Each branch of the U.S. government contributes to U.S. trade policy. The U.S. Congress, the legislative body of the government, advises (e.g. sets trade negotiation objectives), provides oversight, monitors, and legislates U.S. trade policy.
The Executive Branch sets an agenda for trade policy, negotiates U.S. trade agreements (directly with foreign governments with input from Congress, business groups, and public interest groups), provides guidance on the implementation of the laws with the issue of regulations, makes decisions on import relief cases and national security cases, monitors the enforcement of trade agreements, and works to resolve trade disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Issue 25: Winter 2016
Guide to Researching
U.S. Trade Policy
Table of Contents
Primary Comprehensive 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):
The U.S. Statutes at Large
Courtesy of the Law Library of Congress.
The judicial branch - the U.S. courts - make decisions on specific cases, which provides case law. Table 1 helps explain the framework of U.S. trade policy.
Table 1. Framework of U.S. Trade Policy
|Branch of Government
||Format of U.S. Trade Policy
- Creates U.S. Statutes at Large (chronologically)
- U.S. Code (by topic)
- Sets trade negotiation objectives
- Monitors and advises
International Trade Commission (USITC)
- Negotiates trade agreements
- Issues Federal Regulations:
- Publishes the Federal Register (proposed, recent regulations)
- Issues policy documents
- ITC: (quasi-judicial) – investigatory responsibilities; adjudications
|| Decides cases, creates case law
U.S. Law – Various Titles
United States Statutes at Large. Prepared by National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Washington : U.S. G.P.O., 1937-
LC Call Number: KF50.U5
LC Catalog Record: 07035353
U.S. laws are compiled chronologically as the U.S. Statutes at Large, and by topic in the U.S. Code. A bulk of trade policy related law is included in Title 19, as well as Titles 7, 12, 15, 18 and 22, although more than half of the titles have some trade policy related law. U.S. laws can be found in the Law Library of Congress.
Title 19: Customs Duties,
Title 7: Agriculture
Title 12: Banks and Banking
Title 15: Commerce and Trade
Title 18: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
Title 22: Foreign Relations and Intercourse
U.S. Statutes at Large Online
U.S. Statutes at Large can be searched by public law number, date of enactment, bill number, popular name, statutes at large citation, and U.S. code citation. Legislative history is also available.
A list of chapters for U.S. Code Title 19, and names of other selected U.S. Code chapters are provided below.
Chapters of U.S. Code Title 19, Customs Duties (i.e. 19 U.S.C.)
Chapters of Other Titles of U.S. Code Related to U.S. Trade Policy
Selected chapter headings of other titles of the U.S. Code are provided below. Often a more narrow part of the code – a section is referenced within a chapter, which is within a title. For reference to other topics, use the easily accessible search function. There are also many domestic programs which provide subsidies that may affect trade.
7 U.S.C. Agriculture
Chapter 1 Commodity Exchanges (including foreign exchange swaps, regulation of foreign
Chapter 25 Export Standards for Apples
Chapter 15a Export Standards for Grapes and Plums
Chapter 26 Agriculture Adjustment (inclusive of import prohibitions of specified foreign produce)
Chapter 35 Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 (inclusive of import quotas)
Chapter 35a Price Support
Chapter 39 Stabilization of International Wheat Market
Chapter 41 Food for Peace
Chapter 43 Foreign Market Development
Chapter 56 Unfair Trade Practices Affecting Producers of Agriculture Products
Chapter 66 Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure
Chapter 67 Implementation of International Sugar Agreement, 1977
Chapter 71 Agriculture Trade Suspension Adjustment
Chapter 75 International Carriage of Perishable Food Stuffs
Chapter 83 Agriculture Competitiveness and Trade
Chapter 87 Export Promotion
12 U.S.C. Banks and Banking
Chapter 6 Foreign Banking
Chapter 6a Export-Import Bank of the United States
Chapter 32 Foreign Bank Participation in Domestic Markets
Chapter 40 International Lending Supervision
15 U.S.C. Commerce and Trade
Chapter 2 Federal Trade Commission; Promotion of Export Trade and the and Prevention
of Unfair Methods of Competition (including investigation of foreign trade conditions)
Chapter 3 Trade Marks
Chapter 4 China Trade
Chapter 22 Trademarks
Chapter 40 Department of Commerce
Chapter 66 Promotion of Export Trade
Chapter 73 Export Enhancement
Chapter 74 Competitiveness Policy Council
Chapter 75 National Trade Data Bank
Chapter 88 International Antitrust Enforcement Assistance
