Washington, D.C. – U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohamed Boussaid today signed a Trade Facilitation Agreement that represents a forward-leaning, 21st century agreement on modernizing customs practices. The agreement, which builds on the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA), includes provisions covering internet publication, transit, transparency with respect to penalties, and other issues that will further boost Morocco’s competitiveness and benefit its trade environment. Morocco is the first country in the region to conclude a bilateral trade facilitation agreement, as well as to endorse joint principles on investment and information communication technology services trade with the United States. These important initiatives reflect our common commitment to building stronger economic ties with and among the region.
Ambassador Froman and Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohamed Boussaid sign the U.S.-Morocco Trade Facilitation Agreement
“Morocco has a strong commitment to continuing its efforts to build a modern economy for the 21st century” Ambassador Froman said. “This agreement will make doing business both easier and more transparent for both American and Moroccan companies.”
Ambassador Froman and Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy also pledged today to advance future work under a bilateral action plan aimed at supporting job creation by increasing trade and investment opportunities.
The U.S.-Moroccan economic relationship has grown significantly since our bilateral FTA entered into force in 2006. Overall trade between the United States and Morocco has increased more than 300 percent, with U.S. exports up more than 350 percent and Moroccan exports to the United States more than doubling. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Morocco has quadrupled over the same period, amounting to $613 million in stock investment in 2012.
To view a copy of the U.S.-Morocco Trade Facilitation Agreement in English, please click here.
To view a copy of the U.S.-Morocco Trade Facilitiation Agreement in Arabic, please click here.
Q: When was the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) established?
A: On February 28, 2012, the President signed Executive Order 13601 establishing ITEC to enhance enforcement of U.S. trade rights and domestic trade laws.
Q: What is ITEC’s mission?
A: ITEC is charged with fighting for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses by bringing a more aggressive “whole-of-government” approach to addressing unfair trade practices around the world. ITEC will be supported by the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and the Treasury, as well as the intelligence community. The personnel from these agencies will enhance U.S. trade enforcement capabilities and facilitate increased engagement with foreign trade partners at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and elsewhere through the creation of an expanded team of language-proficient researchers, subject matter experts, and economic analysts. ITEC is designed to help leverage and mobilize resources and expertise across the federal government to develop trade enforcement actions that will address unfair foreign trade practices and barriers that could otherwise imperil our nation’s export promotion and job recovery efforts.
Q: How is ITEC different from existing trade enforcement programs?
A: ITEC is unique in that it constitutes a more dedicated “whole-of-government” approach to addressing unfair trade practices and trade barriers. This new approach will provide a primary forum within the federal government to bring together experts from executive departments and agencies to coordinate trade enforcement. ITEC will permit a sustained focus on particular issues not possible previously.
Q: Doesn’t the U.S. government already have the capacity to address unfair trade practices and trade barriers?
A: A priority of the Administration is to better leverage the government’s trade enforcement activities by focusing its existing resources to address unfair trade practices and foreign trade barriers more effectively. ITEC will link, leverage and align both existing and new resources more efficiently across the executive branch and with stakeholders. The key here is efficiency. ITEC’s goal is to build upon existing capacity to give U.S. companies, workers and producers every chance to compete on a level playing field in today’s global marketplace.
Q: How many people will be working at ITEC at any given time?
A: By October 2012, ITEC had more than a dozen full-time and part-time staff and that number should increase substantially by the end of FY13. These figures are subject to change as issues, priorities and available funding change.
Q: How do you determine the issues for priority attention and action?
A: The Director and Deputy Director, along with the various offices within USTR, and in cooperation with other agencies will examine various trade issues and will establish priority projects for investigation. As is currently the case, a variety of factors will be taken into account in setting those priorities, including economic impact of the issue, systemic impact of resolution on international trading practices, ability to document and demonstrate the problem, available resources, and broad trade goals.
Q: Is ITEC’s purpose to bring more trade remedies and WTO cases against Chinese products?
A: ITEC’s purpose is to help ensure that all of our trading partners play by WTO rules and abide by their obligations, including commitments to maintain open markets on a non-discriminatory basis, and to follow rules-based procedures in a transparent way.
