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USTR Cites Barriers To U.S. Exports

James A. Morrissey

In his annual report to Congress covering barriers to U.S. trade and investment abroad, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) cited some progress but indicated there is much more to be done if the United States is to knock down many of those barriers and double its exports in the next five years, as President Barack Obama hopes can be done. The annual National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE) covers 64 countries, from Angola to Vietnam, with considerable detail about their trade policies and how in many cases they are impeding trade.

In forwarding the report to Congress, USTR Ron Kirk emphasized the need to break down trade barriers, and he cited steps his office had underway to implement policies outlined in President Obama's trade policy agenda. Those steps include:

• starting a review of the implementation of existing trade agreements including the enforcement of labor and environmental provisions;
• initiating a process to "prioritize and address" the most significant trade barriers  outlined in the NTE;
• identifying new cases in which market access for U.S. goods and services is in jeopardy because of disregard for the rule of law;
• implementing a plan to prosecute those cases through multilateral and bilateral dispute mechanisms so that the trading system can produce results; and
•    working with Congress to improve trade enforcement.

Kirk pointed out that while tariffs have been reduced worldwide in recent years, many nations have erected non-tariff barriers designed to protect their domestic markets and economies.

As examples, he cited what he called "onerous testing and certification requirements on more than 1,200 goods," new requirements to register and inspect a broad range of imports, "ineffective enforcement" against trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy, discriminatory excise taxes requiring imported products to pay taxes 10 to 43 times higher than before, and prohibited export subsidies such as "national brands" that he says are "highly trade distorting."

Kirk said he will use the information in the NTE report to "aggressively defend our rights and benefits under the rules-based trading system."

April 6, 2010