E N F O R C E M E N T   AND   C O M P L I A N C E

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ITA's Trade Agreements Compliance Program?

ITA's Trade Agreements Compliance (TAC Program ) works to break down barriers to market access abroad and monitors and helps promote foreign government compliance with trade agreement obligations. TAC Program officers identify, investigate, and resolve trade barriers working with industry. By leveraging relevant trade agreements, ITA engages foreign governments to remove or mitigate barriers to trade as quickly as possible. Our goal is to make trade agreements work for American industry, and to support companies as they enter foreign markets and lead the way to growth and jobs through exports. Exporters and investors can report a barrier on-line and get fast help from the Program.

I am a small company and don’t have a Washington office. Can the Trade Agreements Compliance Program help me?

Yes, the TAC Program offers several features for delivering market-access and agreement compliance information and services to small and medium-sized U.S. companies. Using the TAC Program you can:

What can the TAC Program do for me?

If you have a situation in which you believe you are being treated unfairly in a foreign market or if you are encountering a foreign trade barrier that is limiting your ability to export, the TAC Program can help you. When you contact the Program, staff will examine your problem and will either get to work on it themselves, or will turn to the right specialists in the U.S. government to work on it. By contacting the Program, with one e-mail or phone call, you are getting access to the entire trade expertise of the U.S. Government - not only the Commerce Department's country and industry specialists, but also the experts in all other U.S. government agencies.

You don't have to figure out whom to call or which agency you should contact. The Program will do that for you, and will follow up to ensure your problem doesn't get lost in Washington. We will call you to let you know who is working on your problem and what progress is being made.

How do I Report a Foreign Trade Barrier?

You may report a trade problem directly on-line by using our Foreign Trade Barrier Hotline or by writing with your complaint using the TAC Program contact information.

I don't know if the situation I am facing is a compliance violation or is even covered by a trade agreement? What do I do?

If you think you have an unfair situation, let us know. Our specialists can determine if a trade agreement covers your case. If we believe it does, we will handle it as a compliance complaint. If it does not, the Commerce Department's market access country specialists or industry specialists may be able to help, or some other part of the US. Government may be able to help.

How does the TAC Program try to solve foreign government-imposed trade barrier problems?

The TAC Program, in conjunction with other U.S. government trade experts, believes that the trade barrier problem may be the result of a foreign country failing to live up to an obligation under a trade agreement with the United States, the Program works through senior U.S. government officials and U.S. embassies to get the foreign government to come into compliance with its agreement. U.S. government experts will assemble the facts and show officials of the other country why we believe the particular instance is not consistent with their agreement.

The Secretary, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and other high-level officials may contact their counterparts in the other country if necessary.

Is there a charge for the services of the Trade Agreements Compliance Program?

No - all U.S. exporters or investors can use this free service to resolve their market access barriers.

Is the TAC Program useful for Small and Medium-Sized Exporters (SMEs)?

While all U.S. exporters or investors can use this free service to resolve their market access barriers, the TAC Program can be particularly valuable for small and medium-sized exporters (SMEs), who may lack the resources to combat such barriers. Exporters and investors can report a barrier on-line to get fast help from the Program. View a TAC Program client success video to learn how to use the online reporting form and see how we assisted a small exporter to overcome inconsistent certification requirements that threatened to exclude it from the Chinese market. Our actions helped to preserve a contract valued at $8.5 million and set a precedent that helps ensure that the full benefits of our international trade agreements are achieved for U.S. industry.

How does the TAC Program work?

The TAC Program works by putting together teams of U.S. government trade experts to focus on the trade problems U.S. companies are facing. The first thing the Program does when it is informed of a problem is to see if one of the about 250 multilateral or bilateral U.S. trade agreements gives the United States some rights in the particular situation. The Program then utilizes the existing expertise of the appropriate parts of the U.S. government, and seeks to have this expertise work quickly and efficiently to solve the problems.

What happens if the other country does not remove the barrier?

If the compliance process begun by the Program does not result in resolving the problem, and if the officials of the foreign country cannot be convinced to act positively, then the U.S. government may examine whether we should turn toward active enforcement of our trade rights.

Agreements such as the WTO and NAFTA provide for enforceable dispute settlement. If the Program is unable to achieve voluntary compliance on the part of the other country, we then turn to USTR's Enforcement Office and seek to have the problem considered for dispute settlement procedures.

What kinds of trade agreements are included in the Trade and Related Agreements (TARA) database?

The TARA database includes active, binding agreements between the U.S. and its trading partners covering manufactured products and services. The parties to the agreements in TARA are national governments, agencies or inter-governmental organizations.

How many trade agreements are in the Trade and Related Agreements (TARA) database?

There are about 250 trade and related agreements in the TARA database.

Does the Program plan to add more trade agreements in the future?

Yes, as new trade agreements are implemented, they will be added to the TAC Program website.

What are Agreement Guides?

Agreement Guides are plain language summaries of various trade agreements aimed especially at small and medium-sized exporters. The Guides tell you how to take advantage of agreement commitments and potential export benefits.

Where can I find information on proposed foreign government technical regulations?

Go to the "Notify U.S." service to receive, via email, notifications of drafts or changes to foreign regulations for a specific industry sector and/or country. You can review and comment on proposed foreign technical regulations that may affect your business. Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to report proposed technical regulations that may affect trade to the WTO Secretariat, who in turn makes them available to all WTO Members. By registering for the Notify U.S. service, you can have these notifications sent directly to you.

I am looking for export assistance or foreign country market information, such as how to find a sales agent, sources of export financing, foreign country market research reports, information about foreign country tariffs and taxes, etc. Can the TAC Program help?

The Commerce Department can certainly help through its export promotion services, even though the TAC Program just works on trade complaints and violations of U.S. trade agreements. Commerce has a special Global Knowledge Center for export counseling and marketing information, and the Commerce Department's Global Markets has domestic and foreign offices to work directly with you. You can contact them directly, or you can still use our hotline, and we will refer your marketing inquiry to the right people.