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March

  • 03/29/2013 12:57 PM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs 

    Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis met today with President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi to discuss how both governments can stimulate two-way trade and investment, strengthen Malawi’s business and investment environment, and contribute to regional economic growth.

    ADM and President BandaAmbassador Marantis meets with President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi.

    In 2012, total two-way U.S.-Malawi trade was valued at $129.9 million, which represented a 7 percent increase from the previous year. U.S. exports to Malawi mainly consisted of wheat, pharmaceutical products and machinery, while U.S. imports from Malawi consisted of tobacco, apparel, tea, macadamia nuts, and sugar.

    Last year, Malawi’s exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) were valued at $53.1 million, which represented 86 percent of the country’s total exports to the United States. Malawi has made significant progress in diversifying its AGOA exports, which previously were comprised of mostly in-quota tobacco and sugar, by focusing on developing its apparel sector. Ambassador Marantis congratulated the Malawian government for its recent economic reforms, and voiced U.S. support for continued efforts to improve Malawi’s trade and investment business environment.

  • 03/29/2013 12:39 PM

    By Brakeyshia Samms, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis led a roundtable discussion today on U.S.-sub-Saharan African trade and investment with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde. The leaders were in Washington, D.C. to meet with President Obama and other Administration officials because of their extraordinary progress in establishing democratic institutions, and to discuss how they and other Africans can build on democratic progress to generate increased economic opportunities and expanded trade and investment.

    At the Economic Growth Roundtable, representatives from key U.S. agencies including the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Export-Import Bank, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the African leaders discussed the benefits of deeper economic ties between their countries and the United States, enhancing two-way trade and investment, furthering regional economic integration within Africa, and strengthening the four countries’ business and investment environments, to produce broad-based economic growth. They discussed a number of U.S. initiatives aimed at enhancing our trade and investment relationships with the four countries, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference program that allows eligible African countries to export the vast majority of goods they produce to the U.S. duty free. Sierra Leone, Senegal, Malawi, and Cape Verde are each eligible for AGOA benefits.

    ADM MCC roundtableAmbassador Marantis moderates a roundtable with African Heads of State
    at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

    The U.S. and West African participants also agreed to pursue a new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the U.S. and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in order to support West Africa’s regional integration and to strengthen U.S. trade and business ties with West African nations.

    In addition, the participants identified a number of other concrete actions for follow up that will, as envisioned by the President’s Strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, spur economic growth, trade, and investment with these four sub-Saharan African partners.

  • 03/29/2013 9:36 AM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    The interagency Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) held a public hearing at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) this week to gather testimony regarding recent developments pertinent to several ongoing country practice reviews. The GSP program is designed to promote economic growth in developing countries by providing duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products imported from one of 127 beneficiary countries. To qualify for GSP benefits, a country must meet certain statutory eligibility criteria, which include, but are not limited to, protection of worker rights and intellectual property rights (IPR). The GSP Subcommittee evaluates beneficiary countries based on accepted petitions alleging shortcomings in a country’s adherence to the preference program’s eligibility criteria.

    GSP Hearing Witnesses, members of the public, and the media attend yesterday's GSP hearing at USTR.

    The purpose of this week’s hearing was to obtain information regarding recent developments pertinent to the ongoing country practice reviews for Bangladesh, Georgia, Niger, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Representatives from most of these governments and from “petitioner” organizations like the AFL-CIO, the International Labor Rights Forum, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance testified before the Subcommittee to make their arguments for or against continuing GSP status. The hearing was open to members of the public and media, and represents another step in USTR’s efforts to promote transparency and engagement with trade stakeholders.

    The full program for the hearing may be found here. Public submissions related to these GSP country practice review are available at www.regulations.gov in the country-specific dockets listed here.

  • 03/28/2013 5:44 PM

    "Twenty-first century issues" in the Trans-Pacific Partnership were the topic at a panel discussion hosted Thursday morning by the Washington International Trade Association (WITA).

