July 26,2005

Baucus Presses for Greater Focus on Trade Enforcement

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released areport evaluating the effectiveness of the U.S. government’s efforts to monitor and enforce tradeagreements. The GAO study found current practices of the government fall short of providing acomprehensive and coordinated framework for identifying and pursuing trade agreementenforcement issues. The report also noted both human and financial resources devoted toenforcement are not sufficient to address the growing workload.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, requestedthe study and made the following statement after the report was released:“The results of this study are a call to action for everyone who cares about enforcingAmerica’s rights under trade agreements.

“The list of trade agreements the United States currently has on the books tops 250 andwe are adding new ones at a rapid clip. When our nation concludes a trade agreement, ourworkers, farmers, and businesses expect to receive the full benefits of the bargain. But the truthis that, much of the time, we really don’t know if that is happening or not.

“At least 18 different federal agencies and thousands of government employees stationedaround the world play a role in monitoring and enforcement of trade commitments. Withhundreds of agreements and tens of thousands of individual commitments to monitor, there aremany challenges involved in crafting and managing an effective enforcement strategy.

“What we need is a more proactive approach to setting enforcement priorities, trainingand allocating staff for monitoring activities, and enhancing inter-agency coordination. TheGAO’s report presents a practical, common-sense roadmap for doing better. In fact, I think theirrecommendations are really just the beginning.

“Right now, 97 percent of U.S. exports go to WTO member countries and 43 percent tocountries with which we have a free trade agreement. Successful completion andimplementation of all the new free trade agreements currently under negotiation will cover onlyabout 3 percent of our trade. These statistics make it all too clear that there is much more tradeat stake in enforcing WTO and existing FTA commitments than in negotiating new agreementswith small economies.

“This doesn’t mean we should stop negotiating new trade agreements. But it means weshould be at least as focused on enforcement in key areas, like intellectual property andstandards, that affect much more trade. We need to reverse the trend toward decreased staffingof monitoring efforts in some of these areas and increase monitoring and enforcement resourcesoverall.

“When the public suspects that our government is not holding our trading partners to theirobligations, they become skeptical of the benefits of trade and the policies that facilitate moreopen trade. That is why a focus on monitoring and enforcement of existing trade commitmentsis essential in order for our government to build and maintain – and indeed to deserve – publicsupport for pro-trade policies.

“I stand ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on these priorities. I look forward toworking with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to win America’s confidence inour trade enforcement efforts.”

The full text of the report, “International Trade: Further Improvements Needed to HandleGrowing Workload for Monitoring and Enforcing Trade Agreements”, GAO-05-537, can befound on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov/.