The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has requested comments on its inventory of non-US trade barriers, known as the National Trade Estimate (NTE), proposed for 2007. The NTE is published every year and forms the basis of the US negotiating agenda in the context of international trade agreements with other countries such as WTO and regional and bilateral FTAs, as well as providing the background for any complaint that the US might make regarding another country's trade practices. Importantly, any attempt to raise a trade issue for resolution by USTR will be more difficult if the issue has not been raised in the context of the NTE. The comment period for the 2007 NTE closes on November 8, 2006.
The comment process is particularly important this year given the collapsed status of the Doha Development Agenda, the WTO's current negotiating round. The resultant lack of focus on multilateral negotiations means that the emphasis of the United States' trade agenda is likely to be more on regional and bilateral FTAs, as well as on trade litigation through the WTO's dispute resolution mechanism. The 2007 NTE will pave the way for all of these processes.
Submission of comments does not automatically guarantee that a given issue will be listed in the NTE when it is published in the early part of next year. However, if multiple parties raise similar issues, a point addressing those issues is more likely to be included in the NTE.
The NTE review is designed to cover the many types of trade protection sought by countries in their bilateral trade with the US. These include:
- traditional measures such as tariffs and quotas;
- non-tariff barriers such as burdensome standards, testing, labeling, certification, or health and safety requirements;
- government procurement problems (such as buy-domestic regulations, or non-transparent bidding processes);
- export subsidies including preferential financing terms;
- lack of intellectual property protection such as copyright, trademark and patent issues;
- services barriers such as limits on foreign participation in services sectors, or limits on the types of services offered by services providers;
- investment barriers such as limitations on foreign equity participation, local-content and export performance requirements, restrictions on transferring earnings and capital, and requirements for local content or local employees as a condition of investing;
- anti-competitive measures or private practices that are tolerated by governments; and
- trade restrictions involving e-commerce.
Difficulties associated with trade in a particular country are not always recognized as trade barriers that can be listed on the NTE. We have long experience in reviewing measures that distort trade and impede the ability of non-domestic companies to increase their market shares, and can assist you in identifying the issues that should be raised as well as defining them properly for USTR. If an issue is mentioned specifically in the NTE, this facilitates resolution of the issue by both US-initiated government-to-government processes as well as internal processes.