Today, President Obama established an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) by Executive Order.  This is warmly welcomed by NAM as manufacturers suffer from significant barriers to U.S. trade and investment abroad.

Manufacturers are adversely affected by a wide variety of non-tariff barriers including standards and conformity assessment issues, import licensing, investment limits, onerous customs procedures, requirements to balance imports with exports, forced technology transfer, subsidies, favored companies or “national champions”, export bans, and other measures to restrict the fruits of American innovation around the world.  They can add significantly to the cost of an export, often a multiple of the tariff rate that is charged. 

We hope the ITEC will tackle these kinds of barriers as well as non-tariff trade barriers which may be illegal under international trade rules. The focus cannot be simply on filing cases and tallying a win/loss record, but also on getting fair market access for manufacturers.

There are many approaches governments can employ to resolve trade barriers, working one-one-one with trading partners, as part of a coalition of countries, through formal market opening trade negotiations like the TransPacific Partnership talks now underway in Melbourne, Australia, or through informal partnerships like the US-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth. The NAM has provided suggestions to the Administration, along with other trade associations, in recent months with respect to investor-state dispute settlement in the TPP, and European trade relations, and trade barriers in Argentina.

The Administration needs to deploy all the arrows in its quiver. ITEC is a good start.

Stephen Jacobs is senior director of international business policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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