The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has asked for private sector comments on barriers to U.S. exports of goods and services and to foreign direct investment. USTR will rely on the comments to prepare the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), which identifies barriers to commerce that the U.S. government has targeted for elimination.

This is an opportunity for U.S. businesses to notify USTR of obstacles to foreign markets and to obtain USTR's assistance in removing them. The comments are due October 4, 2011.

USTR seeks private sector input on the full range of foreign government policies or practices that restrict commerce, including:

  • Import restrictions such as tariffs, licensing or burdensome customs policies and practices
  • Food safety measures, including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures aimed at protecting human, animal or plant life, such as food safety regulations, quarantines, testing or certification regimes (these will be addressed in a separate report)
  • Product safety measures, including Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) such as process, design or labeling requirements (these will be addressed in a separate report)
  • Government procurement policies discriminating against foreign competition
  • Subsidies that displace U.S. sales in foreign markets
  • Intellectual property violations or the failure by a foreign government to adequately remedy such violations
  • Service restrictions such as those limiting the range of services offered in a foreign country, the entry of foreign professionals in a foreign country or the flow of information between businesses in the country
  • Investment barriers such as limits on foreign equity, export performance requirements or local-content requirements
  • State-owned enterprises that restrict or discriminate against U.S. goods or services

U.S. companies facing foreign barriers should consider identifying them in comments to USTR. When USTR highlights a particular foreign barrier in the NTE report, the company's issue is placed on the bilateral agenda with that country and signals USTR's willingness to take action to eliminate the barrier. Foreign barriers identified in the NTE often are the subject of USTR negotiations or action in the World Trade Organization dispute settlement process or other international fora designed to resolve disputes over trade or investment measures.