The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) recently published the 2015 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (“NTE”).  This annual report highlights the most significant foreign trade barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, foreign direct investment by U.S. persons, and protection of intellectual property rights.  This year’s report reintegrates sections on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) barriers affecting U.S. agricultural exports, as well as Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) that are unfairly restricting American manufacturing exports. The report addresses barriers in the United States’ largest export markets, including 58 countries, the European Union, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

The NTE highlights accomplishments over the past year in reducing and eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports, including:

  • Agriculture Market Access in China / Corn and Dried Distiller Grains to China – In December 2014, China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn and that it would pursue a dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture.  In addition, China approved three biotech traits, removing restriction on imports of corn and dried distillers grains from the United States.
  • Intellectual Property Rights Protection in China – In July 2014, China agreed to pursue criminal and other actions to deter the misappropriation of trade secrets, to ensure criminal and civil cases are tried and the resulting judgments are published, and to protect trade secrets contained in materials submitted by companies as part of regulatory, administrative and other proceedings.
  • Major Reforms Regarding Energy and Telecommunications in Mexico – In 2014, Mexico conducted reforms of the energy and telecommunications sectors that are expected to create significant new opportunities for U.S. investors, manufacturers, and service suppliers. 
  • Beef to Vietnam – In February 2015, Vietnam expanded access for U.S. beef and beef products, agreeing to allow imports of U.S. beef and beef products from cattle under 30 months old.  U.S. exporters shipped $22 million in beef and beef products to Vietnam in 2014.
  • Pork to Malaysia – In September 2014, following a successful audit, Malaysia approved the United States as having an equivalent food safety system for pork.  As a result, U.S. pork, which had been banned in Malaysia since 2011, is once again eligible for export to Malaysia.
  • Chile and Beef Grading Standards – In October 2014, Chile withdrew its proposed measure that would have distinguished beef grades by breed type and limited premium beef grades and prices to only certain purebred cattle.  As a result, U.S. farmers and exporters can continue to take advantage of this important market, which was worth $65.9 million in 2014.
  • East Africa Trade Cooperation Agreement – In February 2015, the United States and the East African Community (EAC) signed a Cooperation Agreement that will increase trade-related capacity in the region in three key areas:  Trade Facilitation, SPS Measures, and TBT.  The Agreement will facilitate implementation of critical customs reforms, standards harmonization efforts, and international commitments.
  • Korea and Organic Equivalency for Food Exports – In June 2014, the United States and Korea concluded an equivalence arrangement that will allow U.S. and Korean organic processed products certified as organic under either country’s standards that fall within the terms of the arrangement to be sold, labeled, and represented as organic in both countries.  As a result, U.S. producers can ship their organic products without having to expend additional cost and effort to have them recertified for the Korean market.
  • U.S. Automobiles to China – As a result of a successful appeal at the World Trade Organization, China has terminated its duties on U.S. automobiles.

Nevertheless, the 2015 NTE report indicates that several important markets continue to maintain significant and new barriers to U.S. exports.  A copy of the report is available here: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2015%20NTE%20Combined.pdf.