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International Trade Administration: Helping to Win the Fight Against Trade Barriers

February 14, 2019

Steven Presing is the Executive Director for Trade Agreements, Policy and Negotiations at the International Trade Administration (ITA)

Here at the ITA, one of our strategic objectives is to enforce the nation’s trade laws and ensure compliance with our trade agreements. This allows U.S. businesses to compete both domestically and internationally on a level playing field. ITA established its 2018 agency priority goal to reduce, remove, or prevent trade barriers.  Accordingly, two of Commerce’s strategic goals set for 2018 were focused on addressing foreign trade barriers.  I am happy to report that the ITA not only met but exceeded these goals in 2018! This is a huge success for ITA and thousands of American businesses.   ITA logo

In close coordination with U.S. manufacturers and exporters, ITA identified and initiated approximately 18 percent more compliance cases and successfully closed roughly 20 percent more cases than in the previous year.  Between the 39 agreements compliance successes and 99 market access problems resolved, ITA has ensured more than $6 billion in U.S. exports were granted continued access to overseas markets. This work is not only helping U.S. businesses to continue to export billions of dollars in goods and services worldwide, but also providing support for the U.S. economy and helping advance American job growth.

Check out some of our 2018 success stories below to see how ITA is helping to win the fight against trade barriers.

ITA agreements compliance efforts mean changes to Brazil’s medical device regulations
In 2009, the Advanced Medical Technology Association reported to ITA that Brazil required Brazilian regulator inspection of all medical device manufacturing plants before companies could register devices for sale in Brazil. This meant inspections and registrations were backlogged, sometimes for years, resulting in costly delays for U.S. medical device exports valued at $1 billion annually.  This cumbersome registration process raised concerns regarding compliance with WTO Technical Barriers to Trade obligations, which stipulate that technical regulations not be more trade-restrictive than necessary.  For more than six years, the U.S. government engaged Brazil through targeted meetings with both trade officials at the World Trade Organization and regulators in the International Medical Device Regulator Forum (IMDRF) with the goal of streamlining the registration process.  As a result, Brazil recognized the IMDRF Medical Device Single Audit Program (MDSAP) and now accepts certifications from U.S. certification bodies as an alternative means to register devices.  U.S. medical device manufacturers are no longer subject to delays, and U.S. government agencies continue to work with Brazil to identify potential improvements to the MDSAP, which will further increase U.S. export opportunities.

ITA leverages the U.S.-Colombia FTA to expedite flow of U.S.-built SUVs into Colombia

For several years, BMW North America was not receiving proper duty reimbursement for its U.S.-made vehicles imported into Colombia.  Under the Colombia FTA, firms who elect to pay duties up front to keep their exports moving are entitled to a refund once their U.S. origin (i.e. duty-free status) is established and found to be eligible for duty-free treatment. The refunds were taking years and Colombia did not provide BMW NA with a timeline for reimbursement.  Following outreach with Colombia’s Trade Attaché and pressing the Colombian Government about the significant delays in the reimbursements, noting its FTA obligations, the company received more than $3 million in refunds. Colombia also was put on notice that the United States expects all U.S. exports to receive the full benefits of our bilateral agreement.

ITA ensures fairness for Cisco Systems in a Bahrain telecommunications equipment procurement

Cisco Systems contacted ITA’s officers in the Middle East with concerns about a potentially unfair government tender process in Bahrain. The Ministry of Transportation appeared to be changing procurement technical requirements to push the prime contractor for the modernization of Bahrain’s international airport to select wireless telecommunications systems provided by a Chinese company rather than use Cisco’s solutions. The U.S.– Bahrain FTA’s Government Procurement chapter requires that governments do not use such technical specifications in a manner that would create unnecessary obstacles to trade. As the deadline to finalize the purchase of a wireless telecommunications system loomed, ITA (operating regionally in the Middle East) teamed up with the State Department (operating in Bahrain) to jointly press the Ministry of Transportation, including engaging the U.S. Ambassador and using ITA’s analysis, that Cisco be treated fairly and that Bahrain uphold its obligations under the FTA. After sustained ITA advocacy, Cisco finalized a contract with Bahrain this past June to provide its wireless telecommunications equipment as per the original contract award, preserving Cisco’s $1.8 million sales opportunity. Trade compliance means solving trade problems now and locking in fairness for the future. ITA makes U.S. trade agreements work for U.S. industry.

ITA holds a unique position as the U.S. Government‘s full-service trade agency with both the expertise and personnel to open markets and remove foreign trade barriers for U.S. industry and its workers.  This is made possible through our global presence. We have personnel throughout the United States and around the world dedicated to solving business problems; with focused daily commercial engagement with foreign governments, the negotiation of new trade agreements and the monitoring of compliance with existing agreements. This coupled with a deep industry sector and data knowledge allows us to ensure our trading partners fulfill their commitments under our trade agreements.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Trade Agreements Negotiations and Compliance specializes in working with U.S. businesses to remove unfair foreign government-imposed trade barriers.  If your business is facing such a barrier, please report it, and our team of experts will investigate.