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ITEC Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When was the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) established?

A: On February 28, 2012, the President signed Executive Order 13601 establishing ITEC to enhance enforcement of U.S. trade rights and domestic trade laws.

Q: What is ITEC’s mission?

A: ITEC is charged with fighting for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses by bringing a more aggressive “whole-of-government” approach to addressing unfair trade practices around the world. ITEC will be supported by the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and the Treasury, as well as the intelligence community. The personnel from these agencies will enhance U.S. trade enforcement capabilities and facilitate increased engagement with foreign trade partners at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and elsewhere through the creation of an expanded team of language-proficient researchers, subject matter experts, and economic analysts. ITEC is designed to help leverage and mobilize resources and expertise across the federal government to develop trade enforcement actions that will address unfair foreign trade practices and barriers that could otherwise imperil our nation’s export promotion and job recovery efforts.

Q: How is ITEC different from existing trade enforcement programs?

A: ITEC is unique in that it constitutes a more dedicated “whole-of-government” approach to addressing unfair trade practices and trade barriers. This new approach will provide a primary forum within the federal government to bring together experts from executive departments and agencies to coordinate trade enforcement. ITEC will permit a sustained focus on particular issues not possible previously.

Q: Doesn’t the U.S. government already have the capacity to address unfair trade practices and trade barriers?

A: A priority of the Administration is to better leverage the government’s trade enforcement activities by focusing its existing resources to address unfair trade practices and foreign trade barriers more effectively. ITEC will link, leverage and align both existing and new resources more efficiently across the executive branch and with stakeholders. The key here is efficiency. ITEC’s goal is to build upon existing capacity to give U.S. companies, workers and producers every chance to compete on a level playing field in today’s global marketplace.

Q: How many people will be working at ITEC at any given time?

A: By October 2012, ITEC had more than a dozen full-time and part-time staff and that number should increase substantially by the end of FY13. These figures are subject to change as issues, priorities and available funding change.

Q: How do you determine the issues for priority attention and action?

A: The Director and Deputy Director, along with the various offices within USTR, and in cooperation with other agencies will examine various trade issues and will establish priority projects for investigation. As is currently the case, a variety of factors will be taken into account in setting those priorities, including economic impact of the issue, systemic impact of resolution on international trading practices, ability to document and demonstrate the problem, available resources, and broad trade goals.

Q: Is ITEC’s purpose to bring more trade remedies and WTO cases against Chinese products?

A: ITEC’s purpose is to help ensure that all of our trading partners play by WTO rules and abide by their obligations, including commitments to maintain open markets on a non-discriminatory basis, and to follow rules-based procedures in a transparent way.

Q: What countries will ITEC be working on?

A: ITEC will be addressing trade enforcement issues originating in a variety of regions across the globe. It is USTR policy not to discuss publicly cases that it is developing to avoid giving advance notice to governments overseas.

Q: What will the role of ITEC be in administering domestic trade laws?

A: The Department of Commerce has statutory responsibility for administration of the antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) laws and will continue to administer them. The International Trade Commission (ITC) will continue to make injury determinations with regard to all AD/CVD investigations and sunset reviews. ITEC was not intended to duplicate the efforts that are assigned by statute to particular agencies. ITEC will be looking for areas where it can add value to the work already being done.

Q: What will the role of ITEC be in dealing with circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duty orders?

A: Import Administration’s Customs Unit and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to take the lead on issues related to circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duty orders. Deliberate evasion of AD/CVD duties by providing false information in a customs declaration constitutes customs fraud, and is a breach of U.S. law, punishable by fine or imprisonment. In addition, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC) plans to step up enforcement of commercial fraud laws related to evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties.

Q: Will ITEC be involved in “self-initiation” of antidumping or countervailing duty cases?

A: Antidumping and countervailing duty investigations may be initiated as the result of a petition filed by a domestic interested party or at the Secretary of Commerce's own initiative. Self-initiation of such investigations has been a very rare occurrence. However, should the Secretary of Commerce request ITEC assistance in such a self-initiation, ITEC will provide support as appropriate.

