Obstacles to U.S. Foreign Market Access Linger, USTR Reports

Washington - Unfair trade barriers continue to block U.S. access to several important markets, according to a new report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

“Counterfeiting and piracy, unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary [food safety] measures, inefficient, nontransparent customs regimes, high tariff barriers and closed services markets continue to hinder U.S. access to foreign markets,” USTR General Counsel Warren Maruyama told reporters April 2 following the release of the annual National Trade Estimate on Foreign Barriers (NTE) report.

"A significant amount of work remains to knock down trade barriers and ensure that American exporters have new economic opportunities across the globe," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a press release issued the same day.

Schwab said the United States "continues to use all enforcement tools at its disposal" to ensure fair treatment for U.S. workers and consumers.

Maruyama said the United States continues to be concerned about Europe's trade-distorting subsidies to the aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus, and remains concerned about China's prohibited subsidy practices.

The United States has requested World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute resolution consultations on China's apparent use of prohibited export and import substitution subsidies, which USTR says harm small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers.

The United States also has said it will ask for WTO consultations if China does not enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) protections.

Inadequate IPR protections reduce U.S. access to China's market and other countries' markets for such products as films, music, published materials, software, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, information technology, consumer goods, industrial goods, food products, medical devices, electrical equipment, automotive parts, clothing and footwear, according to the release.

Other trade problems include several countries' blocking of U.S. beef exports, and India's discriminatory taxes on wine and distilled spirits, Maruyama said.

The United States has requested WTO dispute settlement consultations on those taxes.

The NTE report detailed barriers to U.S. trade and international investment in 63 major trading partners.

Maruyama said the U.S. administration has achieved significant success in advancing its pro-growth, market-opening trade agenda.

He said that in the past year the United States has negotiated free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Peru after resolving long-standing food safety issues and reaching agreements covering meat, poultry, rice, dairy and processed foods.

The United States on April 1 concluded a free trade agreement with South Korea. (See related article.)

Also during 2006, China removed anti-dumping duties on certain U.S. paper products, making the removal one of the United States' "notable successes" in working to eliminate trade barriers, USTR said.

Other successes were bilateral WTO market access agreements reached with Vietnam, Russia and Ukraine. The agreements will result in "substantial" new market access for U.S. goods and services when those countries join the WTO, the trade office said.

In 2006, the United States and the European Union (EU) also agreed on a package of bilateral actions on U.S. exports of fish, chemicals, agricultural products and services. The package was designed to offset tariff increases U.S. products faced when the EU expanded in 2006, according to the release.

In 2007, USTR plans to evaluate more potential free-trade agreement partners and prioritize potential WTO enforcement actions,” Maruyama said.

USTR prepares its annual NTE report in cooperation with other U.S. agencies and U.S. embassies. It said it soon will report on barriers facing U.S. telecommunications services and equipment providers and on the adequacy of U.S. trading partners' IPR protections.

The full text of the report and a press release on the report are available on the USTR Web site.