GENEVA — Trading partners lauded the U.S. at a World Trade Organization forum for maintaining an open trade regime, and for the recovery of the economy, but also took issue with the U.S. maintaining high tariffs in sectors such as textiles and for resorting to incentives for reshoring.
“As a result of the United States’ open markets, we are the world’s largest single-country importer, importing $2.76 trillion in 2013, which is up an additional 3.4 percent so far in 2014. This is equal to $7.6 billion of imports of goods and services per day, or $5.2 million per minute,” said Michael Punke, U.S. ambassador to the WTO.
“In 2013, 68.6 percent of all U.S. imports, including those under preference programs, entered the U.S. duty-free,” Punke said during a two-day review of U.S. trade policy, which ended Thursday.
But during the peer-review proceedings, a number of emerging countries spearheaded by China and India aired their concerns over so called “peak,” or high, tariffs still in place in problematic segments such as textiles and agricultural products.
The Indian delegation said while the simple average applied U.S. tariff rate remains “almost unchanged at 4.8 percent in 2014, there are significant tariff peaks, particularly in areas such as textiles….where developing countries such as India have export interest.”
A report compiled by the WTO secretariat, and used as the reference for the review, noted “there are a significant number” (7 percent of tariff lines) of tariff peaks in sensitive sectors such as textiles, tobacco and agriculture.
Yu Jianhua, China’s WTO ambassador, also weighed in and voiced his concerns over the Buy America Act, the National Export Initiative and incentives for “homecoming of manufacturing.”
“There is no lack of discriminatory and trade distorting measure under these programs,” the Chinese official said.
Punke countered the criticisms on Thursday.
With regards to peak tariffs, he said “we take note of those concerns,” but also outlined, “According to the WTO, 2.7 percent of the United States’ MFN tariff schedule at the six-digit level is bound at duty rates above 15 percent… For purposes of comparison, the percentage of lines bound above 15 percent are 4.4 percent for the EU, 16.4 percent for China, and 71.5 percent for India.”
Concerning the “homecoming of manufacturing” or “insourcing” policies of the United States, Punke said: “The United States considers it to be a normal practice for any country to promote a strong and attractive investment and innovation environment, based notably on strong rule of law, and founded on non-discriminatory policies that do not distort trade.
“Certainly the United States intends to compete vigorously in the competitive global environment,” he said.