    USTR negotiator Jonathan McHale spoke to U.S. efforts in e-commerce and telecommunications - speaking specifically to the U.S. objective of ensuring that everyone has a right under trade rules to move information across borders, and also that firms don't have to build servers in every country where they want to do business. "We don't want a balkanized international marketplace," said McHale, noting that today's digital economy has the capacity for - and trade rules should allow - for the free flow of information and digital commerce across borders. He spoke of the publicly available Information and Communication Technology trade principles negotiated by the U.S. and the EU, Japan, Taiwan, Jordan, and Mauritius as the basis for U.S. efforts to negotiate binding commitments in the TPP.

    Probir Mehta said that USTR is seeking high-standard intellectual property rights provisions in the TPP to encourage innovation and support U.S. jobs. He spoke of working to stop the growing trend of trade in cross-border pirated and counterfeit goods - many of which, from airbags to toothpaste, can endanger public health and safety - and the importance of open markets and a level playing field for American producers of products from software to cheese. He also discussed the importance of protecting the valuable trade secrets on which U.S. and other TPP countries rely. He also noted U.S. work to ensure a strong balance on copyright protection and enforcement as codified in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and stressed that the U.S. is pushing for binding commitments from TPP partners so that they also achieve a balance in their copyright systems in providing exceptions and limitations for scholarship, criticism, news reporting, research and other legitimate purposes --- as in the United States.

    Daniel Watson noted that state-owned enterprises are increasingly participating in international trade, thus the need for trade rules that ensure a level playing field for private firms and their workers to compete. "Governments should not favor the companies they own to the detriment of private competitors," said Watson. He cited direct support, preferential financing, and selective regulation or enforcement of laws for SOE's among the issues the United States is seeking to address.

    Mark Linscott discussed the TPP's aims on regulatory coherence. He said that while the TPP is not the first trade agreement to tackle regulatory issues, rather than addressing specific regulations the TPP aims to promote "the use of good practices in the design, review, and implementation of regulations and to promote regulatory cooperation." Linscott noted these aims could be achieved through various methods ranging anywhere from Mutual Recognition Agreements to increased dialogue and transparency regarding how regulations are being made in a particular country and what they do.

    WITA board member and moderator Dorothy Dwoskin asked the USTR negotiators if there was one myth they want to "knock down" about their respective areas of negotiation - and all were glad to respond.

    McHale noted that there's some lack of understanding that the e-commerce and telecom talks are meant to promote the development of global networks that support innovation, creativity, and the ability for all partners to trade and move information worldwide - clearly promoting U.S. interest, given the competitiveness of US firms in this space, but equally providing enormous opportunities for our trade partners, large and small.

    Linscott tackled the myth that regulatory coherence might somehow limit the ability of TPP partner countries to regulate in the public interest - noting that instead, the actual point of the regulatory coherence efforts are to provide tools to help countries regulate better and ENSURE more transparency.

    Mehta noted that there are numerous myths regarding intellectual property initiatives, but cited most prominently misconceptions that portray the desired outcomes on IP as much narrower and more restrictive than they really are. Mehta stressed again that in reality, the U.S. is looking for strong and balanced protections, with equal emphasis on both: strong, in that it will be consistent with American law, but reminded listeners that consistency with U.S. law means that the United States also wants to see reflected the wealth of exceptions and limitations that provide great benefits to American consumers, scholars, writers, artists, and others: "If the U.S. can strike that balance, we want our TPP partners to strike it as well," he said.

    Watson emphasized that TPP work on state-owned enterprises does not target any specific country, but is seeking to make disciplines relevant to the global trading system, and the need for a balance with regard to SOEs that compete in commercial markets not about requiring privatization of public services.

    Negotiators also took questions from the press and other attendees as part of the panel. One notable topic that came up during this portion of the event was the importance of public input for USTR negotiators, and Mehta in particular explained that input from generic drug makers, internet companies and content users has shaped new U.S. proposals on intellectual property from pharmaceuticals to copyright limitations and exceptions.

    The negotiators closed by discussing areas where there has been interesting progress on 21st century issues in the discussions-from partner countries understanding the vital importance of facilitating broadband internet access, greater cooperation among various domestic regulatory agencies in partner countries as they work to promote, the usefulness to businesses of the level of transparency of the U.S. regulatory system, broader understanding among negotiators of new digital content offerings thanks to stakeholder presentations on-site at talks, and the need for disciplines on state-owned enterprises as the potential for their participation in international trade continues to grow.

