By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Policy Specialist
Every year, the U.S. Congress requires the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to submit a comprehensive report detailing the trade barriers and policy challenges facing exported U.S. goods and services. The annual National Trade Estimate (NTE), which came in at more than 450 pages last year, takes months of collaborative work to pull together. That is why each year, USTR asks industry stakeholders to provide input on their key trade barriers. Last week, USW submitted comments on the NTE to USTR.
Many of the trade challenges our industry faces are ongoing, unresolved issues. One topic that has been part of USW’s NTE submissions for several years is that of China’s domestic wheat subsidies. USW has shared the results of its investigation of this issue, including through the NTE, to USTR and that work finally came to fruition when the United States government announced it was taking a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against China. In its 2016 submission, USW specifically stated that it “strongly supports the dispute launched by USTR against China’s market price support programs on Sept. 13, 2016. The action is the most significant taken by the U.S. government to date in addressing the imbalances caused by subsidies that violate WTO commitments.”
In the report, USW also identified policy barriers in four broad issue areas: market access; domestic subsidies; export subsidies; and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers. Regarding SPS barriers, USW focuses on policies that attempt to protect domestic producers from imported competition without scientifically justified reasons. Consistent USW submissions to the NTE have also facilitated U.S. government activities related to market access efforts in Canada, Brazil and Morocco. USW submitted additional comments on the EU, India, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Turkey.
The NTE submission provides a good overview of the key issues that USW’s policy team works on every year. Submitting our NTE comments annually allows us to assess global progress on these barriers and bring up any new issues we face. It also gives USTR up-to-date information on ongoing problems.
With the national rhetoric on trade turning more and more protectionist, it is important to remember that trade agreements work for American agriculture and its overseas customers, especially when they are enforced. The NTE serves a vital purpose to the enforcement function of the U.S. trade agenda. It is important that all countries play by the rules, and the USTR NTE is one important way to hold other countries accountable. USW is grateful for the continued efforts of the U.S. government on these issues.