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USTR Highlights Obama Administration’s Fight to Confront Key Trade Barriers

Three reports to Congress Show Successes in Keeping Markets Open for U.S. Goods

Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent Congress and the President three reports detailing the Obama Administration’s efforts in reducing or removing key foreign government barriers to American exports. The reports describe how the Administration has engaged over the past year to combat unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) as well as other significant barriers to U.S. exports and the progress the Administration has achieved over the past year in reducing or eliminating them.

“The Obama Administration is committed to breaking down the barriers that hinder exports and American jobs,” said Ambassador Kirk. “This Administration continues to work on behalf of America’s farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers to reduce the hurdles they face when they sell their products overseas. USTR remains committed to using all available resources to ensure a level playing field abroad for American goods and services.”

One report focuses on unwarranted SPS barriers that block U.S. agricultural exports. A second report addresses unwarranted or overly burdensome technical barriers that make it difficult for U.S. manufacturers and workers to sell their products abroad.

Those reports are being released in conjunction with the 2011 National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, an annual report that identifies significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports of goods and services, foreign direct investment, and protection of intellectual property rights. The NTE report includes a description of the actions the Administration has taken to address the export barriers the report describes.

The foreign government measures identified in the three reports can both restrict American exports and limit the growth of jobs here at home.

As detailed in the TBT report, over the past year the Administration initiated bilateral and multilateral efforts to head off unwarranted foreign technical barriers, such as unwarranted or unduly burdensome testing and labeling requirements. The Administration designed these initiatives to encourage U.S. trading partners to make their procedures for drafting and adopting regulations more transparent, to adopt U.S. or internationally-agreed approaches to product standards and testing, and to follow sound regulatory practices. At the same time, the Administration continued to press individual governments to withdraw or redesign specific standards or procedures that unnecessarily impede U.S. exports.

As the TBT report describes, for example, USTR worked successfully with Mexico to achieve a redesign of the unnecessarily trade-restrictive nutrition labeling requirements for pre-packaged foods that Mexico had proposed to adopt. The proposed labeling rules threatened to disrupt more than $4 billion in U.S. exports of pre-packaged foods. Following bilateral discussions, Mexico agreed to exempt low-volume producers from the new labeling requirements and agreed not to require exporters to provide burdensome compliance certificates.

The Administration also eliminated or reduced a variety of unwarranted foreign SPS measures – for example, unwarranted, unscientific, or discriminatory rules and procedures that governments claim are required to ensure food and beverages are free of toxins and contaminants or protect animals and plants from pests and diseases. In 2009, China banned imports of U.S. swine due to concerns that they might carry the H1N1 influenza virus. The Obama Administration responded by successfully pressing China to open its market to U.S. swine tested and certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be free of the virus. Before China closed its market in 2009, U.S. producers had captured around 65 percent of China’s swine imports. As a result of the Administration’s efforts, U.S. swine producers are once again exporting to this key foreign market.

The reports can be found here.

Background

USTR leads the U.S. Government’s efforts to ensure that foreign governments play by international trade rules. USTR’s work to prevent and remove unwarranted foreign SPS and technical barriers serves President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 through the National Export Initiative.

Ambassador Kirk also announced during a 2009 speech at the U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Steel Works in Braddock, Pennsylvania, that the Obama Administration would bring greater focus to enforcing U.S. rights under international trade rules. As part of those efforts, Ambassador Kirk announced that USTR would publish the first two reports on the Administration’s steps to reduce foreign SPS and TBT barriers that that unnecessarily impede U.S. companies, farmers, ranchers, and workers from selling safe, high quality American products.

The 2011 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE Report) is the twenty-sixth in an annual series that surveys significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports.

In accordance with section 181 of the Trade Act of 1974, as added by section 303 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 and amended by section 1304 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, section 311 of the Uruguay Round Trade Agreements Act, and section 1202 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is required to submit to the President, the Senate Finance Committee, and appropriate committees in the House of Representatives, an annual report on significant foreign trade barriers.

The NTE Report identifies the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, foreign direct investment by U.S. persons, and protection of intellectual property rights. Information is also included on actions being taken to address those barriers.