USTR releases annual National Trade Estimate report on foreign trade barriers

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Every year, the United States Trade Representative is required, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, to provide the president, Senate Finance Committee and certain House committees with a report on foreign barriers to trade.

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This year’s National Trade Estimate (NTE) marks the 35th iteration of the report and serves as a companion to 2020 Trade Policy Agenda and 2019 Annual Report.

The NTE report outlines existing trade barriers with 59 countries (plus the European Union, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Arab League).

The report defines trade barriers as “government laws, regulations, policies, or practices that either protect domestic goods and services from foreign competition, artificially stimulate exports of particular domestic goods and services, or fail to provide adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.”

China, of course, has been the subject of long-running trade tensions with the U.S. throughout the Trump administration.

Despite a detente earlier this year with the signing of a so-called “phase one” trade deal, the parties still maintain hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tariff on each other’s goods.

Among other goals, the president has argued for the reduction of the U.S. trade deficit with China. As the NTE report notes, the U.S.’s trade deficit with China fell 17.6% in 2019 compared with the previous year, down to $345.6 billion. The U.S.’s exports to China fell 11.3% to a value of $106.6 billion in 2019.

“China continues to pursue a wide array of industrial policies that seek to limit market access for imported goods, foreign manufacturers, and foreign services suppliers, while offering substantial government guidance, resources, and regulatory support to Chinese industries,” the NTE report states. “The beneficiaries of these constantly evolving policies are not only state-owned enterprises but also other domestic companies attempting to move up the economic value chain.”

Among other areas of focus, the report cites the impact of China’s overcapacity in various industries and its impact on global markets.

“In manufacturing industries such as steel and aluminum, China’s economic planners have contributed to massive excess capacity in China through various government support measures,” the report states. “For steel, the resulting over-production has distorted global markets, harming U.S. manufacturers and workers in both the U.S. market and third country markets, where U.S. exports compete with Chinese exports. While China has publicly acknowledged excess capacity in these industries, among others, it has yet to take meaningful steps to address the root causes of this problem in a sustainable way.”

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The full 542-page NTE report is available on the USTR website.

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