Budget Bump in the Works for USTR

The Trump administration wants to beef up the U.S. Trade Representative’s budget by nearly 6 percent, add staff and launch bilateral negotiations with several major trading partners.

The budget increase comes in sharp contrast with other budget proposals for fiscal 2018 where the Environmental Protection Agency might get a 30 percent hair cut to its $8-billion budget and the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are also facing a 30 percent slash to their $37.6 billion budget.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the trade office would get an increased $57.6-million budget and eight staff members in addition to the 230 already working there. “Trade policy plays a critical part in every aspect of the economy and the USTR must lead a highly aggressive trade agenda,” the Trump administration wrote when proposing the bigger budget.

Some of the key items the Trump administration wants the trade office to address include defending U.S. national sovereignty over trade policy; strictly enforcing U.S. trade laws; using all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open their markets to U.S. exports; protecting intellectual-property rights; and negotiating new and better trade deals with countries in key markets.

Shortly after taking office early this year, President Trump decided to bow out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an unimplemented free-trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, because he felt it was harmful to American workers and manufacturers.

The Trump administration also wants the trade office to step up talks with Indonesia to address what is called “the growing number of trade and investment irritants.” The new president would like to work with India to push the government’s plan to eliminate export subsidies in the textiles sector.

Other things on the to-do list include having Congress consider possible reforms or revisions to the Generalized System of Preferences program to take into account the growing competitiveness of many emerging-market GSP beneficiaries who receive reduced tariffs.