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Weekly Trade Spotlight: Breaking Down Trade Barriers

On March 30, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) transmitted two reports to Congress concerning trade barriers that affect American businesses. These two reports focus on how the Administration has engaged over the past year to combat unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT). They mark a continued effort by the USTR to sharpen enforcement of American trade rights and to support well-paying jobs here at home. The 2011 SPS and TBT reports also document the processes, procedures, and tools the U.S. Government employs to resolve these trade problems.

The 2011 SPS report describes some of the unwarranted SPS barriers that the Administration eliminated or reduced over the past year. For example, the Administration achieved market reopening for U.S. beef and poultry markets in Chile and Ecuador. Chile banned almost all U.S. beef and beef products in 2003 due to detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, i.e., “mad cow disease,” in the United States. The United States and Chile were able to reach an agreement to re-open the Chilean market to U.S. beef and beef products in March 2011.

The United States also has worked with Ecuador to lift the ban on poultry products and live animals from Arkansas and West Virginia due to unwarranted concerns over low pathogenic avian influenza. In December 2010, Ecuador agreed to remove the ban, increasing competitiveness and market access for American businesses.

The 2011 TBT report focuses on foreign trade barriers in emerging markets that have harmed U.S. producers due to lack of access to foreign markets in the form of product standards, technical regulations and testing, and certification. When these barriers are discriminatory and non-transparent, they can have a detrimental effect on U.S. businesses. These effects can especially hurt small- and medium-sized businesses as many do not have the resources to combat these challenges. The United States is working to make these barriers transparent through trade reports in addition to working with countries to remove them. In accomplishing this, American businesses are able to have the resources and the knowledge to become more competitive in the global market.

There has also been much success in the area of TBT in energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is vital to the growth of our economy. By breaking down barriers and fostering innovation and development in the energy sector, we can create new American jobs and businesses. With more knowledge and greater market access, American businesses can help lead our national economy to long-term prosperity.

The United States has had success as well in toy and food safety. These successes not only help American businesses, but help provide American families with the confidence that the products they buy are safe and of high quality. The United States has also worked closely with APEC, the European Union, Canada, and Mexico to improve regulatory cooperation, transparency and coordination in order to prevent the creation of technical barriers to trade.

This is the second year that USTR has released these reports, after Ambassador Kirk announced the enforcement effort in July 2009. The SPS and TBT reports are part of a stronger enforcement policy by the Administration to tackle the harmful barriers that American agricultural and manufacturing businesses face when trying to grow their businesses through exports.

You can view the reports here.