Office of the United States Trade Representative

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Office of the United States Trade Representative
Seal of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Flag of the United States Trade Representative.svg
Flag of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Office of the Special Trade Representative
HeadquartersWinder Building 600 17th St. NW Washington, D.C.
Annual budget$54 million (FY 2016)
Agency executives
Parent agencyExecutive Office of the President of the United States
  Priority Foreign Country
  Priority Watch List
  Watch List
  Section 306 Monitoring
  Out-of-Cycle Review/Status Pending

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is the United States government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the president of the United States, conducting trade negotiations at bilateral and multilateral levels, and coordinating trade policy within the government through the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) and Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG).

Established as the Office of the Special Trade Representative (STR) under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the USTR is part of the Executive Office of the President. With over 200 employees, the USTR has offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and Brussels, Belgium. The current U.S. trade representative is Robert E. Lighthizer, who was announced by then-President-elect Donald Trump on January 3, 2017.[1] Lighthizer was confirmed by the Senate on May 11, 2017, by a vote of 82–14.[2]



The head of the office holds the title of United States Trade Representative (USTR), which is a Cabinet-level position, though not technically within the Cabinet, as is the case with office heads not of US departments but rather of offices contained within the Executive Office of the President. To fill the post, the president nominates someone for the position, and the appointment is then approved or rejected by a simple majority of the Senate. The United States trade representative and deputy United States trade representatives (DUSTR) carry the title of Ambassador.

In the Obama administration, Michael Froman served as the US trade representative from 2013 to 2017, with Michael Punke and Robert Holleyman serving as deputy US trade representatives. Ambassador Punke also concurrently served as the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On May 2, 2013, President Obama nominated Michael Froman to succeed Ambassador Ron Kirk as the U.S. trade representative.[3] The Senate confirmed Froman on June 19, 2013, and he was sworn into office on June 21, 2013.[4][5]

Robert Lighthizer, who is the current U.S. trade representative, was confirmed on April 25, 2017, after being nominated by President Trump.

Office of WTO and Multilateral Affairs[edit]

The USTR participates in the World Trade Organization, which is currently in the Doha Development Round. This is partially managed by the USTR Office of WTO and Multilateral Affairs (WAMA). Relevant WTO agreements include the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Generalized System of Preferences.

Issue areas[edit]


There are two key advisory committees when it comes to agriculture. These two are the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) and the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATAC). APAC is made up of 34 organizations.[6] ATAC is made up of 6 groups. These groups being animal and animal products; fruits and vegetables; grains, feed, oilseeds, and planting seeds; sweeteners and sweetener products; tobacco, cotton, and peanuts; and processed foods. APAC and ATAC allow the private sector to play a role in the U.S. government when it comes to trade.[7]

In agriculture, free trade agreements (FTAs) play a big role. As stated, “[f]or 16 of the 20 countries that the U.S. has FTAs with, U.S. exporters will face zero tariffs on 98% or more of agricultural goods once the agreements are fully implemented.”[7]

Economy and trade[edit]

Global trade is one area in which America excels. They also have the world's largest economy. Being competitive allows an increase in productivity and the growth of the economy. Expanding and shifting production has increased productivity and the country's economic growth rate as well. “Exports have contributed nearly a third of economic growth since mid-2009, and account for approximately 13.5 percent of our economy”.[7]


USTR uses enforcement to secure U.S. trading. This is especially keen to American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses. It is interpreted to be fair and open, making sure that everyone follows it.[7]


Some trade includes overlap with environmental policies. Wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and marine conservation and protection are a few examples of this overlap.[7]

Government procurement[edit]

The purchasing done under the government makes up 10 to 15 percent of the country's GDP. In 1979, the first major government procurement agreement appeared. Relations with Canada and Europe are especially noticeable in government procurement.[7]

Industry and manufacturing[edit]

The Office of Small Business, Market Access, and Industrial Competitiveness (SBMAIC) manages manufactured goods that the United States exports. Two of the biggest goals are to expand export opportunities and strengthen enforcement of trade rules. Industrial tariffs are a huge commodity, for approximately 96 percent of U.S. merchandise imports are nonagricultural goods.[7]

