The Private Sector and Other Stakeholders

The Private Sector and Other Stakeholders in Trade 

Information Courtesy Congressional Research Service, R45148

What is the formal role of the private sector and other stakeholders in the formulation of U.S. trade policy?

The role of the private sector and other stakeholders in the formulation of U.S. trade policy is embodied in a three-tiered committee system that Congress established in Section 135 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The advisory system consists of 28 committees (with about 700 citizen advisors), which is administered by USTR’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement (IAPE) in cooperation with other agencies.104 The three-tier system consists of (1) the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN); (2) five general policy advisory committees dealing with environment, labor, agriculture, Africa, and intergovernmental issues; and (3) 20 technical advisory committees in the areas of industry and agriculture.105 Committees were set up to ensure that U.S. public and private sector views are considered in trade policies and programs. The advisory system provides information and advice on negotiating objectives and bargaining positions for trade agreements, among other issues.106

What is the informal role of the private sector and other stakeholders?

The private sector, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), labor groups, and other stakeholders shape U.S. trade policy in a number of other ways. For example, representatives from industry and NGOs may be invited to testify before congressional committees. Private sector representatives are also invited or requested to testify before the U.S. International Trade Commission, USTR, the Department of Commerce, or other government bodies to provide assessments of the potential impact of pending trade negotiations on their industries and sectors. In addition, the executive branch regularly seeks comments from interested stakeholders through Federal Register notices regarding a variety of trade initiatives, including new trade negotiations, eligibility for preferential trading programs, and trade investigations, including potential use of presidential tariff authorities.107 Private sector, NGOs and labor groups also lobby Congress and the executive branch to promote their interests in U.S. trade policies and trade agreements.

Why do groups attempt to lobby on trade decisions?

Trade is an integral part of the U.S. economy. Virtually all kinds of agricultural and manufactured goods are tradeable—they can be exported and imported. In addition, a growing number of services—once considered nontradeable because of their intangibility—can be bought and sold across borders because of technological advancements. As a result, implementing trade policy can affect a broad spectrum of interests in the United States. For some industries, firms, and workers, congressional decisions to support a particular trade agreement or rulings on antidumping and other cases could affect both employment and economic growth; those decisions also influence product choices and prices facing U.S. consumers. Such groups are also concerned with obtaining greater market access in various countries. In addition, the increasing focus of trade agreements on nontariff issues, such as digital trade, intellectual property rights and labor and environmental protections, has broadened the scope of stakeholder interest. Consequently, groups representing businesses, farmers, workers, consumers, and various public interest groups strive to ensure that their views on trade policy decisions are represented.