In February, President Obama signed into law the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015”, which includes the first reauthorization of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection since its creation in 2003 under the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to customs reform, the new legislation provides "strong tools" for enforcing trade agreements and holding U.S. trading partners accountable for their obligations under the WTO and free trade agreements (FTAs). The bipartisan legislation amends the Trade Act of 1974 to provide requirements for the Administration's identification of U.S. trade enforcement priorities, including consultations with Congress. This post examines the enforcement provisions in the new law. Trade Enforcement Priorities: The legislation requires the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), beginning in 2017, to establish trade enforcement priorities with respect to acts, policies and practices of foreign governments that raise concerns with respect to compliance with obligations under the WTO agreements or FTAs or otherwise create or maintain barriers to U.S. goods, services or investment. In setting its priorities, USTR is to focus on the foreign activities that would have the most significant potential to increase U.S. economic growth if they were eliminated and to consider factors such as:
- the economic significance of the foreign acts, policies and practices;
- the impact of the foreign government's activities on maintaining and creating U.S. jobs and productive capacity;
- major barriers and trade distorting practices described in the National Trade Estimate (NTE) (an annual report of foreign trade barriers);
- a foreign government’s compliance with its obligations under the WTO and FTAs;
- the implications of a foreign government’s procurement plans and policies; and
- the international competitive position and export potential of U.S. products and services.