This year the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes its third annual Report on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Report). This report was created to respond to the concerns of U.S. companies, farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers, which increasingly encounter non-tariff trade barriers in the form of product standards, testing requirements, and other technical requirements as they seek to sell products and services around the world. As tariff barriers to industrial and agricultural trade have fallen, standards-related measures of this kind have emerged as a key concern.
Governments, market participants, and other entities can use standards-related measures as an effective and efficient means of achieving legitimate commercial and policy objectives. But when standards-related measures are outdated, overly burdensome, discriminatory, or otherwise inappropriate, these measures can reduce competition, stifle innovation, and create unnecessary technical barriers to trade. These kinds of measures can pose a particular problem for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which often do not have the resources to address these problems on their own. USTR is committed to identifying and combating unwarranted technical barriers to U.S. exports, many of which are detailed in this report. USTR’s efforts to prevent and remove foreign technical barriers serve the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 through the National Export Initiative.
Since the last TBT Report was released, the United States has significantly advanced its efforts to resolve concerns with unjustifiable barriers to trade and to prevent their emergence. Indeed, in 2011 USTR secured several important additions to the arsenal of tools at its disposal to combat unnecessary trade barriers and made progress on the addition of others, including: passage of free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama that strengthen our ability to ensure that the standards-related measures these trading partners adopt are transparent and serve legitimate objectives; the creation of new cooperation initiatives related to regulatory and standards issues in the WTO, APEC, U.S. FTAs, and other bilateral fora; and progress on the negotiation of a modernized Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will build on and strengthen current TBT disciplines.
As part of the U.S. host year for APEC in 2011, USTR led several initiatives to promote the use of good regulatory practices across the Asia Pacific region and to prevent governments from creating standards-related barriers to trade in emerging technologies of critical importance to the United States – including in the areas of “smart grid,” solar technologies, and commercial green buildings. At the APEC CEO Summit in Honolulu, President Obama highlighted the importance of these initiatives for regulatory convergence, which he said will permit countries “to all think about whether our regulations are as efficient, as effective as they can be, or where are they standing in the way of smart trade.1” USTR also took successful steps to eliminate or reduce potential foreign technical barriers to U.S. exports in 2011, for example, by working with Chile to ensure that diesel emissions standards in Chile continue to allow U.S.-manufactured commercial diesel trucks to be sold in the Chilean market.
Again in 2012, USTR will engage vigorously with other agencies of the U.S. Government, as well as interested stakeholders, to press for tangible progress by U.S. trading partners in removing unwarranted or overly burdensome technical barriers. We will fully utilize our tool-kit of bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements and mechanisms in order to dismantle unjustifiable barriers to safe, high-quality U.S. industrial, consumer, and agricultural exports and strengthen the rules-based trading system. Recognizing that U.S. economic and employment recovery and growth continue to rely importantly on the strength of U.S. exports of goods, services, and agricultural products; we will be redoubling our efforts to ensure that the technical barriers that inhibit those exports are steadily diminished.