Intellectual property[edit]

The Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation (IPN) focuses heavily on intellectual property laws and enforcing them worldwide. Trade agreements, the annual Special 301 review and report, World Trade Organization, and pharmaceutical and medical technology industries are all key areas.[7]


The Labor office holds the United States responsible in making sure they follow all labor laws. Worker's participation and rights is looked at thoroughly through this office.[7]

Preference Programs[edit]

Preference programs are used as aiding other countries. It provides greater access to the U.S. market.[7]

Services and Investment[edit]

The Office of Services and Investment partakes in anything involving services, investment, and digital trade relevant to U.S. trade policy. International Investment provides both economic growth and protection for American workers. Services allows the world to connect. Through businesses, technology, retail, and all other forms of services, people interact globally. In the United States, service industries make up two thirds of the GDP and four out of five private-sector jobs.[7]

Small Business[edit]

Small businesses are significant in U.S. trade because they account for 98 percent of the country's exports. The top exports going to Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.[7]

Textiles and apparel[edit]

The Office of Textiles is in charge of both textiles and apparel. It works closely with Congress, domestic partners, and international ones.[7]

Trade and development[edit]

Worldwide aid and domestic funding related to trade are coordinated through the USTR.[7]

Trade organizations[edit]

The World Trade Organization (WTO), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) all have an impact in trade. The WTO deals heavily with FTAs.  Licensing and trade barriers are addressed here. APEC facilitates trade with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, The United States of America, and Vietnam. The U.S. also has a relationship with the ASEAN. ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Lastly, OECD accounts for 78 percent of the entire world's GDP and has 34 democracies in Europe, North America, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America in the organization.[7]


National Trade Estimate[edit]

The National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (National Trade Estimate or NTE) is an annual series that surveys prepared by the USTR, which reports significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports. Since 1986, the NTE provides, where feasible, quantitative estimates of the impact of these foreign practices on the value of U.S. exports. Information is also included on actions taken to eliminate barriers.[8] It is based on information provided by USTR, the U.S. departments of commerce and agriculture, and other agencies and sources.[8]

The Special 301 Report[edit]

The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the USTR under Section 182 as amended of the Trade Act of 1974. The act states that the USTR must on an annual basis, by April of each year:

identify those foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, or deny fair and equitable markets access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection, and those foreign countries identified under" this "paragraph that are determined by the Trade Representative to be priority foreign countries". The Act defines "priority foreign countries" as "those foreign countries that have the most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices that deny adequate and effective intellectual property rights, or deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection, whose acts, policies, or practices described in" this "paragraph have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant United States products, and that are not entering into good faith negotiations, or making significant progress in bilateral or multilateral negotiations to provide adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.[9]

The Uruguay Round Agreement Act furthermore states that countries may be identified under Special 301 "taking into account the history of intellectual property laws and practices of the foreign country, including any previous identifications" and "the history of efforts of the United States, and the response of the foreign country, to achieve adequate and effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights". It also states that compliance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights does not include a country from being identified as denying "adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights".[10]

Notorious markets[edit]

In 2006, along with the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the USTR published a list of places where large-scale copyright infringement takes place in the Special 301 Report. Since 2010, the notorious markets report has been published as a separate report.

List of United States trade representatives[edit]

