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  • 02/28/2014 11:43 AM

    By Christina Sevilla, Deputy Assistant USTR for Small Business

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of State, and the Small Business Administration welcomed the signing of the first Sister Center Partnership between George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia and the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) in Monterrey, Mexico. The Partnership is part of the Obama Administration’s Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA), which helps small businesses participate in international trade by linking U.S. small business development centers (SBDCs) with international counterparts via web-based platforms as well as direct contacts between centers and small business clients seeking foreign customers and partners. When U.S. small businesses begin to export, they often first look to neighboring countries, and this new initiative will help many Virginian small businesses find export opportunities in Mexico.

    SBNASeated(l to r): Anne Schiller, Vice President for Global Strategies and Professor of Anthropology at George Mason University ; Sergio Fernandez Delgadillo, Vice President for Sustainable Development, Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon . Standing (l to r): Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States.

    The signing ceremony at the State Department was attended by several Northern Virginia small business exporters specializing in education, information technology, medical and forensic services, all of whom are clients of the Virginia Small Business Development Center at George Mason University.  GMU’s new partnership with UANL, Mexico’s third largest public university and a major regional research institution, will help small businesses in both Virginia and Mexico identify important new trade and export opportunities. 

    Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner and in 2013, U.S. goods exports to Mexico totaled a record $226.2 billion. In fact, in 2012, Virginia exported $1.1 billion in goods to Mexico, up 17% from 2011, which supported thousands of jobs in the state.

    Mexico is also part of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, which will be a high-standard 21st century agreement that will help even more Virginia small businesses engage in trade with Mexico. The TPP provides provisions such as customs and trade facilitation to speed the transfer of goods to markets, services liberalization in areas including IT, consulting, and environmental services, and e-commerce provisions to allow for the free flow of data across borders, all of which will enable U.S. small firms to reach more customers in Mexico and regional TPP partners, and experience the benefits of international trade.

    To learn more about small businesses trade and exports, please visit For more information on export opportunities, please visit

  • 02/25/2014 8:37 PM

    Note: This is a cross post from the Small Business Administration blog. To see the original post, please click here.

    Exporting is one of the most effective ways for small firms to expand their markets and grow their businesses.

    In 2013, President Obama announced that the United States would begin negotiating a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with the European Union.

    Why T-TIP Would Benefit the Economy

    United States and EU are each other's largest economic partners, with two-way merchandise trade of $650 billion and $3.8 trillion in foreign direct investment directly supporting more than 13 million jobs in both the United States and the EU. For small companies, the EU represents a considerable market, with over 94,000 U.S. small businesses exporting there in 2011.  A successful T-TIP would slash red tape, cut costs, increase trade and investment and support new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic while upholding rules that protect people and the environment.

    In order to best represent U.S. SMEs in the negotiations, SBA has actively engaged with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to expand export opportunities and enhance cooperation with the EU to help even more SMEs benefit from increased transatlantic trade and investment.  The goal of the effort is to represent American SMEs by documenting trade barriers that disproportionally affect small business exporters and to advocate for small businesses doing business with the EU.

    Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the U.S. economy FTAs are good for the economy. According to recent data from the International Trade Administration (ITA), trade agreements have greatly benefitted the U.S. economy:

    • Exports to FTA partners are up 57% since 2009
    • 46% of U.S. goods exports go to trade agreement partners
    • The U.S. has a $15.2 billion trade surplus in non-oil products with FTA partners, nearly 70% higher than the 2009 value
    • In 2013, 21 states had record-high exports to trade agreement countries
    • Current and proposed agreements account for

                        a)      Nearly 70% of U.S. goods exports

                        b)      More than 60% of both global services trades and global good trades (including the U.S.), and

                        c)      65% of global GDP (including the U.S.)

    T-TIP Current Status

    T-TIP started in July 2013 and are set to continue throughout 2014.  A fourth round of talks in Brussels will begin March 10.  Given the relevant participation of SBA in the process leading up to the negotiations, the agency is sending a representative to this upcoming session.

