China, India, Indonesia and the European Union were among the top targets in a new Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) report that identifies top trade barriers facing U.S. companies around the world—a report that could support greater action from the Trump administration to boost trade enforcement. In an increasingly competitive global economy, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) calls on the Trump administration to use this report to target market-distorting practices by other countries that harm manufacturers and workers in the United States—and on the Senate to confirm Ambassador Robert Lighthizer as USTR to ensure that the administration has the personnel in place to advance that agenda.
The March 31 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report is the first such report under the Trump administration and follows last month’s release of the administration’s new trade policy agenda with a broad focus on eliminating market-distorting actions overseas to grow manufacturing and innovation in the United States. This report, required under Section 303 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984, identified trade barriers in more than 60 markets around the world that protect foreign competitors and block access by U.S. goods and services to critical foreign markets, while also describing efforts by USTR and other U.S. government agencies to address those barriers.
USTR identifies a wide range of trade barriers that undermine manufacturing competitiveness in the United States. These include specific priorities flagged by the NAM in both its October 2016 NTE submission and more recent advocacy, including import tariffs, export subsidies and limitations, localization policies such as foreign price controls, lack of intellectual property protection, technical barriers to trade, investment restrictions and digital trade. Specific examples highlighted in the report and its summary include the following:
- China: The report discussed the major impact on manufacturers in the United States from global overcapacity, as well as challenges related to China’s problematic cybersecurity regime, practices that force technology transfer and weak intellectual property enforcement.
- India: Ongoing challenges to intellectual property rights remain a major headache for manufacturers in India, as well as challenges related to localization policies, high tariffs, foreign price controls and challenging customs rules.
- Indonesia: USTR cataloged a sharp increase in technical barriers and regulations limiting U.S. exports to Indonesia, as well as rising localization barriers and new problematic rules on intellectual property.
- European Union: Despite the significant economic relationship, this year’s report catalogs nearly 50 pages’ worth of trade barriers facing U.S. companies in Europe, including technical barriers to trade, price controls, market access restrictions and Europe’s push to export problematic models for intellectual property and standards to the rest of the world.
The report displays a clear focus on robust trade enforcement—making sure other countries are playing by the rules to which they have committed—a priority strongly supported by the NAM and its members.
The NAM welcomes reports like the NTE report and the Special 301 report on intellectual property to be issued in April as they will help form the basis of an action-oriented trade policy to level the playing field and improve U.S. competitiveness. Given the vital role of the USTR in all of those processes, the NAM continues to urge the Senate to confirm Ambassador Lighthizer swiftly and without delay. Manufacturers in the United States need all of the critical tools—priorities, plans and personnel—to begin to turn the tide against unfair trade barriers that undermine manufacturing in the United States and the high-paying American jobs our country’s manufacturers support.