2004 Global Trade Barriers Report Released
USTR officials take the opportunity to rebut Democrats' demands for several WTO cases
WASHINGTON, DC - 04/02/04 - Bush Administration trade officials have released the government's?annual report on foreign trade barriers and rebutted demands from congressional Democrats for bringing specific World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute-settlement cases against a number of countries' practices.
The occasion was the release of the 2004 National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, a hefty 502-page description of? "unfair trade practices" and "barriers" to American exports of goods, services, and farm products in 58 countries and regions.
"In addition to limiting commercial opportunities for US businesses," the report said, "These barriers undermine the substantial potential gains from trade among developing countries."
The report highlights the global effort to reduce or eliminate those barriers, and notes in particular the effect of US-driven free trade agreement negotiations that have already been concluded or are planned, as well as top areas of concern related to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures.
In a teleconference about the report, US trade officials - who asked not to be identified - said that "negotiating and consulting are generally preferable for resolving trade disputes to filing WTO trade cases."
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) is required by the Special 301 provision of US trade law to announce by the end of this month any actions it plans to take, based on the NTE report, against failures by trading partners to protect copyrights, patents and other intellectual property.
Similarly, under Section 1377, the USTR must identify any actions it will take against violations of telecommunications agreements.
Years ago the Super 301 provision and subsequent Clinton Administration executive orders required the USTR to identify other trade barriers for taking actions, but they have long lapsed.
Past examples of enforcement successes include rulings against Canada's prohibited export subsidies on dairy products; India's restrictions on US exports of auto assemblies; and an agreement with Argentina resolving many of the issues raised in our dispute over aspects of its intellectual property regime.
Most recently, the US obtained a favorable dispute ruling against Japan on its restrictions on imports of apples and favorable preliminary findings against Mexico on its telecommunications regime.
Ongoing enforcement actions involve Canada's restrictions on wheat; China's "discriminatory" tax on semiconductors; Egypt's "excessive" textile tariffs; the European Union's moratorium on biotechnology products; the EU's "discriminatory" regime on geographical indications; Mexico's antidumping measure on rice and its "discriminatory" soft drink tax.
The NTE report also mentions the controversial Chinese practice of pegging its currency exchange rate to the US dollar, but doesn't go so far as to call it a "trade barrier." It says that the Bush Administration "has urged China to move toward a flexible, market-based exchange rate regime and to reduce controls on capital flows."
"Serious engagement with China on this issue will continue in 2004," the NTE says, with little elaboration.
Yet a US official cautioned that the Administration had not achieved a unified position concerning the trade-related effects of the Chinese exchange rate regime. He directed further questions to the Treasury Department, the agency charged with exchange-rate policy.
The Chinese exchange rate regime was not among the practices for which leading Democrats were demanding WTO cases. The demands were issued in an April 1 letter from 13 members of the House of Representatives.
One Administration official said he was puzzled by the Democrats' demands because the US industries concerned have not requested WTO action.
The Democrats listed several practices as warranting challenge in the WTO - for example, the limits placed by China on "trading rights" allowing imports and on "distribution rights" to sell those imports in China and its imposition of China-only technology product standards; the EU's subsidies to commercial aircraft manufacturer Airbus; the imposition by India of non-tariff barriers, including unjustified and excessive testing requirements, on textiles and other products and the country's failure to protect trademarks and to halt copyright piracy; currency manipulation by Japan, as well as its - and South Korea's - imposition of non-tariff barriers against autos and auto parts.
The Democrats' letter plus related material can be viewed?here.
The NTE report can be found here.
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