United States International Trade Commission

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International Trade Commission
United States International Trade Commission seal.PNG
Agency overview
Formed September 8, 1916
Preceding agency
  • U.S. Tariff Commission
Jurisdiction International Trade Issues
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 402 (civilian career employees as of September 30, 2017)[1]
Agency executives
  • Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein, Chairman
  • David S. Johanson, Vice-Chairman
Website www.usitc.gov

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC, sometimes I.T.C.[3]) is an independent, bipartisan, quasi-judicial, federal agency of the United States that provides trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches. Furthermore, the agency determines[4] the impact of imports on U.S. industries and directs actions against unfair trade practices, such as subsidies, dumping, patent, trademark, and copyright infringement.

Background and statutory authority[edit]

The USITC was established by the U.S. Congress on September 8, 1916, as the U.S. Tariff Commission.[5] In 1974, the name was changed to the U.S. International Trade Commission by section 171 of the Trade Act of 1974.[6] Statutory authority for the USITC's responsibilities is provided by the following legislation:


The U.S. International Trade Commission seeks to:

  1. Administer U.S. trade remedy laws within its mandate in a fair and objective manner;
  2. Provide the President, Office of the United States Trade Representative, and Congress with independent, quality analysis, information, and support on matters of tariffs and international trade and competitiveness; and
  3. Maintain the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

In so doing, the Commission serves the public by implementing U.S. law and contributing to the development and implementation of sound and informed U.S. trade policy.

The USITC's five operations are:

  1. Import Injury Investigations
  2. Intellectual Property-Based Import Investigations
  3. Research Program
  4. Trade Information Services
  5. Trade Policy Support


The President nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms the six commissioners who make up the USITC. The President and the Secretary of State sign the formal commission.

Commissioners terms are nine years, or, when filling a vacated seat, for the remainder of a term. Their terms are staggered to end 18 months apart. Commissioners may not be reappointed at the start of a new term unless they have served less than five years, although commissioners stay on past the end of their term until their successor is appointed and confirmed. No more than three of the Commissioners may be of the same political party.

The Chairman and Vice Chairman's terms are for two years, and successive Chairmen may not be of the same political party. Only a Commissioner with more than one year of service may be designated Chairman.[7]

The commissioners are (in order of seniority):[8]

  • Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein[9] (Chairman) (D-Missouri; sworn in April 28, 2014, for a term expiring on December 16, 2021; Chairman, January 13, 2017 to June 16, 2018)
  • David S. Johanson[10] (Vice Chairman) (R–Texas; sworn in December 8, 2011, for a term expiring on December 16, 2018; Vice Chairman, August 11, 2016 to June 16, 2018)
  • Meredith Broadbent[11] (R–Virginia; sworn in September 10, 2012, for a term expiring on June 16, 2017)
  • Irving A. Williamson[12] (D–New York; sworn in February 7, 2007, term expired June 16, 2014, and continues to serve until replaced)
  • Vacant (vacated by F. Scott Kieff, June 30, 2017) [13]
  • Vacant (vacated by Dean A. Pinkert)

On June 26, 2017, President Trump renominated Jason Kearns, a Democrat, for the term ending December 16, 2024. Kearns was previously nominated by President Obama.[14]


Although the USITC is not a court, its administrative law judges conduct trial-type official administrative hearings. If a Section 337 Tariff Act complaint has at least three votes from its six Commissioners, an official investigative hearing will be assigned to an administrative law judge. Several dozen new USITC investigations are filed every year.[3] Judicial review is normally exercised by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.[15] After the parties have had the opportunity to conduct fact and expert discovery to develop their respective legal positions, the ALJ (administrative law judge) holds a formal, evidentiary hearing, or trial. There is no jury: rather, it is a bench trial. About three months after considering the arguments of the parties, the ALJ renders an initial determination (ID). The full ITC reviews and may adopt, modify or reverse the ALJ's initial determination. The ITC's final determination is usually issued about four months after the ALJ's ID.[16]


As part of a large group of legislation passed during the Progressive Era in the early 1900s, U.S. Congress established the United States Tariff Commission in 1916, which had a purpose to apply scientific principles to the study of tariffs and to assist in recommending appropriate tariff levels.[17] Frank Taussig, then an Economics professor at Harvard University, was named the U.S. Tariff Commission's very first Chairman.[17] The first offices of the U.S. Tariff Commission were located at 1322 New York Avenue, Washington D.C.[17] Also in 1921, the U.S. Tariff Commission moved to the Old Post Office Building at 7th and E Street NW.[17]

