U.S. trade policy
American trade policy works toward opening markets throughout the world
to create new opportunities and higher living standards for families, farmers,
manufacturers, workers, consumers, and businesses. The United States is party to
numerous trade agreements with other countries, and is participating in
negotiations for new trade agreements with a number of countries and regions of
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for
developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct
investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. The
head of USTR is the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member who serves as
the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade
USTR is part of the Executive Office of the President. Through an
interagency structure, USTR coordinates trade policy, resolves disagreements,
and frames issues for presidential decision. USTR also serves as vice chairman
of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), is a non-voting member of
the Export-Import Bank, and a member of the National Advisory Council on
International Monetary and Financial Policies.
USTR provides trade policy leadership and negotiating expertise in its
major areas of responsibility, including:
- Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade and investment issues
- Expansion of market access for American goods and services
- Negotiations affecting U.S. import policies
- Oversight of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Section 301
complaints against foreign unfair trade practices, as well as Section 1377,
Section 337 and import relief cases under Section 201
- Trade, commodity, and
direct investment matters managed by international institutions such as the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
intellectual property protection issues
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
Working with other agencies
USTR consults with other government agencies on trade policy matters
through the Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) and the Trade Policy Staff
Committee (TPSC). These groups, administered and chaired by USTR and composed of
19 Federal agencies and offices, make up the sub-cabinet level mechanism for
developing and coordinating U.S. Government positions on international trade and
trade-related investment issues.
The TPSC is the primary operating group, with representation at the
senior civil service level. Supporting the TPSC are more than 90
subcommittees responsible for specialized areas and several task forces that
work on particular issues. If agreement is not reached in the TPSC, or if
significant policy questions are being considered, then issues are taken up by
the TPRG (Deputy USTR/Under Secretary level).
Click Here for Executive branch agencies on the Trade Policy Staff
Committee and the Trade Policy Review Group.
The final tier of the interagency trade policy mechanism is the National
Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the president. The NEC Deputies’ committee
considers memoranda from the TPRG, as well as important or controversial
U.S. Congress established the private sector advisory committee system in 1974
to ensure that U.S. trade policy and trade negotiation
objectives adequately reflect U.S. commercial and economic interests. Congress
expanded and enhanced the role of this system in subsequent trade acts, most
recently the Trade Act of 2002.
advisory committees provide information and advice with respect to
U.S. negotiating objectives and bargaining
positions before entering into trade agreements, on the operation of any trade
agreement once entered into, and on other matters arising in connection with the
development, implementation, and administration of
The trade policy advisory committee system consists of 26 advisory committees, with a total membership of up approximately 700 advisors. Recommendations for candidates for committee membership are collected from a number of sources including Members of Congress, associations and organizations, publications, and other individuals who have demonstrated an interest or expertise in U.S. trade policy. Membership selection is based on qualifications, geography, and the needs of the specific committee. Members pay for their own travel and other related expenses, must obtain a security clearance.
Under the Trade Act of 2002, each advisory committee is required to prepare a report on proposed trade agreements for the Administration and Congress. These reports are made public on USTR’s website.
The system is arranged in three tiers: the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN); four policy advisory committees; and 22 technical and sectoral advisory committees.
The President appoints up to 45 ACTPN members for two-year terms. The 1974 Trade Act requires that membership broadly represent key economic sectors affected by trade. The committee considers trade policy issues in the context of the overall national interest. USTR administers the ACTPN.
The policy advisory committees are appointed by the USTR alone or in conjunction with other Cabinet officers. USTR solely manages the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC). Those policy advisory committees managed jointly with the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency are, respectively, the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC), Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), and Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC). Each committee provides advice based upon the perspective of its specific area.
Click Here for more information on USTR's Advisory Committee System.
The 22 sectoral, and technical advisory committees are organized in two areas: industry and agriculture. Representatives are appointed jointly by the USTR and the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, respectively. Each sectoral or technical committee represents a specific sector or commodity group (such as textiles or dairy products) and provides specific technical advice concerning the effect that trade policy decisions may have on its sector.
Working with Congress
Since its creation, USTR has maintained close consultation with Congress.
Five members from each House are formally appointed under statute as official
Congressional advisors on trade policy, and additional members may be appointed
as advisors on particular issues or negotiations. Liaison activities between the
agency and Congress are extensive.
USTR provides detailed briefings on a regular basis for the Congressional
Oversight Group, a new organization composed of members from a broad range of
congressional committees. In addition, USTR officials and staff participate in
hundreds of congressional conversations each year on subjects ranging from
tariffs to textiles.
Click Here for a list of Congressional Committees regularly consulted on
USTR has offices in Washington, D.C. and in Geneva, Switzerland. The
Washington, D.C. office of USTR is structured along five organizational lines:
- Europe and the Mediterranean
- North Asia
- South Asia
- Southeast Asia and the Pacific
- World Trade Organization and Multilateral Affairs
- GSP and the U.N.
Conference on Trade and Development
- Intellectual Property
- Manufacturing & Industrial Affairs
- Government Procurement
Analysis, Legal Affairs and Policy Coordination:
- General Counsel
- Economic Affairs
- Policy Development and Coordination
- Congressional Affairs
- Public/Media Affairs
Affairs and Public Liaison
USTR's Geneva Office is organized to cover general WTO affairs,
Non-Tariff Agreements, Agricultural Policy, Commodity Policy and the Harmonized
Code System. Special attention is given to textiles with one member of the staff
designated as the U.S. representative to the Textiles Surveillance Body. The
Geneva Deputy USTR is the U.S. Ambassador to the WTO and to the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development on commodity matters. The Geneva staff
represents the United States' interests in negotiations, and in other contacts
on trade and trade policy in both forums.
Click Here to access the United States Mission in Geneva.