    More detailed information on the Trans-Pacific Partnership - including an outline of the chapters in the agreement and goals for each area - is online at www.ustr.gov/tpp.

    WITA is planning additional TPP-focused panels next month on market access issues, U.S. priorities and objectives, and TPP partners' perspectives on the talks.

  • 03/27/2013 2:56 PM

    By Brakeyshia Samms, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke spoke this week at a “Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)” workshop organized by the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament. An audience of 120 people including Commission officials, Parliament staffers, representatives of Member States and foreign missions in Brussels, and a variety of private sector and civil society representatives came to listen to Ambassador Punke and other panelists.

    Ambassador Punke touched on the crucial updates that are needed in the proposed TISA, and explained how the new agreement would enhance and supplement the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) that has governed services trade for the last 20 years. The new services agreement, Ambassador Punke said, would serve as a bridge from the GATS to the future of services trade.

    U.S. companies are global leaders in service industries like telecommunications, financial services, environmental services, retail, and express delivery; in fact, three out of four American jobs are already in the services sector, and every additional $1 billion in U.S. services exports supports another estimated 4,200 U.S. jobs. The proposed agreement will help the United States to tap into the full trade potential that the dynamic and innovative U.S. service sector can achieve.

    To learn more information about the TISA negotiations or any other services agreements, please visit this link.

  • 03/26/2013 9:51 AM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    This Weekly Trade Spotlight addresses three important measures used by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to identify and eliminate barriers to trade in the global economy.

    Next week, USTR will issue the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), the 2013 Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the 2013 Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures. These reports are valuable tools in enforcing U.S. trade laws, but also help expand global trade to benefit U.S. producers and consumers here and abroad.

    The National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE) surveys significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports. The report is a companion to the President’s Trade Policy Agenda and identifies the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, foreign direct investment by U.S. entities, and the protection of intellectual property rights. Information is also included on actions being taken to address those barriers. The NTE categorizes nine broad types of trade barriers, including government laws, regulations, policies, or practices that either protect domestic products from foreign competition or artificially stimulate exports of particular domestic products. Examples of these trade barriers include: “buy national” government policies, tariffs and other import charges, import licensing, regulation of international data flows, barriers to the provision of services by foreign professionals and local content requirements. The NTE is compiled using information provided by USTR, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture and other U.S. Government agencies, as well as comments and responses to a published Federal Register Notice from private sector trade advisory committees and American embassies. USTR submits this annual report to the President, the Senate Committee on Finance, and appropriate committees in the House of Representatives.

    The Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) was created to address countries’ use of certain standards, conformity assessment procedures, or technical regulations which create unnecessary obstacles to international trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade establishes rules and procedures governing the development, adoption, and application of voluntary product standards, mandatory technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, such as testing and certification. The agreement helps to distinguish legitimate standards and technical regulations from discriminatory and protectionist measures, and USTR’s report describes the efforts of the United States on specific trade concerns in this area. As with the NTE Report, USTR compiles the TBT report using input from stakeholders, U.S. Embassies and other Federal government agencies, and from consultations with U.S. trading partners.

    The Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) addresses the necessity of regulatory measures that ensure that food and beverages are safe for consumers and that protect animals and plants from pests and diseases. USTR’s report on SPS details discriminatory and protectionist trade measures disguised as SPS standards that may disadvantage U.S. exporters of agricultural goods. Certain SPS measures, that appear to be unscientific, burdensome, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted, pose a challenge to many small businesses which lack the resources to identify and address such measures.

    To see the reports next week, visit the USTR homepage at www.ustr.gov, and stay tuned to the USTR blog.

  • 03/19/2013 5:11 PM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (AUSTR) for Japan, Korea and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Affairs Wendy Cutler traveled to New York City today to speak at a Korea Society event celebrating the first anniversary of the entry into force of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement. During the moderated discussion, Cutler gave a brief overview of the progress in the first year of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement, and discussed her outlook on its future.

    At the event, Cutler discussed the considerable benefits to U.S. exporters in the first year of the agreement. “Exports of U.S. autos are up by 48 percent, driven not only by the increased price competitiveness that came from cutting Korea’s auto tariff in half, but also because the reduction of non-tariff barriers made exporting vehicles from the United States a better business proposition,” she said. U.S. exports of fresh fruits and nuts, wine, and fruit juices have also enjoyed robust growth since the agreement entered into force, and services exports experienced a 9 percent increase over 2011 totals.

