Keeping Markets Open: Successes in Reducing Technical Barriers to American Exports

On March 30, 2011, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent Congress and the President USTR’s second annual report detailing the Administration’s efforts to reduce and remove key technical barriers to exports of American agricultural, manufactured, and consumer products. The report demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to keeping global markets open for U.S companies and workers. Removing foreign trade barriers, including technical barriers such as unnecessary or unduly burdensome testing and labeling requirements, is a key component of President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

The report also highlights the Administration’s key initiatives to promote greater international cooperation among regulatory authorities, trade officials, and standards experts from different countries. These initiatives, which seek to promote regulatory best practices and better alignment of technical requirements, will help to prevent the emergence of unnecessary barriers to U.S. exports in the first place.

Key topics in this report include:


President Obama has made it a top priority to advance cooperation and convergence on standards-related issues with the APEC countries in order to prevent the emergence of unwarranted barriers to trade. As the 2011 APEC host, the United States will seek agreement among APEC members on steps that can be taken to strengthen implementation of good regulatory practices, including an assessment of the costs and benefits of regulation and an assessment of non-regulatory alternatives. Last year, as part of the run-up to the Leaders meeting, the Administration led efforts among APEC economies to align their regulatory approaches to energy efficiency, toy safety, and food safety. Those initiatives laid the foundation for APEC economies to begin work in 2011 on preventing unnecessary technical barriers in promising new sectors such as commercial green buildings, solar technologies, and Smart Grid.

Bilateral Regulatory Cooperation

In 2010, the Administration worked closely with key trading partners to head off unwarranted technical barriers to U.S. exports. The United States urged these governments to use regulatory “best practices” and adopt U.S. approaches to regulation in key economic sectors.

  • In December 2010, the Administration launched an initiative with the European Union under the bilateral Transatlantic Economic Council to develop joint principles and best practices for preventing unintended barriers to U.S. – EU trade.

  • In May 2010, President Obama and Mexican President Calderón directed the creation of a bilateral High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council to improve cooperation on regulatory matters.

  • In February 2011, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper called for the two governments to establish a United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, with a mandate to enhance bilateral regulatory transparency and coordination.

These initiatives reflect the Administration’s systematic approach to addressing standards-related issues with major trading partners.

Reopening Indonesia’s Market to U.S. Poultry

Poultry products sold in Indonesia must be certified as “halal” (a term used to designate food and other products as compliant with Islamic law). In late 2009, Indonesia revised its list of recognized halal certifiers, excluding several halal certifiers in the United States that Indonesia had previously recognized and thereby preventing U.S. poultry producers from selling their products in Indonesia. The Administration repeatedly pressed Indonesia to revise its list of certifiers to allow U.S. products into its market. As a result of the Administration’s efforts, in early 2011 Indonesian officials agreed to accredit four U.S. poultry certifiers, taking an important step towards fully re-opening Indonesia’s market to American poultry.

Mexico: Nutrition Labeling

In 2009, Mexico proposed to amend its nutritional labeling requirements. In conjunction with these new requirements, Mexico proposed requiring all food imports to be accompanied by a mandatory compliance certificate, indicating that they were labeled in accordance with the new law. Mexico’s proposal threatened to disrupt between $4-5 billion in U.S. exports of pre-packaged foods to Mexico. In response to U.S. concerns, Mexico clarified that it would not require mandatory certificates of compliance. In addition, Mexico agreed to delay the implementation of its new law from June 2010 until January 2011. To date, U.S. industry has not reported any disruptions due to the new law.