    For more information on the SBA and export assistance, visit

    For more information on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), visit

  • 02/24/2014 5:11 PM

    This trade spotlight features the Special 301 Report, which reflects the Administration’s resolve to encourage and maintain effective IPR protection and enforcement worldwide.

    The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) held a public hearing on Monday, February 24, 2014, to gather information for the 2014 Special 301 Report.  The Special 301 Report highlights the economic importance of intellectual property (IP) to the U.S. economy and details other countries’ IP protection and enforcement-related efforts.  IP-intensive industries account for nearly 30 million U.S. jobs and drive growth in almost every sector of our economy.  Today’s hearing was part of the ongoing USTR effort to give interested parties an opportunity to inform the interagency Special 301 Subcommittee of their IP concerns.

    The Special 301 Report is normally released on or around April 30th.  Last year’s report can be found here.

    The Special 301 Interagency Panel hears testimony from industry and government representatives.

    Special 301 decisions are made following extensive consultations with interested parties and foreign governments on often complex IP issues, and information provided in the public hearing and through written public comments help facilitate sound, well-balanced assessments of developments in particular countries.  This year’s public submissions for the Special 301 review can be viewed online at, docket number USTR-2013-0040.  A video and transcript of the hearing will be posted to USTR’s website within two weeks of the hearing date.

    In addition to releasing the annual Special 301 Report, USTR conducts year-round engagement to advance the goals of the Special 301 process.  On February 12, 2014, USTR released the results of the 2013 Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets.  In previous years, the Notorious Market List had been included in the annual Special 301 Report, but USTR now publishes the two reports separately in an effort to increase public awareness of Internet and physical markets that pose significant piracy and counterfeiting challenges. 

    The Notorious Markets List can be found here.  Public submissions for the Notorious Markets list can be viewed online at, Docket number USTR-2013-0030.

  • 02/19/2014 6:00 PM

    The schedule for the Special 301 Review Public Hearing is available here. The hearing will take place on February 24, 2014, at the offices of the United States Trade Representative, 1724 F St N.W., Washington, D.C., starting promptly at 10:00 a.m. This event is open to the public.

    The Special 301 Review Public Hearing is an information-gathering opportunity for the Special 301 Subcommittee. Witnesses will provide an oral testimony and be asked questions from the Subcommittee. Interested parties will also have until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 7, 2014, to provide additional comments. Post hearing comments must be submitted via www.regulations.dov, docket number USTR-2013-0040.

    Transcripts of the hearing will be available approximately two weeks after the hearing and will be available at

  • 02/13/2014 2:07 PM

    The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) entered into force on May 15, 2012. Yesterday, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Sapiro and Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States, Luis Carlos Villegas, met in Washington to review progress on implementation of the CTPA, as well as to discuss progress on implementing the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights.

    2011 to address concerns regarding labor rights in Colombia, including inadequate efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of violence against union members, and insufficient protection of workers’ rights in labor laws and enforcement. Since then, the Government of Colombia has passed a series of stronger labor laws, hired hundreds of new labor inspectors, police investigators and criminal prosecutors, and started enforcing new laws, including by assessing significant fines for labor violations.  During the meeting, Ambassadors Sapiro and Villegas discussed ways to build on this progress and continue working closely together to implement the Action Plan and address remaining concerns. Areas where we are working with the Santos Administration to address remaining challenges include improving the system for collecting fines for labor violations, regulating all forms of contracting that undermine labor rights, hiring labor inspectors and increasing inspections in the Action Plan priority sectors, taking steps to reduce violence further against labor leaders and activists, and increasing criminal prosecution of those responsible for such violent acts.

    Ambassadors Sapiro and Villegas also reaffirmed a common commitment to ensuring that both countries benefit from the opportunities that the CTPA offers, including with respect to industrial and agricultural products.

