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Ask the Ambassador: The Role of USTR

This week we received a question about the role of the U.S. Trade Representative. Ken from Arizona asks: 

“How, Mr. Ambassador, do your duties fall outside State and/or Commerce Department?” 

Ambassador Kirk responds: 

“Thank you for your question, Ken. As the U.S. Trade Representative, I am President Obama’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues. My office has the responsibility of developing and coordinating the implementation of U.S. trade policy, in consultation with other federal agencies and Congress. 

I represent the United States in our dealings with foreign governments regarding their laws, policies, and practices that affect U.S. trade. I negotiate with individual countries (such as with China), groups of countries (such as in the Administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative), and in international organizations responsible for trade matters (such as the World Trade Organization). One of my chief responsibilities is to negotiate agreements with my foreign counterparts that reduce trade barriers and create new opportunities for U.S. exports. My office also takes the lead in ensuring that our trading partners live up to their obligations under the agreements they sign with us. 

The Department of Commerce and Department of State have trade-related expertise and responsibilities that complement and support USTR’s mission. Each is a member of the USTR-led interagency committee through which the Administration develops and implements U.S. trade policy. These departments contribute knowledge and expertise on U.S. manufacturing and foreign policy. 

The Commerce Department plays a leadership role, working with U.S. companies and foreign governments, to promote exports of U.S. manufactured goods. This support is critical if U.S. exporters are to be aware, and take full advantage, of the market opening created by the trade agreements USTR negotiates. Both the Commerce and State Departments oversee a network of in-country U.S. commercial and economic officials posted at U.S Embassies worldwide. These officials play a critical role in carrying out U.S. trade policy. They provide a wealth of information on foreign trade practices that is invaluable in helping the United States reduce barriers to U.S. exports.” 

Thank you for continuing our dialogue on trade. Please keep submitting your questions and comments for the Ambassador.