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Office of U.S. Trade Representative

Further Readings

The Office of the Special Trade Representative was created by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C.A. § 1801) and implemented by President JOHN F. KENNEDY in EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 11,075 on January 15, 1963 (27 FR 473). This agency was authorized to negotiate all trade agreements under the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C.A. § 1351) and the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. As part of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C.A. § 2171), Congress established the office as a cabinet-level agency within the Executive Office of the President and gave it other powers and responsibilities for coordinating trade policy.

In 1980 the Office of the Special Trade Representative was renamed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). USTR refers both to the agency and to the agency's head, the U.S. trade representative. President JIMMY CARTER's Executive Order No. 12,188 of January 4, 1980 (45 FR 989), authorized the USTR to set and administer overall trade policy. The USTR was also designated as the nation's chief trade negotiator and as the representative of the United States in major international trade organizations.

The U.S. trade representative is a cabinet-level official with the rank of ambassador who is directly responsible to the president and the Congress. The USTR is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy and for leading or directing negotiations with other countries on such matters. Through an interagency structure, the USTR coordinates trade policy, resolves agency disagreements, and frames issues for presidential decision. The agency has offices in Washington, D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland.

The agency provides trade policy leadership and negotiating expertise in its major areas of responsibility. Among these areas are the following: all matters within the World Trade Organization (WTO), formerly the GENERAL AGREEMENT ON TARIFFS AND TRADE (GATT); trade, commodity, and direct investment matters dealt with by international institutions such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); export expansion policy; industrial and services trade policy; international commodity agreements and policy; bilateral and multilateral trade and investment issues; trade-related INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY protection issues; and import policy.

Interagency coordination is accomplished by the USTR through the Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) and the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC). These groups, which are administered and chaired by the USTR, are composed of 17 federal agencies and offices. They develop and coordinate U.S. government positions on international trade and trade-related investment issues. The final tier of the interagency trade policy mechanism is the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the president. The NEC deputies committee considers decision memoranda from the TPRG, as well as particularly important or controversial trade-related issues.

The USTR also serves as vice chairperson of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), is a nonvoting member of the EXPORT-IMPORT BANK, and serves on the National Advisory Committee on International Monetary and Financial Policies. The USTR does not handle several significant trade and related policy areas, however. These include export financing, export controls, multilateral development bank lending, and international fisheries, aviation, and maritime policies.

The private sector plays a continuing role in trade negotiations through the mechanism of advisory committees. The advisory system is comprised of several committees with differing responsibilities. The Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations is a presidentially appointed group of 45 members representing significant sectors of the U. S. economy that have international trade concerns. The committee provides policy guidance on various trade issues. This advisory process was extremely helpful during the creation of the NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (NAFTA) and other trade initiatives. The committee's role has been expanded to include advice on the development and implementation of overall U.S. trade policy and on priorities for actions to implement such policy.

In the Trade Act of 1974, Congress broadened and codified the trade representative's policy-making and negotiating functions and established close congressional consultative, advisory, and oversight relationships with the agency. Five members from each House are formally appointed as official congressional advisers on trade policy, and additional members may be appointed as advisers on particular issues or negotiations.

In 2003 the USTR released its 2003 Inventory of Trade Barriers, an ANNUAL REPORT that documents foreign trade barriers to U.S. exports and gives examples that show the elimination or reduction of such barriers. Highlights of the report included the need for enforcement of intellectual property rights and enforcement of trade agreements with regard to a number of countries in Africa as well as Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea, and Russia.

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