Chapter 107 Protection of Intellectual Property Rights
18 U.S.C. Crimes and Criminal Procedure
Chapter 27 Customs
22 U.S.C. Foreign Relations and Intercourse
Chapter 21 Settlement of International Claims
Chapter 21A Settlement of Investment Disputes
Chapter 36 Arms Export Control
Chapter 46 International Investment and Trade in Services Survey
Chapter 46a Foreign Direct Investment and International Financial Data
Chapter 62 International Financial Policy
Compilation of U.S. Trade Statutes
Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives
LC Call Number: KF1975.A29 U55
LC Catalog Record: 94644114
"Known as the Trade Blue Book, the Compilation of U.S. Trade Statutes includes not only an overview of the major provisions of Federal law pertaining to the conduct of U.S. international trade, but also an up-to-date statutory text of trade laws, integrating separate acts of Congress into one volume." The latest 2013 edition is available for purchase from Government Publishing Office bookstore.
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
LC Call Number: KF70.A3 1949
LC Catalog Record: 49046198
Also available online:
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
CFR "is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government", sometimes referred to as administrative law. CFR titles are similar to those in the U.S.C. referenced above. Title 19 regulations provide information about customs procedures, as well as the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce, the International Trade Commission, U.S. trade agreements, preferential trade agreements, former negotiating authorities and objectives, quotas, tariff rate quotas, and many other aspects of U.S. trade policy. Almost half of the titles (25 of the 54 titles) refer to international trade or trade policy, so it is advised to search by specific topics.
In addition to the annual edition and the E-CFR that is updated daily, Cornell University Law School's CFR page can serve as a good reference source.
Legal research is not the focus here, but one source to locate cases is case law. One can use the pre-set category, "International Trade", or use specific topics.
Trade Policy Agenda & Annual Report of the President. Office of the United States Trade Representative. Washington, D.C. : Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, [1989?-
LC Call Number: HF1731 .A42
LC Catalog Record: 91655054
Past years available online from Hathi Trust Digital Library
Latest Edition Online
Annually, the U.S. Trade Representative Office in collaboration with other departments produces a trade policy agenda of the President and a report on the trade agreement program.
Trade policy review. The United States of America. Geneva : General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, [1990-
LC Call Number: HF 1455.T654 2012
LC Catalog Record: 90641093
Also available online
The World Trade Organization (WTO) reviews members' trade policy on a schedule based on the ranking in the world of a country's trade flows. The world's largest four traders are reviewed every two years, which includes the United States. A set of documents, one document by the WTO secretariat and another by the government being reviewed, are prepared for the Trade Policy Review body at the WTO. A number of documents are created by the review such as minutes of the meeting, chairperson's closing remarks, and answers to questions not addressed at the meeting.
WTO Trade Profile for the United States
The WTO trade profile uses a standardized two page format to enable cross country comparisons.
World Bank Doing Business – Trading Across Boarders
Data in this resource include the identification of the number of documents to export and import, time to export and import, and cost to export and import using a standardized methodology for comparison cross countries.
Market Access Map. International Trade Centre (ITC)
The ITC (Geneva) has a set of market analysis tools which provide trade statistics, tariffs and market requirements, foreign direct investment data, voluntary standards, and market analysis studies. The market analysis tools include: Trade Map, Market Access Map, Investment Map, Trade Competitiveness Map, and Standards Map. Of particular interest is the Market Access Map which provides information in the following categories: Import regulations, export regulations, trade support institutions, and international links.
Eckes, Alfred E. U.S. Trade Issues: A Reference Handbook Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c2009.
LC Call Number: HF 1455.E35 2009
LC Catalog Record: 2009020942
An expert analysis of key issues, individuals, and developments in U.S. trade policy from national, regional, and global perspectives.
Last updated: 03/14/2018