Portrait Officeholder Term start Term end President
Christian Archibald Herter (politician).jpg Christian Herter December 10, 1962 December 30, 1966 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
No image.svg William Roth March 24, 1967 January 20, 1969
No image.svg Carl Gilbert August 6, 1969 September 21, 1971 Richard Nixon
No image.svg William Eberle November 12, 1971 December 24, 1974
FrederickBailyDent.jpg Frederick Dent March 26, 1975 January 20, 1977 Gerald Ford
RobertStrauss.jpg Robert Strauss March 30, 1977 August 17, 1979 Jimmy Carter
ReubinAskew.JPG Reubin Askew October 1, 1979 December 31, 1980
Bill brock.jpg Bill Brock January 23, 1981 April 29, 1985 Ronald Reagan
Clayton Keith Yeutter, 1990-04-24.jpg Clayton Yeutter July 1, 1985 January 20, 1989
Carla A. Hills official portrait.jpg Carla Hills February 6, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
MichaelKantor.jpg Mickey Kantor January 22, 1993 April 12, 1996 Bill Clinton
Charlene Barshefsky official portrait.jpg Charlene Barshefsky
Acting: 1996–1997
April 12, 1996 January 20, 2001
Zoellick, Robert (official portrait 2008).jpg Robert Zoellick February 7, 2001 February 22, 2005 George W. Bush
Peter Allgeier
February 23, 2005 May 16, 2005
Rob Portman official photo.jpg Rob Portman May 17, 2005 May 29, 2006
Susan Schwab, USTR official photo.jpg Susan Schwab June 8, 2006 January 20, 2009
Peter Allgeier
January 21, 2009 March 17, 2009 Barack Obama
Ron Kirk official portrait.jpg Ron Kirk March 18, 2009 March 15, 2013
DemetriosMarantis.jpg Demetrios Marantis
March 15, 2013 May 23, 2013
Miriam Sapiro official portrait.jpg Miriam Sapiro
May 23, 2013 June 21, 2013
Michael Froman official portrait.jpg Michael Froman June 21, 2013 January 20, 2017
No image.svg Maria Pagan
January 20, 2017 March 1, 2017 Donald Trump
Stephen P. Vaughn.png Stephen Vaughn
March 2, 2017 May 15, 2017
Robert E. Lighthizer official portrait (cropped).jpg Robert Lighthizer May 15, 2017 Incumbent

Living former trade representatives[edit]

As of October 2020, there are nine living former trade representatives (with all representatives that have served since 1989 still living), the oldest being Bill Brock (served 1981–1985, born 1930). The most recent representative to die was Frederick Dent (served 1975-1977) on December 10, 2019. The most recently serving representative to die was Clayton Yeutter (served 1985–1989, born 1930) on March 4, 2017.

Name Term Date of birth (and age)
Bill Brock 1981–1985 (1930-11-23) November 23, 1930 (age 89)
Carla Hills 1989–1993 (1934-01-03) January 3, 1934 (age 86)
Mickey Kantor 1993–1996 (1939-08-07) August 7, 1939 (age 81)
Charlene Barshefsky 1996–2001 (1950-08-11) August 11, 1950 (age 70)
Robert Zoellick 2001–2005 (1953-07-25) July 25, 1953 (age 67)
Rob Portman 2005–2006 (1955-12-19) December 19, 1955 (age 64)
Susan Schwab 2006–2009 (1955-03-23) March 23, 1955 (age 65)
Ron Kirk 2009–2013 (1954-06-27) June 27, 1954 (age 66)
Michael Froman 2013–2017 (1962-08-20) August 20, 1962 (age 58)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The White House". Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  2. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress – 1st Session". Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  3. ^ Obama taps Penny Pritzker, Mike Froman for top economic jobs. CBS News (2013-05-02). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  4. ^ Senate confirms Michael Froman as trade chief – Politics standard used in IRS cases – Lawmakers urge changes to IRS accounting rule – POLITICO Morning Tax. Politico.Com (2013-06-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  5. ^ Statement by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman |Office of the United States Trade Representative Archived June 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  6. ^ "Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) | USDA Foreign Agricultural Service". Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Issue Areas | United States Trade Representative". Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Office of the United States Trade Representative. "Reports and Publications". Archived from the original on November 11, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  9. ^ Masterson, John T. (2004). International trademarks and copyright: enforcement and management. American Bar Association. ISBN 978-1-59031-359-6.
  10. ^ Masterson, John T. (2004). International trademarks and copyright: enforcement and management. American Bar Association. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-1-59031-359-6.

External links[edit]