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Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade

Made-in-America exports support millions of jobs across our country, and as tariff barriers to industrial and agricultural trade have fallen around the world, some standards-related measures have emerged as a key obstacle to U.S. exports.

Standards-related measures (standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures) can serve an important function in facilitating international trade to obtain greater access to foreign markets.  Standards-related measures also enable governments to pursue legitimate objectives such as protecting human health and the environment, as well as preventing deceptive practices.  But standards-related measures that are nontransparent, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted can act as significant barriers to U.S. exports.  A 2016 study by the Department of Commerce found that technical regulations were potentially linked to 92 percent of U.S. goods exports in 2015 and 93 percent of global goods exports in 2015.

USTR’s efforts to spotlight and address these technical barriers to Made-in-America exports provides crucial reinforcement of our goal to help businesses of all sizes export more so that they can support more well-paying American jobs.

Because of the accomplishments explained below in addressing those obstacles, USTR has unlocked important export opportunities for American workers and businesses, which we will continue to do to increase our economic growth, promote job creation in the United States, promote reciprocity with our trading partners, and expand our manufacturing and agricultural exports.

These and other successes helped the United States to export $1.5 trillion in industrial and agricultural products in 2016, supporting millions of U.S. jobs.

Below are several Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) success stories from 2016:

Acceptance of U.S. Motor Vehicle Standards and Certification:  As a result of USTR engagement bilaterally and in multilateral fora, several key markets for U.S. auto exports agreed to accept Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), enabling exports of autos manufactured in the United States. 

  • Ecuador and Colombia:  Both Ecuador and Colombia proposed draft regulations that would have restricted U.S. manufactured motor vehicles by only allowing acceptance of motor vehicles manufactured to United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) standards.  USTR interventions, including at the WTO TBT Committee, combined with technical assistance from regulators, led Ecuador and Colombia to revise their measures and resume acceptance of U.S. auto exports.
  • Morocco:  Prior to July 2016, Moroccan regulators recognized only UNECE standards, effectively closing the market for autos manufactured in the United States.  This policy limited the overall market penetration for American car manufacturers.  Following a sustained U.S. Government advocacy campaign, including efforts by USTR, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and regulators, Morocco issued a decree in July 2016 officially recognizing FMVSS standards, and became the first African country with dual automotive standards. 

India:  India agreed to end the requirement that an importer’s name and address to be sewn onto bulk packaging - a requirement that caused increased costs and delays for U.S. exporters.

Taiwan – Burdensome Administrative Requirements:  The United States has worked to address issues related to the Cosmetic Hygiene Control Act that would have imposed heavy administrative burdens on U.S. exporters of cosmetics had the requirements taken effect.  Through engagement in the WTO TBT Committee and under the TIFA, Taiwan accepted several U.S. recommendations, including removing the requirement to submit certain confidential business information.  Taiwan also agreed not to develop a system with overlapping pre-market approval and post-market surveillance.

Turkey – Toy Testing Requirements:  U.S. toys exported to Turkey were being stopped by Customs for onerous and duplicative testing at the border.  Through USTR’s interventions at the WTO TBT Committee and engagement by U.S. Customs officials in Turkey, Turkey agreed to eliminate the additional testing at the border.

Ecuador - Protective Footwear Standards:  Ecuador proposed to adopt exclusively standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as mandatory for protective footwear.  This measure would have disadvantaged U.S. footwear manufacturers that produce to ASTM International standards, which are accepted worldwide.  Through discussion in the WTO TBT Committee, Ecuador agreed to reference ASTM International standards in its law in addition to the ISO standards.  As a result of USTR’s action on this issue, exports of U.S. protective footwear manufactured in the U.S. were able to resume.

Standards Alliance Implementation with USAID:  USTR worked with USAID on multiple occasions to decrease standards-related barriers in 2016.  For example, USTR and USAID worked to implement the Standards Alliance, a public-private partnership that provides technical assistance to developing countries and regions to help ensure those countries’ standards-related measures do not impose unnecessary obstacles to trade and comply with other obligations under the WTO TBT Agreement.  For example, the Standards Alliance held workshops for officials from the East African Community and the South African Development Community to improve the operation of their enquiry points, the government offices that are responsible for notifying proposed measures to the WTO.  This system helps reduce unnecessary obstacles to U.S. trade by ensuring, for example, that proposed regulations are made available for public comment and that potential impacts of proposed measures are analyzed and taken into account.  U.S. assistance resulted in Zambia’s first TBT notifications to the WTO since 2007.