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Weekly Trade Spotlight: Measures to Address Standards and Barriers to Trade

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.