WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, in a report released Thursday, highlighted major foreign trade barriers imposed on U.S. exports, including several restraints on apparel and textiles, and outlined the steps it has taken to reduce and eliminate those obstacles.
In its “2016 National Trade Estimate Report” released by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the agency included a section on actions taken by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the past several years to knock down barriers to industry exports and promote legitimate trade, while “encouraging a strong domestic manufacturing base.”
“President Obama has pursued a trade agenda that promotes economic growth, supports high-paying American jobs, and strengthens the middle class because we know that when the playing field is level, our workers and businesses can compete and win in the global economy,” said USTR Michael Froman. “The United States already has one of the world’s most open economies. But not all countries are playing by the same rules, and all too often, our workers and businesses face significant obstacles when they export their goods and services abroad.”
He added that the annual report on the administration’s trade enforcement activities — the last under President Obama — underscores the efforts taken “on a global scale to erase these barriers and guarantee American workers, farmers and businesses the economic opportunities they deserve across the world.”
“As one of the largest manufacturing employers in the United States, the textile sector is a key component of the U.S. economy,” USTR said in the report. “The goal of the ‘Textiles Priority Trade Issue’ [policy] is to ensure that textile imports, which generated 40 percent of the duties collected by CBP in fiscal year 2014, fully comply with applicable laws, regulations, quotas, trade preference program requirements and intellectual property provisions.”
Textiles continues to be a “politically sensitive” industry, USTR said, which is reflected in the separate textile chapters the U.S. negotiates in free trade agreements, as well as various legislative mandates.
The average duty rate for textiles is 16 percent and “more than $21.1 billion of entered textiles and wearing apparel claim preferential tariff treatment, placing textiles and apparel at a high risk for noncompliance,” the report said.
In fiscal year 2014, Customs logged 451 seizures of textile products valued at $3.8 million for violations that were not counterfeit-related. In addition, Customs completed 53 textile-related audits of foreign factories and recommended $16.2 million in additional revenue owed to the U.S. government, the report said.
Over the past five years, Customs has assessed $2 billion in trade penalties. In fiscal year 2015 alone, the agency conducted 297,229 physical cargo exams and made 46,321 seizures. Apparel and accessories were the top seized commodity grouping in 2014, the report said.
Since 2009, intellectual property rights enforcement efforts by CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have resulted in an overall increase in the number of seizures of IPR infringing shipments. In fiscal year 2014, for example, the total number of IPR seizures was 23,140, a 56 percent increase over the fiscal year 2009, the report said.
“If genuine, the IPR infringing goods seized during fiscal year 2014 would have had a total estimated manufacturers’ suggested retail price value of $1.23 billion,” it said.
Counterfeit goods from China accounted for 63 percent of the total value for all IPR seizures, and interagency collaboration with ICE’s National IPR Coordination Center resulted in 683 arrests, with 454 indictments and 461 convictions, the report added.