U.S. exporters that find themselves up against restrictive regulations and unwritten "rules" overseas have a friend in Washington.
The International Trade Administration's Trade Compliance Center (TCC) stands ready to help them fight foreign trade barriers, says Kevin M. Ellis, the TCC's compliance staff director. Ellis spoke at the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) Northeast Trade & Transportation Conference, held in Newport, R.I., in March.
TCC is a "one-stop shop" for exporters, said Ellis. It helps to ensure compliance with trade agreements, organizes resources for exporters affected by foreign trade barriers, and manages a trade-barrier complaint "hotline" via its Web site. TCC also provides texts of trade agreements and offers an "early warning system" for changes in product standards.
When an exporter files a complaint, TCC assigns a team of experts who examine the evidence, determine whether there has been unfair treatment or a violation of a trade agreement, and verify all case-related information. The next phase involves setting a goal and crafting a strategy and action plan. When it's time to implement the plan, TCC is ready to go all-out, Ellis said. While team members make full use of the negotiation and discussion mechanisms in trade agreements, they will also meet with foreign officials and leverage the power of other federal and international agencies if needed, Ellis said. As a last resort, they may refer the case to a World Trade Organization dispute settlement body.
The approach has worked well, Ellis said. He cited cases in which TCC teams convinced foreign governments to comply with trade agreement provisions they had previously ignored, and to revoke licensing rules and technical standards they had been using to keep foreign competition at bay.
The TCC may become an increasingly useful resource given the federal government's support of export activity to increase the nation's global competitiveness and to spur job creation efforts. President Obama announced in his State of the Union address his goal of doubling the nation's exports over the next five years. According to Department of Commerce data, less than 1 percent of the nation's 30 million businesses export; of those that do, 58 percent export to just one market, Commerce said.
Besides the Web, TCC can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at (202) 482-1191.