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   Issue 25, Winter 2016


Selected Elements of the U.S. Trade Policy and Investment System

The U.S. trade policy and investment system includes the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements which form the "multilateral bedrock of U.S. trade policy"1, its tariff, tariff rate quotas, 14 reciprocal free trade agreements, 5 preferential trade programs, 51 trade and investment framework agreements, 48 bilateral investment treaties, trade remedies, a trade agreement enforcement program, trade and development programs, measures which affect imports (e.g. Customs regulations), measures that affect exports (e.g., export promotion), and sector programs (e.g., subsidies to agriculture).

This section provides sources of information on many of these aspects of the U.S. trade and investment system, and identifies more than 60 other elements of U.S. trade policy that can be researched by using other sources noted in this guide.

BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 25: Winter 2016

Guide to Researching
U.S. Trade Policy

Table of Contents

Primary Documents on U.S. Trade Policy
Selected Elements of the U.S. Trade Policy
Participants in Trade Policy Development Process
Effect of Trade Policies and Practices
     Production and Trade
     Selected Industry Sectors
U.S. in the World Trade Organization
Research and Advocacy
Current News Sources
Selected Periodicals and Databases
LC Online Catalog Searches

Caption (image left): Handshake
Courtesy of Michael Tam,
Flickr, Creative Commons License

Print Resources

Morin, Jean Frederic et al. eds. The politics of transatlantic trade negotiations: TTIP in a globalized world. Bulington; Ashgate Publishing, 2015.
LC Call Number: HF1456.5.E8 P627 2015
LC Catalog Record: 2014043021

A collection of articles includes discussion of negotiations, actors, agencies; the German TTIP debate; EU institutions and the TTIP debate; business interests; implications for social movements; accession of third countries; interaction between TTIP, TPP and the Japan-EU free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements and other consultations under trade promotion authority. Government Accountability Office, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2008.
LC Call Number: HF1756 .F726 2008
LC Catalog Record: 2008000026

This book reviews what free trade agreements have been pursued under TPA and why. It also discusses the economic significance of these agreements, the nature and effectiveness of the consultation process for Congress and private sector trade advisory committees and other stakeholders. Original GAO Report GAO-08-59 is available online. [PDF format: 3 MB/97 pp.]

Irwin, Douglas A. Trade restrictiveness and deadweight loss from U.S. Tariffs, 1859-1961. Cambridge, MA; National Bureau of Economic Research, 2007
LC Catalog Record: 2007616567
NBER Working Paper No. 13450 External Link

"This paper uses detailed tariff data to calculate the Anderson-Neary trade restrictiveness index (TRI) for the United States in 1859 and annually from 1867 to 1961. On average, import duties produced a welfare loss of 40 cents for every dollar of revenue generated, slightly higher than contemporary estimates of the marginal welfare cost of taxation."--Publisher's description.

Gallo, Jenell, ed. Free trade agreements: selected analyses from NAFTA to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. New York : Nova Publishers, [2014]
LC Call Number: HF1756 .F727 2014
LC Catalog Record: 2013478721

This resource contains five articles on NAFTA, the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, The Tans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and labor enforcement in free trade agreements.

Glick, Leslie Alan. Understanding the North American Free Trade: legal and business consequences of NAFTA. 3rd ed. Alphen aan den Rijn : Kluwer Law International ; Frederick, MD : Sold and distributed in North, Central, and South America by Aspen Publishers, c2010.
LC Call Number: KDZ944.A41992 G582010
LC Catalog Record: 2010485596
Publisher's description External Link

Ferreira, Jonathan R. ed. U.S. trade preferences for developing countries. [Hauppauge,] N.Y. : Nova Science Publishers, 2012.
LC Call Number: KF6708.P7 U17 2012
LC Catalog Record: 2011013417

This resource provides a collection of articles on background on the US generalized system of preferences (GSP) , the Congressional renewal debate, trade preferences with the World Trade Organization, agricultural imports, the potential trade effects of adding Vietnam to the GSP program.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act : ensuring success : joint hearing before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, second session, June 20, 2012.
LC Call Number: KF27 .F6489 2012a
LC Catalog Record: 2012515103
Also available online