    Colombia and the United States have a strong trade relationship that has only improved since the enactment of the CTPA.  The United States is Colombia’s largest trading partner, while Colombia is the third largest market for U.S. exports in Latin America. In 2013, U.S. exports to Colombia totaled more than $18.6 billion, up from $14.3 billion in 2011, the last full year prior to entry into force of the Agreement.

    For more information about the CTPA, please click here

  • 02/08/2014 3:00 PM

    As the Obama Administration negotiates new trade agreements, we work in close consultation with Members of Congress, advisors, stakeholders, and the public at large.  Input from these groups is essential for informing and advising U.S. negotiators as they pursue agreements that will open markets and raise global standards on issues like labor rights and environmental protection.  With input from stakeholders, U.S. negotiators are pursuing trade agreements with the goal of increasing U.S. exports and, in doing so, creating opportunities for new jobs and higher wages for American workers that support widely shared prosperity.

    As part of that consultation process, USTR works with a series of advisory committees that were established by Congress to provide forums where stakeholders can provide their views.  These include:

    Tier I                President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations (ACTPN)

    Tier II              Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC)

    Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC)

    Labor Advisory Committee (LAC)

    Trade Advisory Committee on Africa (TACA)

    Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC)

    Tier III             Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATACs)

    Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs)

    Among the advisory committee members are industry representatives, labor unions, environmental groups, consumer groups, health groups, state and local government, and academia.  These committees are provided and have an opportunity to comment on all draft U.S. proposals before they are shared with other countries.  That information is provided equally to all members of the committees, industry and non-industry alike.  All advisors have access to the same information.    

    Stakeholder engagement ensures that differing viewpoints are heard during trade negotiations.  In addition to meetings of our advisory committees, we also encourage stakeholders, on and off these advisory panels, to provide input at any time and on any issue.  No individual stakeholder has an assurance that their viewpoint will dominate others or prevail in the negotiations.  But all stakeholders are heard as we seek to craft the strongest agreements.  We do so with the overall interests of the U.S. economy and American workers across the board in mind.  Ultimately, the judgment of whether the national interest is served is made by Congress, which votes on whether to implement any agreement we negotiate.


    We have recently been asked about what impact the labor community has had on trade policy.  The labor community has had a demonstrable and significant impact on individual trade agreements and the evolution on American trade policy as a whole over the last two decades.  The Obama Administration has included the leaders of four major labor unions on the Administration’s highest-level advisory committee, the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations:

    • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    • United Auto Workers
    • United Food and Commercial Workers
    • United Steel Workers

     The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) includes the presidents of the following unions:

    • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (current and emeritus presidents)
    • Airline Pilots Association
    • American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
    • Chicago Federation of Labor
    • Farm Labor Organizing Committee
    • International Air Line Pilots Associations
    • International Association of Flight Attendants
    • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Chair)
    • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
    • International Union of Electronic, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers
    • Service Employees International Union
    • Transportation and Trades Department (AFL-CIO)
    • Union Label & Service Trades Department (AFL-CIO)
    • United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
    • United Farm Workers of America
    • United Food and Commercial Workers
    • United Mineworkers of America
    • United Steelworkers

    Engagement with the Labor Advisory Committee is not limited to regular meetings of union presidents.  It also includes meetings with representatives for the Labor Advisory Committee members.  Seven such meetings were held in 2013.

    Additionally, the Labor Advisory Committee chair is included in monthly conference calls where USTR negotiators provide updates on the status of trade negotiations to the leadership of all our trade advisory committees.

    We continually seek to broaden the membership of our advisory committees so that they best represent the broadest range of views and we accept new applications for membership on a regular basis.

    Since the early 1990s, the labor community has advocated for enforceable labor and environmental obligations in our trade agreements subject to the same dispute settlement mechanisms as commercial obligations.  Under the bipartisan “May 10 Agreement,” negotiated by Democratic members of the House of Representatives, American trade policy took an important step forward: requiring trade partners to strengthen labor rights and implement key environmental protections as part of U.S. trade agreements.  Building on this important agreement, the Obama Administration has embraced the “May 10” approach and is insisting on enforceable labor and environmental protections in our ongoing negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  We have made this bedrock principle clear, publicly and privately.

