more than $10 billion and create 280,000 American jobs. In fact, for every 4 percent increase in American exports, we can create one million new American jobs.

The reality is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power lies outside the United States, and if we don’t tap those markets, others will.

Free and fair trade agreements can help us create the kind of pro-jobs, pro-growth economy that will lift our nation up. Good fiscal control and a legal tax, and regulatory environment that promotes private investment and business innovation, can help us to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce our deficit.

We need to build on the legacy of President Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet by ratifying these free trade agreements, so that instead of a debt, we can leave our children a bright, dynamic future.

Thank you, and God bless.     ####

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

President Obama's weekly remarks, as provided by the White House

Hi, everybody. This Father’s Day weekend, I’d like to spend a couple minutes talking about what’s sometimes my hardest but always my most rewarding job -- being a dad.

I grew up without my father around. He left when I was 2 years old, and even though my sister and I were lucky enough to have a wonderful mother and caring grandparents to raise us, I felt his absence.  And I wonder what my life would have been like had he been a greater presence.

That’s why I’ve tried so hard to be a good dad for my own children. I haven’t always succeeded, of course –- in the past, my job has kept me away from home more often than I liked, and the burden of raising two young girls would sometimes fall too heavily on Michelle.

But between my own experiences growing up, and my ongoing efforts to be the best father I can be, I’ve learned a few things about what our children need most from their parents.

First, they need our time. And more important than the quantity of hours we spend with them is the quality of those hours. Maybe it’s just asking about their day, or talking a walk together, but the smallest moments can have the biggest impact.

They also need structure, including learning the values of self-discipline and responsibility. Malia and Sasha may live in the White House these days, but Michelle and I still make sure they finish their schoolwork, do their chores and walk the dog.

And above all, children need our unconditional love –- whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.Obama and his Grandfather Stanley Dunham

 And life is tough for a lot of Americans today. More and more kids grow up without a father figure. Others miss a father who’s away serving his country in uniform. 

And even for those dads who are present in their children’s lives, the recession has taken a harsh toll.  If you’re out of a job or struggling to pay the bills, doing whatever it takes to keep the kids healthy, happy and safe can understandably take precedence over all else.

That’s why my administration has offered men who want to be good fathers a little extra support. We’ve boosted community and faith-based groups focused on fatherhood, partnered with businesses to offer opportunities for fathers to spend time with their kids at the bowling alley or ballpark, and worked with military chaplains to help deployed dads connect with their children.

We’re doing this because we all have a stake in forging stronger bonds between fathers and their children. And you can find out more about some of what we’re doing at Fatherhood.gov.

But we also know that every father has a personal responsibility to do right by our kids as well. All of us can encourage our children to turn off the video games and pick up a book. All of us can pack a healthy lunch for our son, or go outside and play ball with our daughter. And all of us can teach our children the difference between right and wrong, and show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated.

Our kids are pretty smart. They understand that life won’t always be perfect, that sometimes, the road gets rough, that even great parents don’t get everything right.

But more than anything, they just want us to be a part of their lives.

So recently, I took on a second job: assistant coach for Sasha’s basketball team. On Sundays, we’d get the team together to practice, and a couple of times, I’d help coach the games. It was a lot of fun –- even if Sasha rolled her eyes when her dad voiced his displeasure with the refs.

But I was so proud watching her run up and down the court, seeing her learn and improve and gain confidence.  And I was hopeful that in the years to come, she’d look back on experiences like these as the ones that helped define her as a person –- and as a parent herself.      

In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about –- those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future; the chances we have to set an example or offer a piece of advice; the opportunities to just be there and show them that we love them.

That’s something worth remembering this Father’s Day, and every day. Thanks, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Have a great weekend.    ####

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Photos: Alex Wong / Getty Images (the Capitol); Sen. Hoeven's office; Pete Souza / White House; Obama family photo of the young Obama and his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham.

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