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Key Technical Barriers to American Exports


On March 31, 2010, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk transmitted to Congress a new report on key technical barriers to trade that hinder or block American exports around the world.   In a speech to Pennsylvania steelworkers in 2009, Ambassador Kirk promised to deliver this report and another on sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to American exports as part of the Obama Administration's effort to sharpen its enforcement of American trade rights and to grow well-paying jobs here at home.   Key barriers in this new report include:


The European Commission promotes the use of European regional standards both at home and abroad to provide an advantage to European producers and firms.  Due to the trade-restrictive manner in which the EU implements the New Approach directive, U.S. producers often feel compelled to use the relevant EU regional standards for products they seek to sell on the EU market, which can put U.S. companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, at a competitive disadvantage in the EU market.  The EU also promotes adoption of European regional standards and conformance in other markets, as well as in regional and international fora, in order to "internationalize" EU regional approaches which, in certain cases, are lacking a sufficient scientific or technical basis and whose adoption would favor EU producers and firms.  We are particularly concerned about the potentially adverse impact of the EU's new rules on accreditation, which could hobble the international system of accreditation to benefit EU organizations.


The United States remains concerned about China's current approach to developing and using standards and technical regulations in the information technology (IT) sector, which in too many instances appears designed to favor China-specific approaches.  Many of the measures, such as the requirement that mobile handsets be enabled with a China-specific standard (WAPI), are developed absent meaningful (if any) foreign input and tend to favor domestic producers.  The United States continues to work both bilaterally and internationally to engage China on these issues.


Some governments do not permit U.S. suppliers to use competent conformity assessment bodies (e.g., testing laboratories or product certifiers) located in the United States to demonstrate that their products comply with their technical regulations.  Rather, U.S. exporters are required to use conformity assessment services provided by bodies in the destination market, which can impose additional costs and burdens on U.S. exporters, particularly SMEs.  These costs and burdens can be compounded by significant delays when the foreign market lacks sufficient domestic testing, inspection, or certification capacity.  The United States continues to work both bilaterally and internationally to remove these restrictions.


A growing number of markets around the world either require or have proposed mandatory retail labeling for food products that contain or are derived from biotechnology.  The mandatory nature of these regimes has impeded or, in some cases, completely blocked U.S. exports of such food products to several countries.  The mandatory labeling of these food products negatively affects trade, because it affects consumers' impressions of the products, and has unnecessarily increased costs for consumers and industry stakeholders.  The negative trade impact is compounded where countries lack adequate infrastructure or mechanisms to implement and enforce these regimes in a consistent and transparent manner.  The United States is actively engaged with trading partners in seeking to remove these unwarranted trade barriers, and more broadly, in efforts to share experiences related to biotechnology development, regulation, and trade.


While supportive of the EU's objectives of protecting human health and the environment, the United States has raised numerous trade-related concerns with respect to REACH, which impacts virtually every U.S. industrial sector -- from automobiles, cosmetics, and plastics, to steel, household cleaners, and textiles.  REACH, which regulates chemicals as a substance, in preparations, and in products, imposes extensive registration requirements on tens of thousands of chemicals even before any scientific analysis has been conducted by the Commission.  Further, several U.S. industry sectors have reported that REACH's registration provisions and their implementation make it more difficult for them to comply with the measure than for their European competitors.  The first registration deadline is November 30, 2010, with U.S. industry reporting that many companies, particularly SMEs, will be unable to meet the deadline and, consequently, will lose access to the EU market.  The United States will continue to monitor closely REACH implementation, as well as Member State-level implementation and enforcement regimes, in the coming year and intends to participate in the REACH review process that the Commission has recently begun and will complete by June 1, 2012.