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USTR Identifies International Trade Barriers, Outlines Efforts to Open Markets for U.S.

March 31, 2009

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today transmitted to Congress the 2009 National Trade Estimate Report (NTE). The report, which is required by statute each year, describes significant barriers to U.S. trade and investment faced in the last year as well as the actions being taken by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to address those barriers. Kirk said today that the report will help to inform an enforcement strategy for the trade policy of the United States, and that USTR is moving forward as follows:

  • USTR is beginning a review of the implementation of our existing trade agreements, including the enforcement of the labor and environment provisions;

  • USTR is initiating a process to prioritize trade barriers enumerated in the National Trade Estimate Report and to address the most significant;

  • USTR is identifying new cases where market access for U.S. goods and services is in jeopardy because of disregard for the rule of law, costing our workers and businesses export opportunities and jobs;

  • USTR is planning to prosecute those cases through multilateral and bilateral dispute resolution, so that American workers can trust that their trading system yields results; and

  • USTR is working with Congress to improve trade enforcement.

“We must work to open new markets around the world for American farmers, manufacturers, ranchers, and service providers, and at the same time ensure that American workers are reaping the promised benefits of previous agreements through strong enforcement,” said Ambassador Kirk. “The actions that USTR is undertaking will begin to implement the policies outlined in the President’s trade policy agenda, to make trade work for American families.”

Kirk said that the National Trade Estimate Report and swift action by USTR will also advance American economic recovery efforts. As tariffs have declined worldwide, many nations have erected different, non-tariff barriers to trade. The barriers cited in the report impede access to markets for the products of American workers, whether those workers are self-employed or working for small, medium or large companies. As exports account for 13 percent of the U.S. economy, USTR’s efforts to make incremental gains in market access and to reduce identified trade barriers will open avenues for good-paying jobs for more Americans.

The review and other actions launched by Ambassador Kirk today will use the information collected in the National Trade Estimate Report to, as the President said in his Trade Policy Agenda, “aggressively defend our rights and benefits under the rules-based trading system.” Examples of trade barriers maintained by foreign governments that are outlined in this year’s National Trade Estimate Report and that USTR will seek to reduce include:

  • onerous testing and certification requirements on more than 1,200 consumer goods;

  • new requirements to register and inspect a broad range of imports;

  • ineffective enforcement against trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy;

  • burdensome import requirements or bans that are not based in science and not compliant with international standards, affecting beef and other animal products, horticulture, grains and processed products, and fruits and vegetables;

  • cumbersome and non-transparent approval processes for biotech products;

  • discriminatory excise taxes requiring imported products to pay rates 10 to 43 times higher than before;

  • prohibited export subsidies (e.g., for "national" brands) that are highly trade distorting; and

  • limitations to foreign participation in telecom markets, both basic and value added, through a multiplicity of barriers, including high basic capital requirements, and non-transparent and lengthy investment approvals.

In working to reduce these barriers, USTR will determine when moving to a dispute settlement phase under our trade agreements is the right course of action, with a focus on new and necessary cases that will provide maximum benefit for American workers producing goods and services for export markets.

The National Trade Estimate Report can also advance social accountability and fair competition - another major element of the President’s Trade Policy Agenda. As the Administration monitors and enforces market-opening commitments in our trade and investment agreements, USTR will begin to monitor and enforce labor and environment provisions of our agreements to ensure that these obligations are being met on both sides. USTR will consult with Congress in assessing how this type of surveillance could be included in future NTE exercises.


The Office of the United States Trade Representative works closely with other agencies in the U.S. government, including our embassies abroad, to prepare the NTE Report as required by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Information used in preparing the report is gathered from the Administration’s monitoring program, from members of the public, and from private and public sector trade advisory committees. These issues are also discussed in detail in meetings with Members of Congress throughout the year. Additional reports informed by the National Trade Estimate will be delivered to Congress in the coming days.