Trade agreements hold little value for American business if they aren’t enforced. The U.S. Chamber has long pressed for consistent and vigorous enforcement of trade agreements entered into by the United States. This includes the wide-ranging body of rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as bilateral and regional trade agreements.
These agreements provide U.S. workers, farmers, and businesses with assured access to overseas markets on terms that are clear and predictable. In addition to addressing tariffs and non-tariff barriers at national borders, these agreements also provide important guarantees for U.S. businesses operating inside foreign markets. Trade agreements provide critical protections for intellectual property, guarantee the rights of U.S. companies to bid for government contracts, and ensure that U.S. companies receive national treatment (i.e., the same rights and responsibilities granted local firms). U.S. officials should place the highest priority on fulfilling these guarantees.
The United States has the right and responsibility to press other governments to live up to their commitments under trade agreements. Where governments fail to do so, the first recourse should be to engage them in direct talks. If consultations fail to bring full compliance, dispute settlement procedures established under the WTO and other accords offer avenues to ensure proper enforcement of trade agreements.
In recent years, the United States has actively used the WTO’s dispute settlement system to enforce its rights under multilateral trade agreements. In fact, the United States has won or favorably settled 75 out of the 79 completed WTO cases it had brought (as of 2016). These wins include cases against discriminatory Chinese taxes on U.S. auto exports, EU subsidies in the aircraft sector, and India’s ban on U.S. poultry. The U.S. could not have secured these wins unilaterally. Going forward, trade officials should not hesitate to bring cases against foreign governments when WTO trade rules lend support and when they can marshal the evidence.
In addition, U.S. law also provides tools to address charges of unfair trading. The U.S. Chamber supports the judicious use of U.S. trade remedy law, which provides relief for U.S. producers facing competition from unfairly priced or subsidized imports. Such relief comes in the form of anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duties (CVD). The Chamber supports U.S. trade remedy law and has argued that it should be administered in a way that avoids any “unduly protectionist interpretation or implementation which would impair the healthy expansion of trade or invite damaging retaliation by other countries,” according to policy declarations endorsed by the Chamber board of directors. In the same vein, U.S. officials should press foreign governments to provide greater transparency in how they use trade remedies against U.S. firms.
However, the Chamber’s support for vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade agreements is not intended to reject their very substantial benefits. Indeed, numerous analyses confirm that precipitous withdrawal from trade agreements could endanger millions of American jobs. As outlined in the previous section, millions of American jobs depend on the increase in trade ushered in by U.S. trade agreements. While the Chamber firmly supports the strong enforcement of U.S. trade agreements to maximize their benefits for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and companies, great caution should be shown to avoid endangering these trade flows and the jobs they support.