USTR Sets Policy Goals For FY2015 And Looks To Increase Budget And Personnel
Cole Pfeiffer and Pat Togni
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. USTR's top priorities for FY2015, which begins on October 1, 2014, are concluding Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks and making progress in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks with the European Union. USTR has expressed the position that TPP and TTIP will serve complementary policy goals by boosting domestic manufacturing and ensuring a level playing field in global markets.
USTR's proposed budget for FY2015 is designed to achieve these goals. USTR seeks a 5.5% increase to its annual budget from $54 million to $57 million. The additional funds would be used for travel expenses and the hiring of 12 new employees. USTR argues that a budget increase is necessary due to heavy cuts from the 2013 sequestration, which impaired the agency's ability to carry out trade negotiations and enforcement activities. USTR further explains that those budget cuts delayed TTIP negotiations and also affected the USTR's ability to deal with trade and investment issues with China.
President Obama Issues Executive Order Streamlining Export/Import Process
Ben Popeck and Jordan Shepherd
President Obama signed an Executive Order on February 19 to streamline the export and import process for manufacturers and other traders doing businesses in the United States. The order aims to reduce procedural and operational processes with the development of the International Trade Data System (ITDS). According to the order, the ITDS is an electronic information exchange "through which businesses will transmit data required by participating agencies for the importation or exportation of cargo." Participating agencies are expected to have the capabilities to utilize the ITDS by December 2016. The order also formally establishes the Border Interagency Executive Council (BIEC). The BIEC is mandated to "develop policies and processes to enhance coordination" among government agencies with import and export responsibilities. The BIEC will also coordinate with industry stakeholders to "improve supply chain management processes, with the goal of promoting economic competitiveness through enhanced trade facilitation and enforcement." These efforts by the Obama administration to reduce red tape for global traders highlights U.S. leadership in implementing the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, which was agreed to at the December 2013 Bali Ministerial of the World Trade Organization but has yet to enter into force.
Commerce Department Announces Partnership With eBay On Export Opportunities
Szymon Maziakowski and Shannon Doyle Barna
The Commerce Department's International Trade Administration and eBay Inc. announced a new agreement on February 26 to raise awareness of export opportunities among U.S. small- and medium-sized companies. The announcement follows the appointment of John Donahue, Chief Executive Office of eBay, to the President's Export Council in December 2013.
The agreement is designed to expand U.S. government export programs to better serve traders and businesses in the online marketplace as part of the Obama administration's National Export Initiative. It seems that the Commerce Department may have found an ideal partner; eBay's online platform contributed to more than $45 billion in international trade and payments in 2013, with 97% of U.S. sellers on the site reportedly participating in cross-border transactions