Q: How will ITEC engage with the NIPRCC and the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)?

A: The NIPRCC’s focus is on the law enforcement response to IPR theft, primarily coordinating investigation and prosecution of IPR infringers under the criminal laws of the United States. The NIPRCC also is a key participant in international cooperation on criminal enforcement activities involving various other partner governments and international police organizations such as Interpol and Europol. ITEC’s focus is enforcement of U.S. rights under trade agreements across a wide set of issues – including intellectual property. ITEC has and will continue to coordinate with the NIPRCC and the IPEC.

Q: Will ITEC serve a rapid response function, including with respect to identifying subsidies in overseas markets?

A: ITEC will be focusing on enforcement of U.S. rights under trade agreements which require some time to investigate, develop, and coordinate. However, to the extent ITEC becomes aware of issues requiring a rapid response through its monitoring or outreach functions, it will bring such issues to the attention of that part of USTR or another agency best positioned to take more immediate action.

Q: How will ITEC help small and medium-sized enterprises? What is the difference between what ITEC does and what the Trade Compliance Center at the Department of Commerce does?

A: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to continue to report their specific market access problems to the Trade Compliance Center (TCC) at the Department of Commerce. If the TCC is unable to resolve an issue, especially when it has noted a trend, the TCC will report the problem to ITEC. By leveraging the expertise of the TCC, ITEC will have a head start on dealing with trade issues that are affecting SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises may also work through their associations to bring industry-wide problems to the attention of ITEC.

Q: How will ITEC interact with other parts of USTR that may already be engaged in working on an issue of concern to certain companies or industries?

A: ITEC is in close contact with the various offices within USTR. USTR sector experts and negotiators are aware of ITEC activities and vice versa to ensure full coordination. Parties which have been working closely with USTR offices on issues of concern should continue to do so.

Q: What role will ITEC play in section 301 cases?

A: Interested persons may file petitions with USTR under section 301 of the Trade Act. Depending on the nature of the petition, ITEC may be involved in doing additional research during the 301 investigation phase. It is important to note that, although USTR can initiate a section 301 investigation itself, USTR does not need to do so in order to initiate WTO dispute settlement action. With regard to the majority of WTO dispute settlement actions, we anticipate that ITEC will be doing some of the same types of research that outside parties would typically do themselves in order to file a 301 petition.

Q: What role will ITEC play in section 201 cases?

A: Section 201 investigations will continue to be carried out by the International Trade Commission, which has statutory responsibility for implementing this section of U.S. trade law. Although it is a historically rare occurrence, the President or USTR can request the ITC to conduct a section 201 investigation. ITEC may have a role in providing information that can be used to inform the decision as to whether the President or USTR should make such a request.

Q: Will ITEC monitor the new free trade agreements to ensure that trading partners are not erecting new non-tariff barriers that would limit the benefits U.S. companies are supposed to gain from the agreements?

A: While ITEC will monitor certain issues, it does not have the staff to monitor every aspect of every FTA. ITEC continues to work with other offices within USTR to ensure compliance with FTAs and will continue to request that industry and companies bring problems to ITEC’s attention.

Obama Administration Accomplishments
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Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States’ trade policy supports American jobs by opening markets and creating opportunities for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers to export more “Made in America” products to customers around the world. The Obama Administration rigorously enforces U.S. trade rights, insisting that countries fulfill their commitments and act according to the rules prescribed under our agreements. We work to strengthen the rules-based international trading system, to build better markets for U.S. exports, and to share the benefits of trade more broadly. These efforts are bringing U.S. trade policy into greater balance with the concerns and aspirations of the American people, attracting and maintaining the jobs and industries of the 21st century here on our shores.  Included below are just a few examples of that policy in action over the course of the last four years.

U.S. - Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Implementation of the U.S.–Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) will support more American jobs, increase U.S. exports, and enhance U.S. competitiveness:

• Colombia’s economy is the third largest in Central and South America. This comprehensive trade agreement will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, expand trade between our two countries and promote economic growth for both.