    A world with TPP is a world in which labor standards are higher, environmental protections are stronger, and American workers compete on a more level playing field.  A world without TPP is a world in which we do not make these advances. 

    The labor community has helped shape TPP provisions including freedom of association and collective bargaining, protections from forced and child labor, employment discrimination, and minimum wages.  In addition to working with the labor community to shape labor-related provisions of TPP, the Obama Administration has held extensive discussions on all aspects of the agreement.  For example, at the urging of stakeholders in the labor community and other sectors, USTR is leading the charge to address unfair competition from state-owned enterprises, to structure rules of origin to promote more manufacturing in the United States, and to influence policy on many other areas (e.g., customs, export licensing, government procurement, supply chains).

    The labor community’s impact on trade is not limited to negotiations.  On issues ranging from trade remedies to trade enforcement, labor voices have been heard.  

    Those voices will continue to be heard.  In just the past few months Ambassador Froman has met individually or had telephone consultations with the heads of several major unions including:

    • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
    • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    • United Auto Workers
    • United Food and Commercial Workers
    • United Steelworkers

    On December 16, Ambassador Froman and Secretary of Labor Perez convened the Labor Advisory Committee to which all members were invited.  It was attended by the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling and the interagency trade team, as well as the heads of the following unions:

    • International Airline Pilots Association
    • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    • International Federal of Professional and Technical Engineers
    • United Steelworkers
    • United Food and Commercial Workers

    Our stakeholders – private sector and non-private sector alike – play a valuable role in shaping U.S. trade policy.  We will continue to work with them on an approach to trade that fosters economic growth, supports jobs here at home, and strengthens America’s middle class.

  • 02/04/2014 5:57 PM


    [Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State. From left to right:Norman Harris, General Coordinator for Implementation of the U.S. – Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, Panama Ministry of Commerce and Trade; Jonathan D. Farrar, U.S. Ambassador to Panama; Silvano Vergara Vasquez, Minister of Environment and General Administrator of Panama's National Environment Authority; Judith Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Sarah Stewart, Director for Environment and Natural Resources, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; David Diaz, Legal Counsel for Panama’s National Environment Authority. ]


    The United States and Panama have a long history of economic cooperation that was cemented the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), which entered into force on October 31, 2012.  The TPA promotes economic growth and trade, but also includes important provisions to advance the countries’ mutual commitment to strengthen environmental protection.

    On January 29, Director for Environment and Natural Resources Sarah Stewart traveled to Panama to co-chair the inaugural meeting of the United States - Panama Environmental Affairs Council (EAC) and participate in the first session of the U.S. - Panama Environmental Cooperation Commission (ECC). The Council and Commission meetings are an important way for the U.S. and Panama to exchange information about respective efforts to continue to implement the Environment Chapter of the TPA, identify pressing challenges and priority areas for environmental cooperation, and formulate a plan to achieve further progress.

    The Council reviewed several areas of progress under the TPA's Environment Chapter, including actions taken by the United States and Panama to increase levels of environmental protection, effectively enforce environmental laws, and provide opportunities for public participation in environmental governance and the trade policy-setting processes.  The Council also set concrete next steps for establishing an independent secretariat to receive submissions from the public regarding concerns that one or both parties are not effectively enforcing their environmental laws. 

    The Environmental Cooperation Commission (ECC) reviewed ongoing environmental cooperation activities and approved and signed the first U.S.-Panama Environmental Cooperation Work Plan under the ECA, which provides a robust framework for advancing environmental cooperation in the coming years.

    The meetings culminated with a public session in which over 30 stakeholders engaged in an active discussion with government officials about implementation of the TPA Environment Chapter, existing environmental cooperation programs, and plans for further cooperation.

    For more information, please see the Joint Communique of the U.S.-Panama Environmental Affairs Council and Environmental Cooperation Commission.