Senators Introduce Trade Enforcement Bill

On March 17, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), co-chairs of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, introduced the Trade Enforcement Act (S.758). The bipartisan measure will toughen trade enforcement, ensuring American businesses and workers can compete fairly in the global marketplace.

Specifically, S. 758 would make permanent the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), which is responsible for coordinating enforcement among several federal agencies. The bill also will establish a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer to lead the ITEC and create a Chief Manufacturing Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) who will be responsible for protecting the interests of domestic manufacturers in trade negotiations.

Sens. Stabenow and Graham support devoting more time and more attention to enforcing the rules in our existing trade agreements. In current pacts, there are a significant number of trade barriers that prevent American exporters from having the same opportunities as our foreign competitors to the markets that would allow them to export their goods. Their measure would help to rectify some of these barriers.

Over the last five years, the United States has redoubled its trade enforcement efforts and has taken a whole-of-government approach to enforcement, and USTR works with agencies throughout the government to level the playing field for American workers and businesses. The ITEC was established by executive order in February 2012 to support these efforts and monitor and enforce U.S. trade rights around the world. ITEC uses expertise from across the federal government to assert America’s trade rights obtained through various international trade agreements.

The introduction of S. 758 follows the USTR’s release of an annual report entitled the 2015 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, which cites the illegal trade barriers used by other countries in order to gain an unfair trade advantage. The report plays an important role by shining a spotlight on significant trade barriers that American goods and services exporters face. This report provides, where feasible, quantitative estimates of the impact of these foreign practices on the value of U.S. exports.

This report classifies foreign trade barriers into nine different categories. These categories cover government-imposed measures and policies that restrict, prevent, or impede the international exchange of goods and services. They include: Import policies; Government procurement; Export subsidies; Lack of intellectual property protection; Services barriers; Investment barriers; Trade restrictions affecting electronic commerce; Government-tolerated anticompetitive conduct of state-owned or private firms that restricts the sale or purchase of U.S. goods or services in the foreign country’s markets; and Other barriers (barriers that encompass more than one category, e.g., bribery and corruption, or that affect a single sector).

The information contained in the report represents one of the important methods which USTR and ITEC combine efforts to enforce U.S. trade rights, strengthen the rules-based trading system, and identify and resolve barriers to U.S. exports.