• The International Trade Commission (ITC) has estimated that the tariff reductions in the Agreement will expand exports of U.S. goods alone by more than $1.1 billion, supporting thousands of additional American jobs. The ITC also projected that the Agreement will increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion.

• The Agreement will provide significant new access to Colombia’s $166 billion services market, supporting increased opportunities for U.S. service providers.

• U.S. goods exports to Colombia in 2010 were $12.0 billion. Our economies are largely complementary in terms of the goods we ship each other. For example, Colombia is a large importer of grains from the United States while it exports a number of tropical fruits to our country. In addition, U.S. cotton, yarn and fabric exports to Colombia are used in many apparel items that Colombia exports to the United States.

Learn more about the U.S. – Colombia Free trade agreement here.

Ambassador Kirk Speaks with Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata
Ambassador Kirk Speaks with Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata

U.S. - Korea Free Trade Agreement

Now more than ever, America’s ability to create or support jobs here at home depends on our ability to export goods and services to the world. From 1960 to 2010, exports’ share of our country’s gross domestic product – that’s the measure of America’s overall economic output – more than doubled. In 2010, exports supported an estimated 9.2 million American jobs, and those are positions that pay well: Americans whose jobs are supported by goods exports earn 13 to 18 percent more than the national average. New exports help to support additional jobs. With the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) estimating that the tariff cuts alone in the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement will increase exports of American goods by $10 billion to $11 billion, this agreement will secure at least 70,000 American jobs supported by those exports – as well as the additional American jobs that will come from by breaking down non-tariff barriers keeping U.S. exports out of South Korea, and by requiring stronger protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in South Korea.

The ITC’s analysis of the economic benefits of this agreement only counts how much American exports will go up due to the elimination or adjustment of tariffs, which South Korea charges when exported U.S. goods come onshore in South Korea. But the agreement will also create new opportunities for even more exports as it opens South Korea’s $580 billion services market to more American companies – supporting additional jobs for American workers in service sectors ranging from express delivery to engineering to legal and accounting services to education and health care.

Learn more about the Korea Free Trade Agreement here.

President Barack Obama signs the “United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act,” in the Oval Office, Oct. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs the "United States - Korea Free Trade Implementation Act"
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

President Obama announced in November 2009 the United States’ intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to conclude an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values. Through this agreement, we are seeking to boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality jobs at home by increasing American exports to a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies and that represents more than 40 percent of global trade. The Obama Administration has been working in partnership with Congress and consulting closely with stakeholders around the country to ensure TPP addresses the issues that American businesses and workers are facing today, and may confront in the future.

The TPP is a key element of the Obama Administration strategy to make U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region a top priority. The huge and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers. As a group, TPP countries are the fourth largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to the broader Asia-Pacific totaled $775 billion in 2010, a 25.5 percent increase over 2009 and equal to 61 percent of total U.S. goods exports to the world. U.S. exports of agricultural products to the region totaled $83 billion in 2010 and accounted for 72 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports to the world. U.S. private services exports totaled $177 billion in 2009 (latest data available), 37 percent of total U.S. private services exports to the world. America’s small- and medium-sized enterprises alone exported $171 billion to the Asia-Pacific in 2009 (latest data available).

Learn more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership here.

Continuing Enforcement

USTR coordinates the Administration's active monitoring of foreign government compliance with trade agreements and pursues enforcement actions, using dispute settlement procedures and applying the full range of U.S. trade laws when necessary.

Vigorous investigation efforts by relevant agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and State, help ensure that these agreements yield the maximum benefits in terms of ensuring market access for Americans, advancing the rule of law internationally, and creating a fair, open, and predictable trading environment.

Ensuring full implementation of U.S. trade agreements is one of the Administration's strategic priorities. You can read more about monitoring and enforcement actions in this year's Annual Report, and learn more about the how USTR enforces trade agreements here.