    She predicted both sides would see further gains from the agreement as additional provisions are implemented, as more small- and medium-sized businesses take advantage of the opportunities the agreement provides, and as more partnerships are formed between U.S. and Korean companies.

    Assistant USTR Cutler served as the Chief Negotiator for this agreement, and is responsible for developing and implementing U.S. trade policy towards Japan and Korea. The one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement, observed on March 15, underscores the strengthening of the U.S.-Korea relationship and the significant new economic opportunities available to both countries.

  • 03/15/2013 3:22 PM

    By Roya Stephens, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Earlier this week, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body began its two day public hearing in the feed-in tariff (FIT) dispute brought by the European Union (EU) and Japan against Canada’s domestic content requirements for solar and wind power. The hearing is the latest in a series of public WTO dispute settlement hearings at the WTO. Japan, Canada and the EU’s open session statements were broadcast to members of the public who registered to observe the hearing via closed circuit television in an adjoining room at the WTO. The public hearing is an affirmation of the U.S. drive to increase, and progress in increasing, transparency in WTO dispute settlement.

    For years, the United States has urged WTO Members to join its efforts to make dispute settlement hearings public. At the 50th anniversary of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) in 1997, President Clinton invited other parties to U.S. WTO disputes to agree to participate in open and public dispute hearings. The first instance of public observation of a dispute settlement proceeding was in September 2005, during the EC (European Communities) Hormones – Continued Suspension dispute involving the EU, Canada, and the United States. The panel and Appellate Body both agreed to hold their hearings in open sessions, and over 200 members of the public registered to attend.

    Since then, the number of open hearings has grown as well as the number of Members willing to make open session, or public, statements. To date, there have been at least 12 different panel proceedings, including the Canada FIT dispute and nine other Appellate Body proceedings, producing at least 20 different public hearings. At least 30 WTO Members have made, or have agreed to make, a statement in at least one open session dispute settlement hearing, and over 350 members of the public have registered to attend at least one WTO public hearing. Any member of the public can register with the WTO to view the hearings, and many travel to Geneva solely for this purpose, reflecting the benefit and public value for having these hearings open for public observation. This trend in WTO dispute settlement demonstrates the value of the efforts to improve the transparency of the WTO dispute settlement system, as well as many Members’ increased acceptance of the value of transparency.

  • 03/14/2013 11:22 AM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative (DAUSTR) for South and Central Asian Affairs Mara Burr and Director for Central Asia Laurie Curry participated in an Energy, Trade and Development Forum as part of the 2013 Turkic American Convention (TAC) at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

    The Convention hosted seven Central Asian nations, including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    DAUSTR Mara Burr spoke during the Uzbekistan session of the Convention, which focused on U.S.-Uzbekistan relations, including the country’s energy resources and policies, trade activities, investment opportunities, development issues, Uzbekistan’s foreign policy vis-à-vis energy and trade.

    Burr @ panelDAUSTR Mara Burr spoke on the U.S.-Uzbekistan relationship as part of a
    distinguished panel at the Turkic American Convention.

    DAUSTR Burr emphasized trade linkages between Central Asia and South Asia, and addressed why the World Trade Organization is an attractive institution for Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan. She stated that “Uzbekistan historically has been a center of trade between Central and South Asia going back to the early days of the Silk Road, and this history demonstrates that Central Asia is a place where trade and investment under the right conditions can flourish.” The Counselor on Trade and Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Uzbekistan, Laziz Kudratov, and the Director of the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office at the Defense Logistics Agency, Rear Admiral Ron MacLaren also spoke at the session. Ambassador John Herbst, the Director for the Center of Complex Operations at the National Defense University, acted as moderator.

    At the session on Turkmenistan, Director Curry spoke on bilateral U.S-Turkmenistan economic relations, Turkmenistan’s efforts to integrate into the global economic community, and its emerging role in regional agreements such as the U.S.- Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. She emphasized that “the United States and Turkmenistan have a strong and growing relationship, through which we hope to encourage more cooperation and coordination on trade and investment issues in Central Asia with Turkmenistan playing a leading role.” The Ambassador of Turkmenistan to the United States, H.E. Meret Orazov, and the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State to South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, also spoke at the session on Turkmenistan. Najiya Badykova, the President of Antares Strategy, acted as the moderator.

