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Huntsman Jr. speaks out on global trade

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WASHINGTON — Utahn Jon Huntsman Jr., during confirmation hearings Tuesday regarding his nomination as deputy U.S. trade representative, vowed that if he is confirmed, his objective will be to help America get off the sidelines in global trade negotiations.

With the United States party to only two of the 130 free trade agreements worldwide, it is crucial for America to get more actively involved, he told the Senate Finance Committee.

Huntsman, if confirmed, would be responsible primarily for East Asian trade affairs, including China's accession to the World Trade Organization, U.S. efforts to improve market access to Korea and Japan and negotiation of a free trade agreement with Singapore.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., praised Huntsman's qualifications, saying the Utahn has extensive knowledge of Asia, having served as an Latter-day Saint missionary in Taiwan in the early 1980s, deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for East Asian affairs in the early 1990s, and ambassador to Singapore from 1992 to 1993.

Huntsman, 41, has also been serving as vice chairman of the Huntsman Corp., which was founded by his father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

Huntsman said his experience has shown him that, "economic freedoms promote and reinforce political freedoms."

He added, "The linkage between free markets and free societies is now well documented. The more we promote open markets, the more we promote democratic values in those markets."

Huntsman said he has especially high hopes that improved trade may lead to more freedom in China. He and his wife adopted their youngest of six children, Gracie, who was born in the Jiangsu Province.

"It is my great hope that the China she will come to know in her adult years will more strongly reflect that undeniable linkage between economic and political freedoms," he said.

"China, especially with its pending accession to the World Trade Organization, is on the path of ever-expanding economic freedoms that will promote and reinforce greater political freedoms," he said.

Huntsman received only praise during the hearing, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the committee, said he hopes Huntsman might be confirmed before the Senate's August recess.

Hatch, said Huntsman could provide leadership needed "at this crucial time in forming and implementing the nation's trade agenda."

Hatch also lauded Huntsman's work for numerous charities, including his work as president and chief executive officer of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

In that connection, Hatch noted that Vice President Dick Cheney is traveling to Salt Lake City on Aug. 25 for groundbreaking ceremonies for a new cancer hospital at the University of Utah.

E-MAIL: lee@desnews.com