The most recent Congressional statement delineating the authority granted by Congress to the President in this area was via the Trade Agreement Authority included in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. Other Congressional authorities granted to the President include authority to impose additional tariffs and quotas, particularly in response to adverse impact from unfairly traded imports. One free trade agreement provides authority to return to most favored nation (MFN) tariff level for Mexico and Canada. Gary Hufbauer of Peterson Institute of International Economics summarizes the statutes available for Presidential control of foreign commerce here.
There is an extensive structured inter-agency coordination process composed of 21 executive branch agencies on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) chaired Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC). TPSC is supported by 90 subcommittees and task forces. The Trade Policy Review Committee, also chaired by the USTR, handles unresolved issues. Each agency has their own internal review process and may have various offices that deal with trade. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection lists 48 agencies involved with providing permissions for trade into and out of the United States.
In April 2017 the White House created the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) within the Executive Office of the President. According to the Executive Order, the OTMP shall: “(a) advise the President on innovative strategies and promote trade policies consistent with the President's stated goals; (b) serve as a liaison between the White House and the Department of Commerce and undertake trade-related special projects as requested by the President; and (c) help improve the performance of the executive branch's domestic procurement and hiring policies, including through the implementation of the policies described in Executive Order 13788 of April 18, 2017 (Buy American and Hire American).”
Historically, the key agency on U.S. Trade Policy is the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) within the Executive Office of the President.
Listed below are some of the key executive branch agencies with responsibilities for U.S. trade policy.
Council of Economic Advisors (Executive Office of the President)
Council of Environmental Quality
Department of Agriculture. Foreign Agricultural Service
Department of Commerce. Bureau of Industry and Security
Department of Commerce. International Trade Administration
Department of Commerce. U.S. Commercial Service
Department of Defense. Directorate of Business Operations
Department of Energy. Policy and International Affairs
Department of Homeland Security. Customs and Border Protection
Department of Labor. Trade Adjustment Assistance
Department of State. Office of Agricultural Policy
Department of State. Office of Bilateral Trade Affairs
Department of State. Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement
Department of State. Office of Multilateral Trade Affairs
Department of State. Export Control Reform
Department of State. Directorate of Defense Trade Controls
Department of the Treasury. International
Environment Protection Agency. International Cooperation
Food and Drug Administration. Office of International Programs
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Small Business Administration. Exporting
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
U.S. International Trade Commission
U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
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The U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 provides the mandate for Congress in the area of U.S. trade policy: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, …but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations". In practice, Congress has the role to advise, monitor and legislate on U.S. trade policy issues.
Two committees, the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee have primary responsibility for trade policy issues. Each of these committees has a sub-committee on trade:
Subcommittee On Trade. House Ways and Means Committee (House Ways and Means Committe) and Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness (Senate Committee on Finance)
This is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information that provides accurate, timely, and complete legislative information including records for every bill going back to 1973, the full text of bills from 1993 and the full text of laws from 1995. Congressional Record daily issues from 1995 can be accessed in full text as well. Also included are committee hearings and reports, members information and more. Legislative actions on trade issues can be searched by using the subject term "Foreign Trade and International Finance" and the term "International Affairs" covers U.S. sanctions.
Guide to U.S. Judiciary. The Law Library of Congress
The law library of Congress provides a vast array of resources about the federal court system and decisions.
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United States International Trade Commission (USITC)
The United States International Trade Commission "makes determinations in proceedings involving imports claimed to injure a domestic industry or violate U.S. intellectual property rights; provides independent tariff, trade and competitiveness-related analysis and information; and maintains the U.S. tariff schedule."
U.S. Department of Commerce. Trade Remedies
The U.S. Department of Commerce determines the rate of margin to be charged on dumped and subsidized goods that have been determined by USITC to be causing injury to U.S. businesses. If imported goods are being dumped In the U.S. market or are subsidized by a foreign government then Commerce instructs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to assess duties against imports of that product into the United States.
U.S. Court of International Trade
The U.S. Court of International Trade "has nationwide jurisdiction over civil actions arising out of the customs and international trade laws of the United States." The decisions of the U.S. Court of International Trade are appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Appeals from the U.S. Court of International Trade, as well as decisions of the U.S. International Trade Commission are heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The court also takes appeals of certain administrative agencies' decisions including the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The court, located in Washington D.C. was formed in 1982 by the merger of the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims.
U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court hears cases on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For example, in 2009 the Supreme Court heard an appeal on an anti-dumping case.
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Trade Advisory Committees. USTR
The U.S. Congress established a formal advisory committee system for the development of U.S. trade policy reflecting public and private sector interests. It currently has 28 committees with 700 citizen advisor participants and is coordinated by USTR.
The Department of Commerce also has a number of advisory committees:
Industry Trade Advisory Center
"As part of the USTR-led trade advisory committee system, the Department of Commerce and USTR co-administer sixteen ITACs, an ITAC Committee of Chairs, and more than 300+ trade advisors, who provide detailed policy and technical advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce and The United States Trade Representative regarding trade barriers, negotiations of trade agreements, and implementation of existing trade agreements affecting industry sectors; and perform other advisory functions relevant to U.S. trade policy matters." ITAC has 16 sector committees.
Trade Advisory Committees. Department of Agriculture
"The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee provides advice on the administration of U.S. trade policy, including implementation and enforcement of existing U.S. trade agreements and negotiating objectives for new trade agreements."
Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATACs) "offer technical advice and information about specific agricultural commodities and products." The Department of Agriculture works with the following trade policy advisory committees.
Last updated: 08/01/2017