Voon, Tania, ed. Trade liberalisation and international co-operation: a legal analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne, Australia. Published by Cheltenham, UK; Edward Elgar, 2013.
LC Call Number: KVC947.A4 2005
LC Catalog Record: 2013946815
Publisher's description External Link

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Internet Resources

World Trade Organization Agreements External Link

The implementation legislation for the 16 multilateral and two plurilateral (refers to agreements that are applicable to only those members that agree to the agreements) WTO agreements agreed upon by WTO membership in the so-called Uruguay Round of Negotiations in Marrakesh in 1994 are included in U.S. law PL-103-465 (108 Stat. 4809) (Dec. 8, 1994). The agreements as included in U.S. law are reflected in the Compilation of U.S. Trade Statutes. The actual agreements, ministerial decisions and declarations, are found on this WTO Legal Texts page.

U.S. Tariff

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). U.S. International Trade Commission

The U.S. import tariff is one of the lowest in the world. U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) maintains and publishes the tariff, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) interprets and enforces. The latest edition of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) took effect on January 1, 2017. One is able to search any of the 99 chapters for applied rates on this site. The site includes access to a number of resources—ask a tariff question, recent changes, proposed changes, and a learning module to understand the basics of the U.S. tariff schedule. The changes during the last year (1 January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017) cover 85 pages of 8 (legal) to 10 digit (for statistical purposes) tariff rate lines.

Antidumping and Countervailing Duties. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Non-tariff duties put in place as anti-dumping and countervailing duties are found in the Online Search System of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Bound Tariff Rate of the U.S. External Link

The bound tariff rate is the highest tariff rate a nation has promised other countries that it will use unless there are measures to counter imports that are subsidized or dumped in the United States. The bound tariff rates as well as applied tariff rates (i.e., the actual tariffs) that are charged can be found on the country pages External Link on the WTO website along with the trade profile and other information about the U.S. participation in the WTO. .

U.S. Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) and Absolute Quotas

The United States maintains tariff-rate quotas on agricultural products in 11 agriculture chapters of the tariff schedule (as well as brooms and ethanol alcohol). In addition, there are tariff rate quotes under 14 free trade agreements and preferential programs that limit imports of dairy, beef and sugar into the U.S. U.S. law is found in 19 U.S. Code 3601 - Administration of tariff-rate quotas, and federal regulations are found in CFR Titles 17,19 and 22. Information of TRQs are included in the Federal Registry.
WTO members are required to notify the WTO on all TRQs 30 days after the end of the year, and information is available in WTO staff documents. This information is also found in a country's WTO market access schedules.External Link Customs and Border Protection publishes a weekly summary of fill list, identifying how much of a quota has been used. More details on the specific quotas are found in Quota Bulletins.

Absolute quotas are a quantitative limit on imports, while a tariff rate quota combines two policy tools, a tariff and a quota. For example, there is a quota on the amount of sugar imports that enter the U.S. at a low tariff. Over a certain level, sugar may enter with a higher, over-quota tariff in unlimited quantities. The United States rarely uses absolute quotas; as of January 12, 2016 there were no absolute quotas in place.

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Reciprocal Free Trade Agreements

The United States is party to fourteen free trade agreements that cover twenty countries. There are 12 bilateral agreements and two agreements with a block of countries: NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement: with Mexico and Canada and CAFTA-DR: Dominican Republic-Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement covering Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

Government Sources for FTAs

U.S. Trade Representative

Provides advisory group reports and final text for each of the FTAs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Provides information on FTAs and links to other pertinent resources concerning the imported products.

U.S. Free Trade Agreements.

Provides relevant information for exporters on free trade agreements.

Investment Climate Statements. U.S. Department of State

"Investment Climate Statements provide U.S. firms with country/region and economy-specific information and assessments prepared by the State Department's posts abroad on investment laws, measures, and other factors that may be useful to them in making business decisions."

Bureau of International Labor Affairs. U.S. Department of Labor

Bureau of International Labor Affairs "implements trade-related labor policy and coordinates international technical cooperation in support of the labor provisions in free trade agreements."

U.S. Trade Agreement with Australia: a sample list of information sources

Unilateral Preferential Trade Agreements

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)
Caribbean Basin Initiative
General System of Preferences
HOPE – Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership

World Bank Global Preferential Trade Database World Integrated Trade Solution External Link

 1. 2014 Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Program, page 2, March 2015.

Last updated: 08/01/2017

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