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Ask the Ambassador: Foreign Trade Barriers to the U.S.

In a recent question about foreign trade barriers to the United States, El Shaddai of Virginia asks:

"Is there an annual publication that tells what limits or restrictions foreign countries place on trade with the U.S.?"

Ambassador Kirk's response:

"Yes!  My office collects and publishes annually exactly that sort of information in a report called the "National Trade Estimates Report on Foreign Trade Barriers."  In that report, we inventory the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, U.S. foreign direct investment, and the protection of intellectual property rights.  The report examines the largest export markets for the United States, including 58 individual countries, the European Union, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Southern African Customs Union and the Arab League.  We draw on the information in the report to facilitate negotiations to reduce or eliminate the barriers and to apply certain U.S. trade laws.  You can find the most recent reports here on the USTR website.

USTR is always working on reducing the foreign trade barriers documented in these reports.  We recently launched an initiative to break down foreign barriers posed by sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and standards-related measures on agricultural and manufactured products.  Beginning in 2010, we will put even greater focus on SPS and standards-related barriers when we publish new separate reports highlighting these barriers and the steps we are taking to address them.   SPS measures ensure that agricultural goods are safe or free from pests or disease.  Standard-related measures can take the form of product performance or design requirements -- say, for electrical equipment - labeling requirements or rules governing production methods.  Sometimes these measures are distorted by trading partners, preventing safe, high-quality goods produced by U.S. farmers and manufacturers from competing in foreign markets.  These trade barriers harm America's agricultural producers and manufacturers along with the workers who make their livings in these sectors.

If you have any interest in contributing your views on this subject, USTR is currently requesting comments from the American public to aid in compiling the National Trade Estimate and new reports on SPS and standards-related measures.  You will find our request here.  Comments can be submitted until November 4, 2009 at 11:59 PM EDT."

Thank you for continuing our dialogue on trade.  Please keep submitting your questions and comments for the Ambassador.