    The sessions of the TAC were held all day and demonstrated private sector and policy makers’ interest in trade, development and energy issues in the strategic region of Central Asia.

  • 03/13/2013 1:44 PM

    By Roya Stephens, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    USTR’s Work in Trade and Development Facilitates Economic Growth in the Developing World and Supports Jobs and Competitive Exports at Home

    On Tuesday, policy staff from the Office of the United States Trade Representative met with law students from John Marshall Law School to discuss the role of USTR in promoting trade with developing countries. Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Bill Jackson, Senior Policy Advisor for Trade and Development and Women’s Issues Mary Ryckman, and World Trade Organization (WTO) and Multilateral Affairs Director for Trade Remedies Victor Mroczka participated in the dialogue. They spoke about the important role USTR plays in representing the United States at the WTO as well as in implementing preference programs and other activities to facilitate trade with developing countries. The benefits of USTR’s work in trade and development are two-fold. Not only do these programs promote sustainable industries and increased market opportunities that raise standards of living and boost growth in developing countries, but they also promote the import of goods and export of U.S. goods, both of which support American jobs and keep American businesses competitive.
    Trade and DevelopmentUSTR policy staff discuss the benefits of trade for developing countries.

    The panel discussed some of the challenges developing and least developed countries face as they seek to increase trade and investment. They also described some of the trade preference programs the U.S. Trade Representative administers to help developing countries make the most of international trade opportunities, including the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). These programs offer preferential duty-free treatment for thousands of products from over 100 designated countries and territories throughout the world.

    To learn more about the Generalized System of Preferences, WTO and Multilateral Affairs, and the role of USTR in Trade and Development, please click on the respective links.

  • 03/11/2013 4:45 PM

    By Camille Sheehan, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    Ambassadors Kirk and Sapiro met with Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton today, to discuss President Obama’s State of the Union proposal for a new U.S.-EU trade agreement. The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will strengthen what is already the world’s largest economic relationship in terms of goods and services trade and global economic output.

    ARK and Minister Bruton
    Ambassador Kirk and Minister Bruton spoke at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in
    Washington D.C.

    Ireland holds the Presidency of the European Council through June 2013 and will play a key role in any U.S.-EU negotiations. With important dairy and beef industries, Ireland has already expressed strong support for the newly proposed trade agreement. During their meeting, Ambassador Kirk spoke with Minister Bruton about the proposed outcomes of the partnership, including the importance of fully liberalizing tariffs on agricultural products. While the United States and Ireland have historically had a strong economic partnership, both countries believe that the TTIP can provide a boost to economic growth and support jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

    U.S. goods exports to Ireland totaled $7.4 billion in 2012, and Ireland was the 36th largest export market for U.S. goods last year. In 2011, U.S. private and commercial services exports to Ireland totaled $28.3 billion (latest data available), a 12.6 percent increase from 2010.

  • 03/07/2013 3:33 PM

    Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, the Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), traveled to Richmond, Virginia today to deliver remarks to the 2013 Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade. The Conference is jointly organized by the Virginia Department of Agriculture, the Farm Bureau, the Port Authority, and Virginia Tech University, and has become an anticipated event for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural trade stakeholders.

    In his remarks to attendees, Ambassador Siddiqui spoke at length about the latest developments in agricultural trade, and detailed USTR’s efforts to help U.S. farmers and ranchers boost their exports. He described the important role of agricultural trade in supporting jobs and strengthening the economy in Virginia and across the United States. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service estimates that in 2013, $142 billion in U.S. agricultural exports will support over a million jobs for farmers, ranchers, and exporters.

    Ambassador Siddiqui’s remarks underscored the excitement surrounding recent agricultural trade announcements. Farmers and ranchers stand to benefit from a new agreement between the U.S. and Japan which will pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef , the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which President Obama unveiled in his State of the Union address. Ambassador Siddiqui concluded by reiterating USTR’s commitments to our agricultural trade stakeholders to open markets, level the playing field, and ensure fair treatment from our trading partners under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).