Ustr Promises Action On Foreign Trade Barriers

The U. S. government will develop a list of the most significant barriers to U. S. exports and then prosecute those cases through the World Trade Organization or the appropriate bilateral forum, the U. S. Trade Representative’s office said March 31.

“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,” U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

Both Kirk and President Barack Obama have promised an increased focus on enforcement of U. S. trade agreements, which many Democrats say was lacking during the administration of former president George W. Bush.

The U. S. trade representative is required by law to report to Congress on most important foreign trade barriers every March 31.

Kirk, who took office less than two weeks ago, said in a statement U. S. trade officials were beginning a review to identify the most significant barriers for possible prosecution at the WTO or other enforcement action.

Some examples of barriers included slowing or blocking imports with unjustified concerns about human, animal and plant health, discriminatory excise taxes on imported products, export subsidies for “national” brands, and limits on foreign participation in telecommunications markets, the USTR said.

Kirk said he also will review agreements with U. S. free trade partners like Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Peru, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, Guatemala, Honduras , Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica for possible violations, particularly of labor and environmental provisions.

In a letter to Obama, top Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee outlined more than two dozen foreign trade barriers or foreign violations of trade rules that they said were either ripe for litigation at the WTO or in need of more intensive U. S. pressure to resolve the problem.

Roughly a third of the concerns were raised against Chinese trade practices, including China’s “ongoing manipulation of its currency,” its subsidies and export aid for manufacturers and its export taxes on industrial raw materials like steel wire that keep Chinese domestic prices low.

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