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.

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Until the early 1960s, the Department of State was responsible for conducting U.S. trade and investment diplomacy and administering the President's trade agreement program.  In the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Congress called for the President to appoint a Special Representative for Trade Negotiations to conduct U.S. trade negotiations.  The Act provided for the Special Trade Representative to serve as chair of a new interagency trade organization established to make recommendations to the President on his trade agreement program. The legislation reflected Congressional interest in achieving a better balance between competing domestic and international interests in formulating and implementing U.S. trade policy.

In 1963, President Kennedy created a new Office of the Special Trade Representative (STR) in the Executive Office of the President and designated two new Deputies - one in Washington, D.C., and the other in Geneva, Switzerland.  Through the mid-1960's, STR had the chief responsibility for U.S. participation in the Kennedy Round of multilateral trade negotiations held under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

In the 1970s, the Congress substantially expanded STR's responsibilities. Section 141 of the Trade Act of 1974 provided a legislative charter for STR as part of the Executive Office of the President, making it responsible for the trade agreements programs under the Tariff Act of 1930, the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, and the 1974 act. The act also made STR directly accountable to both the President and the Congress for these and other trade responsibilities and elevated the Special Trade Representative to cabinet level.

Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1979 consolidated and further broadened STR's responsibilities. The 1979 reorganization and Executive Order 12188 of the next year renamed STR as the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), centralized U.S. government policy-making and negotiating functions for international trade, and greatly expanded the office. These changes:

  • Assigned lead responsibility to USTR for developing and coordinating U.S. trade policy and for conducting international trade and trade-related investment negotiations;

  • Designated the Trade Representative as the principal advisor to the President on trade policy and on the impact of other U.S. government policies on  international trade;

  • Authorized USTR to set U.S. policy on key trade issues, such the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and "the assertion and protection of the rights of the United States under all bilateral and multilateral international trade and commodity agreements."  USTR shares with the Department of Commerce responsibility for monitoring foreign government compliance with United States trade agreements.

  • Made the Trade Representative the Vice Chairman of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a non-voting member of the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors, and a member of the National Advisory Committee on International Monetary and Financial Policies; and

  • Made the USTR the chief U.S. representative in bilateral negotiations over barriers to investment.

  • The Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 gave USTR the further responsibility of developing and coordinating implementation of U.S. policies concerning trade in services.

USTR's authority was further enhanced under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988.  Section 1601 of the 1988 legislation codified and expanded USTR's responsibilities.  In so doing, the legislation reinforced the Congressional-Executive partnership for the conduct of U.S. trade policy. Among USTR's additional responsibilities as enumerated in the 1988 act are:

  • To coordinate trade policy with other agencies;

  • To act as the principal international trade policy spokesperson of the President;

  • To report and be responsible to the President and the Congress on the administration of the trade agreements program, and to advise them on non-tariff barriers, international commodity agreements, and other matters relating to the trade agreements program; and

  • To chair the interagency committee that assists and advises the President in developing and implementing U.S. trade policy.

The 1988 legislation also included a "Sense of the Congress" statement that the USTR should be the senior representative on any body the President establishes to advise him on overall economic policies in which international trade matters predominate and that the USTR should be included in all economic summits and other international meetings in which international trade is a major topic.  Finally, this legislation further elevated the importance of USTR in trade matters by shifting to USTR the Presidential responsibility for implementing actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (enforcement of U.S. rights under trade agreements), subject to specific direction, if any, from the President.

The Uruguay Round Agreements Act, enacted in 1994, specifies that USTR has lead responsibility for all negotiations under the auspices of the WTO. The conclusion of such major comprehensive trade agreements as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the WTO Agreement vastly expanded the scope and task of USTR's efforts to implement and enforce U.S. trade agreements.

The Trade and Development Act of 2000 created two new posts in USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator and Assistant United States Trade Representative for African Affairs. The principal function of the Chief Agricultural Negotiator is to conduct trade negotiations and enforce trade agreements relating to United States agricultural interests and products. The AUSTR for African Affairs serves as the chief advisor to the U.S. Trade Representative on issues of trade and investment with Africa and serves as coordinator and point of contact within the Administration on such issues.