The Office of the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) is the executive branch of the government that aids the Office of the US President in developing its trade policies. The United States is constantly extending its trade relations all over the world, and discussions on trade policies are ongoing with many countries. The USTR assists the Office of the President in conducting bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. The USTR has two sub agencies called the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) and Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) to co-ordinate the trade policy with the Government.
The office of the USTR was established under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The Office was initially named Office of the Special Trade Representative (STR). The head of the Office is called the US Trade Representative. The position is equivalent to that of a Cabinet member, although not within the Cabinet. The U.S Trade Representative is the President’s chief advisor on trade policies, principal negotiator on the government’s behalf and the spokesperson on the country’s trade policies. Mr. Ron Kirk is the current US trade Representative.
Key responsibilities of the USTR are:
- Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade and investment issues
- Expansion of market access for American goods and services
- International commodity agreements
- Negotiations affecting U.S. import policies
- Oversight of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Section 301 complaints against foreign unfair trade practices, as well as Section 1377, Section 337 and import relief cases under Section 201
- Trade, commodity, and direct investment matters managed by international institutions such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- Trade-related intellectual property protection issues
- World Trade Organization (WTO) issues
The USTR and the Congress work in close conjunction. The Office of USTR is advised on trade policy by Congressional members. Five members from each House are chosen to be the Congressional advisors. Additional members may be appointed for advice on particular issues.