Q: What countries will ITEC be working on?
A: ITEC will be addressing trade enforcement issues originating in a variety of regions across the globe. It is USTR policy not to discuss publicly cases that it is developing to avoid giving advance notice to governments overseas.
Q: What will the role of ITEC be in administering domestic trade laws?
A: The Department of Commerce has statutory responsibility for administration of the antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) laws and will continue to administer them. The International Trade Commission (ITC) will continue to make injury determinations with regard to all AD/CVD investigations and sunset reviews. ITEC was not intended to duplicate the efforts that are assigned by statute to particular agencies. ITEC will be looking for areas where it can add value to the work already being done.
Q: What will the role of ITEC be in dealing with circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duty orders?
A: Import Administration’s Customs Unit and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to take the lead on issues related to circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duty orders. Deliberate evasion of AD/CVD duties by providing false information in a customs declaration constitutes customs fraud, and is a breach of U.S. law, punishable by fine or imprisonment. In addition, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC) plans to step up enforcement of commercial fraud laws related to evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties.
Q: Will ITEC be involved in “self-initiation” of antidumping or countervailing duty cases?
A: Antidumping and countervailing duty investigations may be initiated as the result of a petition filed by a domestic interested party or at the Secretary of Commerce's own initiative. Self-initiation of such investigations has been a very rare occurrence. However, should the Secretary of Commerce request ITEC assistance in such a self-initiation, ITEC will provide support as appropriate.
Q: How will ITEC engage with the NIPRCC and the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)?
A: The NIPRCC’s focus is on the law enforcement response to IPR theft, primarily coordinating investigation and prosecution of IPR infringers under the criminal laws of the United States. The NIPRCC also is a key participant in international cooperation on criminal enforcement activities involving various other partner governments and international police organizations such as Interpol and Europol. ITEC’s focus is enforcement of U.S. rights under trade agreements across a wide set of issues – including intellectual property. ITEC has and will continue to coordinate with the NIPRCC and the IPEC.
Q: Will ITEC serve a rapid response function, including with respect to identifying subsidies in overseas markets?
A: ITEC will be focusing on enforcement of U.S. rights under trade agreements which require some time to investigate, develop, and coordinate. However, to the extent ITEC becomes aware of issues requiring a rapid response through its monitoring or outreach functions, it will bring such issues to the attention of that part of USTR or another agency best positioned to take more immediate action.
Q: How will ITEC help small and medium-sized enterprises? What is the difference between what ITEC does and what the Trade Compliance Center at the Department of Commerce does?
A: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to continue to report their specific market access problems to the Trade Compliance Center (TCC) at the Department of Commerce. If the TCC is unable to resolve an issue, especially when it has noted a trend, the TCC will report the problem to ITEC. By leveraging the expertise of the TCC, ITEC will have a head start on dealing with trade issues that are affecting SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises may also work through their associations to bring industry-wide problems to the attention of ITEC.
Q: How will ITEC interact with other parts of USTR that may already be engaged in working on an issue of concern to certain companies or industries?
A: ITEC is in close contact with the various offices within USTR. USTR sector experts and negotiators are aware of ITEC activities and vice versa to ensure full coordination. Parties which have been working closely with USTR offices on issues of concern should continue to do so.
Q: What role will ITEC play in section 301 cases?
A: Interested persons may file petitions with USTR under section 301 of the Trade Act. Depending on the nature of the petition, ITEC may be involved in doing additional research during the 301 investigation phase. It is important to note that, although USTR can initiate a section 301 investigation itself, USTR does not need to do so in order to initiate WTO dispute settlement action. With regard to the majority of WTO dispute settlement actions, we anticipate that ITEC will be doing some of the same types of research that outside parties would typically do themselves in order to file a 301 petition.
Q: What role will ITEC play in section 201 cases?
A: Section 201 investigations will continue to be carried out by the International Trade Commission, which has statutory responsibility for implementing this section of U.S. trade law. Although it is a historically rare occurrence, the President or USTR can request the ITC to conduct a section 201 investigation. ITEC may have a role in providing information that can be used to inform the decision as to whether the President or USTR should make such a request.
