USTR releases annual report

On March 1, 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published The President’s Trade Agenda and Annual Report. The 397-page annual report is mandated under Section 163 of the Trade Act of 1974 and outlines the President’s objective of addressing trade imbalances through renegotiating existing free trade agreements (FTAs)–such as the U.S.-Kora Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)–and potentially embarking on new FTA negotiations–such as Japan, European Union, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, the report contains a mandated section on the U.S. implementation and participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and enforcement activities related to existing trade obligations.

Some of the report’s key points include:

  • The Trump Administration inherited a “deeply flawed” global trade system that has disadvantaged U.S. workers and corporations;
  • Several of the existing U.S. trade agreements are outdated and need upgrades to better serve U.S. interests;
  • Passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) remains a top priority for the President;
  • The President has honored his commitment to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and notes particular concerns with Rules of Origin that allow goods that are 45% American-made to enter the United States duty-free;
  • China continues to function as a non-market economy and engage in theft of U.S. intellectual property, including agricultural biotechnology;
  • The Administration has used tariffs as directed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to address China’s unfair trade policies;
  • The United States has engaged in bilateral negotiations with China aimed at addressing structural problems with China’s trade policies, including areas such as IP theft and transfer, agriculture, services, and cyber security;
  • The Administration has exercised its authority under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose tariffs on countries whose imports of steel and aluminum have caused substantial injury to U.S. industries;
  • The multilateral system of trading (WTO) has allowed bad actors, such as China, to go unchecked;
  • The Administration continues to block the appointment of Appellate Body Judges at the WTO, citing its concern with judicial activism that creates new obligations that are not agreed-upon by WTO Members;
  • However, the Administration also continues to comply with its existing WTO obligations.

A full copy of The President’s Trade Agenda and Annual Report can be found at here.

Author Daniella Taveau is Principal with Bold Text Strategies. She is a former International Policy Analyst with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a Trade Negotiator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she represented the United States in the World Trade Organization SPS and TBT Committees, and in U.S. free trade agreements.

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