Trade agreements offer a variety of benefits, most notably tariff cuts – but only to goods that qualify. Rules of origin serve that gatekeeper function, aiming to ensure that the benefits of trade agreements go to the goods of the parties.
Most products today are the result of creative, physical, and intellectual efforts by people in different roles across the globe—they are designed in one country, their materials are procured in another, their components may be made and assembled somewhere else. Their “Made in…” labels only tell us the country where that product last underwent some significant change or “substantial transformation”. That’s just a snapshot of one stop on their journey
Americans spent 8 billion hours in 2015 sitting in traffic. Our individual productivity takes a hit, but so does the productivity of our businesses and the overall economy. In the same way, bottlenecks clearing products through customs at international borders can waste time and money and even disrupt business plans and supplier relationships.
Every minute and hour count in the aftermath of life-threatening emergencies such as large scale natural disasters. Behind the scenes, private donors and relief organizations work to navigate customs requirements and procedures at the borders of countries struck by disaster. But customs bottlenecks are among the most common obstacles cited by the humanitarian community to delivering aid quickly.
Before there was a WTO, the United States developed the tools to take matters into its own hands, using a trade tool known as Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. It hasn’t been used much since 1995 when the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures came into effect, but the Trump Administration appears to be ready to dust it off to maximize leverage in its trade negotiations with China.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their food supplies, and to protect the health of the plants and animals that supply the food system. In negotiating trade agreements, countries have sought to balance the twin objectives of protecting human, plant, and animal health and ensuring the international flow of safe food.
The attractiveness of the U.S. market for FDI reflects the size and strength of the U.S. economy as well as the longstanding U.S. commitment to open markets and the rule of law. The vast majority of FDI occurs on a regular basis in every U.S. state across sectors including manufacturing, financial, and information technologies. But there are cases when foreign investment might carry security implications.
In an era when who trades, what is traded, and how it’s trade are in constant flux, the only constant for international trade rules is the potential for obsolescence. Technological innovations are testing the limitations — and rationale — of the old rules.
Dear King George III: stop cutting off our trade from the rest of the world. That was among our grievances in the Declaration of Independence. The next 140 years saw U.S. tariffs rise and fall in response to the domestic preoccupation with the politics of protection.
The marriage of the physical and digital worlds has unlocked limitless economic opportunities, providing a boost to productivity and propelling us into the next industrial revolution. Policymakers will need to work to keep up by removing trade barriers that could limit the global reach of the Internet of Things.