Effective January 1, 1975, the U.S. Tariff Commission was renamed the U.S. International Trade Commission.[17] The USITC had a number of new responsibilities under the Trade Act of 1974, and commission procedures under Section 337 of Tariff Act of 1930 were greatly changed, and Section 337 proceedings brought before Administrative Law Judges had to now conform with the Administrative Procedure Act.[17] Section 337 decisions were also made final, instead of advisory (although subject to presidential disapproval due to policy reasons), and the USITC was also authorized to issue cease and desist orders in addition to exclusion orders.[17]

In 1988, the USITC moved its quarters from the Old Post Office Building to the building it remains in to this day, 500 E Street SW.[17]

Past commissioners of the USITC include:

  • Daniel R. Pearson (R–MN; sworn in August 8, 2003, for a term expiring on June 16, 2011)
  • Shara L. Aranoff (D–MD; sworn in September 6, 2005, for a term expiring on December 16, 2012)
  • Dean A. Pinkert (D–VA; sworn in February 26, 2007, for a term expiring on December 16, 2015)

On January 4, 1985, a USITC decision in favor of Duracell was overturned by President Ronald Reagan. The case involved the import of alkaline batteries in competition with Duracell, the American manufacturer that developed them.[18]

On August 3, 2013, President Barack Obama overturned the commission's decision in investigation No. 337-TA-794 that would have banned Apple Inc. from importing several of its older products.[19]

In January 2015 details from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack revealed the MPAA's lobbying of the USITC to mandate US ISPs either at the internet transit level or consumer level internet service provider, implement IP address blocking pirate websites as well as linking websites.[20]

In January 2016 it became known, that the commission was charged with investigating the likely impact of the TPP on the U.S. economy and specific industries. It will calculate the estimated impact on gross domestic product, exports and imports, employment opportunities, and U.S. consumers.[21]

In January 2018 in a surprise decision the commission unanimously overturned a 292% trade tariff that had been imposed on the aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. International Trade Commission Employment - September 2017". FedScope - Federal Human Resources Data (Database). Washington, D.C.: United States Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  2. ^ "About the USITC". U.S. International Trade Commission. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  3. ^ a b "New I.T.C. Investigations – Sec 337". Docket Alarm, Inc. 
  4. ^ "Recent Decisions from the United States International Trade Commission". Docket Alarm, Inc. USITC. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  5. ^ 39 Stat. 795
  6. ^ "19 U.S.C. § 2231 - U.S. Code Title 19. Customs Duties § 2231 - FindLaw". Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "19 U.S.C. § 1330 - U.S. Code Title 19. Customs Duties § 1330 - FindLaw". Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  8. ^ USITC Commissioners Biography List , USITC website
  9. ^ Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein, USITC Commissioner Biography
  10. ^ David S. Johanson, USITC Commissioner Biography
  11. ^ Meredith Broadbent, USITC Commissioner Biography
  12. ^ Irving A. Williamson, USITC Commissioner Biography
  13. ^ "F.Scott Keiff to leave International Trade Commission". IP Watchdog. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  14. ^ "Trump nominates Ways & Means Democratic aide for ITC spot". World Trade Online. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  15. ^ "US International Trade Commission Section 337 Investigations: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions" (PDF). 2009. 
  16. ^ Blakeslee, Merritt. "A Survivor's Guide to Section 337 Investigations and ITC General Exclusion Orders". Recycling Times Magazine Issue 75. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h USITC History, https://www.usitc.gov/flash/dynamic_timeline.htm
  18. ^ Hartman, Carl (January 28, 1985). "Court Asked to Overturn Reagan Ruling". Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  19. ^ O'Brien, Chris (August 3, 2013). "White House overrules ITC trade ban on Apple iPhones, iPads". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  20. ^ Brandom, Russell (2 January 2015). "The MPAA has a new plan to stop copyright violations at the border". Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  21. ^ JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS President Obama May Require Federal Contractors to List Campaign Gifts The Washington Post, January 19, 2016, retrieved 14 January 2016
  22. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/26/bombardier-gains-shock-trade-victory-us/

External links[edit]