Q: Will ITEC monitor the new free trade agreements to ensure that trading partners are not erecting new non-tariff barriers that would limit the benefits U.S. companies are supposed to gain from the agreements?
A: While ITEC will monitor certain issues, it does not have the staff to monitor every aspect of every FTA. ITEC continues to work with other offices within USTR to ensure compliance with FTAs and will continue to request that industry and companies bring problems to ITEC’s attention.
The Agreement sets high standards for protecting workers’ rights. The Agreement includes obligations for Panama to protect fundamental labor rights as well as to effectively enforce existing labor laws, which will enable American workers and businesses to compete on a level playing field. The Agreement contains groundbreaking labor protections that were first outlined on May 10, 2007, in a bipartisan, Congressional-Executive agreement to incorporate high labor standards into America’s trade agreements.
The Agreement includes a commitment to all of the elements agreed to in the May 10, 2007 bipartisan Congressional-Executive agreement:
• Commitment by the United States and Panama to adopt and maintain in domestic law the five fundamental labor rights as stated in the 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. These include:
Freedom of association – the right to form and join a union;
The right to collective bargaining;
Elimination of all forms of compulsory or forced labor;
Effective abolition of child labor and a prohibition on the worst forms of child labor; and
Elimination of employment and occupation discrimination based on gender, race, or other factors.
• Commitment not to waive or otherwise fail to apply labor laws in a manner affecting trade and investment.
• Commitment to effectively enforce fundamental labor rights, as well as wage and hour and occupational safety and health laws.
• Commitment to establish procedures that allow members of the public to raise concerns about labor violations directly with either of the two governments, which must be reviewed and considered.
• Commitment to guarantee workers and employers access to tribunals where rights can be enforced and to ensure that proceedings before those tribunals are fair, equitable, and transparent.
• Commitment to improve labor standards and to cooperate on a wide range of labor issues, including labor relations, labor inspection, employment opportunities and working conditions.
• Commitment to the same level of dispute settlement accountability for meeting labor obligations as for meeting commercial obligations. Available remedies for violations of labor commitments will include trade sanctions and fines.
PANAMA STRENGTHENS LABOR RIGHTS
Panama has undertaken a series of major legislative and administrative actions since 2009 to further strengthen its labor laws and labor enforcement. Panama has reformed labor laws to protect the right to strike, eliminate restrictions on collective bargaining, and protect the rights of temporary workers. Panama has taken administrative actions to address concerns in the areas of subcontracting, temporary workers, employer interference with unions, bargaining with non-union workers, strikes in essential services, and labor rights in the maritime sector.
Executive Decrees and Ministerial Resolutions
• Panama implemented Executive Decrees to improve inspections and labor law enforcement concerning:
- Subcontracting: Panama clarified the criteria for legitimate subcontracting and ensured that labor inspections take place so that contracting arrangements do not undermine worker rights.
- Temporary Work Contracts: Panama established an enforcement plan to protect the rights of temporary workers.
- Employer Interference in Unions: Panama established a plan to increase monitoring and enforcement of labor laws that protect against employer interference with union rights.
- Direct Negotiations: Panama clarified that an employer may not enter into collective negotiations with non-unionized workers when a union exists and that a pre-existing agreement with non-unionized workers cannot be used to refuse to negotiate with unionized workers.
- Sector Specific Labor Rights: Panama clarified strike restrictions for workers involved in the cargo transportation sector.
• Panama’s Ministry of Labor issued a Ministerial Resolution to address concerns in the Maritime Sector by clarifying and reaffirming the application of the Labor Code for maritime workers, including provisions on union organizing, collective bargaining, and strikes. The resolution also increases inspections and labor law enforcement activities in the maritime sector.
• More recently, Panama reformed its labor laws concerning:
- Export Processing Zones: Panama protected the right to strike, eliminated restrictions on collective bargaining, and eliminated exemption that allowed companies to use temporary workers for three years.
- Barú Special Economic Zone: Panama eliminated restrictions on collective bargaining for companies less than six years old, and eliminated an exemption that allowed companies to use temporary workers for three years.
- Companies Less than Two-Years Old: Panama eliminated restrictions on collective bargaining.