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Fact Sheet: Successes in Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade to Open Markets for American Exports



U.S. exporters, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, often face barriers to trade by foreign countries that can significantly hamper exports of quality “Made-in-America” products. Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is issuing its fourth annual Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), which describes U.S. efforts over the last year to identify and eliminate such barriers, and thus increase U.S. exports and jobs.

Over the past year, the United States has continued to advance its efforts to combat unjustifiable standards-related barriers to trade through the addition and use of various key systemic market-opening tools. First, the entry into force of three new free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama has enhanced our ability to ensure that the standards-related measures adopted by these trading partners are transparent, serve legitimate objectives and further our bilateral trade relationship. Second, USTR facilitated the creation of new initiatives in the World Trade Organization (WTO) aimed at strengthening developing countries’ compliance with international standards, as well as ensuring standards-related measures are not more trade-restrictive than necessary, and that procedures are fair, transparent and equitable. Third, through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), USTR advanced several initiatives to enhance the use of good regulatory practices across the Asia-Pacific region and to prevent the creation of standards-related barriers to trade in emerging industries crucial to the U.S. economy, including “Smart Grid” solar technologies, commercial green buildings and information communication technology.

In addition, the United States is also making significant progress to further strengthen our systemic tools to discover, investigate and eliminate standards-related trade barriers. For example, we have made progress over the past year with our Pacific Rim trading partners through the inclusion of a TBT chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will, when completed, commit parties to strong cross-cutting disciplines and several sectoral annexes aimed at remedying and preventing standards-related barriers to trade. Further, the proposed negotiation of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement between the United States and the European Union – will provide an unprecedented opportunity to reduce and eliminate unjustified standards-related measures that decrease market opportunities for American exports to the European Union and provide a competitive advantage to products of the European Union.

The following examples illustrate the Administration’s progress over the past year in breaking down specific technical barriers to trade affecting American exports:

Promoting U.S. Trade with Israel in Telecommunications Products

In October 2012, the United States concluded a mutual recognition agreement with Israel that eases burdens on American companies, especially smaller manufacturers, seeking to export telecommunications products to Israel. The agreement will permit recognized American laboratories to test telecommunications products for conformity with Israeli technical requirements, and vice versa, thus saving manufacturers the time and expense of additional product testing and lowering prices for consumers. This will result in significant cost savings for American producers, new opportunities for U.S. laboratories to test products for the Israeli market, and increased trade in U.S. telecommunication products. The agreement is expected to enter into force in 2013.

Defending Market Access for American Meat Products in Brazil

Over the past year, the United States worked closely with Brazil to resolve concerns about a proposed Brazilian certification requirement that would have effectively prohibited the sale of U.S. meat products in Brazil. As a result, Brazil will no longer require that U.S. meat producers obtain a document from U.S. health and veterinary authorities certifying that their facilities and meat products comply with Brazilian and private sector marketing standards before their products can be sold in Brazil. Instead, Brazil agreed in November 2012 to accept a certificate that allows the U.S. Veterinary Authority to certify that the production facility is authorized to ship the product to Brazil and the product meets the description provided the company, preventing the disruption of average annual U.S. meat product exports to Brazil of $147 million. 

Reducing Costs and Delays for U.S. Exports of Mobile Phones, Cosmetics and Alcoholic Beverages to Vietnam

On December 28, 2012, Vietnam repealed two requirements that resulted in unnecessary costs and delays for U.S. exports of alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, and mobile phones to Vietnam: a requirement that exporters of these products obtain a stamp and pay a fee at the Vietnamese consulate in the exporting country prior to shipment and a requirement that these products only enter Vietnam through three specific port locations.

In addition, on January 1, 2013, Vietnam eliminated a requirement that a Vietnamese tax stamp be placed on imported alcoholic beverages in the country of export, allowing instead for the tax stamp to be applied to imported products in Vietnam. This change saves time and money for U.S. alcoholic beverage producers by allowing them to ship a standardized product to Vietnam before adapting it to the local market, and followed U.S. expressions of concern with the measure in the WTO TBT Committee.

Elimination of Central American Certification Requirement that Threatened U.S. Meat Exports

In March 2012, Costa Rica and El Salvador eliminated requirements that conditioned the importation of U.S. products on the submission of a “Certificate of Free Sale,” a document in which the exporting country certifies that their products are eligible to be sold in the exporting market. As a result of intensive U.S. engagement with these Central American countries, they agreed to eliminate this requirement – which threatened to block over $4.6 million in U.S. trade in meat products – and to accept, instead, an alternative certification issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.