Agreements Act, which delegated to the President authority to negotiate international trade agreements for the reduction of tariffs. The USTR was created by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and given its present name in 1980.34 In the Trade Act of 1974, presidential negotiating authority was substantially revised and extended, and the USTR was elevated to cabinet-level status.
The USTR has primary responsibility for developing and coordinating the implementation of U.S. international trade policy.35 The office serves as the principal adviser to the president on trade policy and on the impact of other government policies on international trade. The USTR also has lead responsibility for the conduct of international trade negotiations. This includes negotiations that may relate to standards or conformity assessment systems and international trade. As such, the USTR is the chief representative at multilateral institutions, such as the GATT. USTR also is the lead representative of the U.S. government in dialogue on trade issues at regional forums, such as the APEC forum.36
In this role, the USTR conducts bilateral and multilateral negotiations through authority under sections 704 and 734 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and Title I negotiations under the 1974 Trade Act.37 The office also conducts investigations under Section 301 cases.38 USTR administers the trade agreements program, including advising on non-tariff barriers, international commodity agreements, and other matters relating to the trade agreements program.
A key function of the USTR is to coordinate trade policy formation with other federal agencies. The USTR is a member of the National Economic Council (NEC) established by President Clinton. The functions of the NEC include coordination of domestic and international economic policy, including foreign trade issues. The NEC has assumed most of the functions and duties of the cabinet-level Trade Policy Committee, the statutory interagency group charged with managing economic policy within the executive branch.
Two subcabinet interagency groups directly support the work of the NEC and USTR on trade policy. It is through these groups that most standards and conformity assessment issues are addressed. The first is the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC). The TPSC is an interagency working group that includes senior-level civil servant representation from U.S. government agencies. The TPSC is supported by more than 60 subcommittees. This includes a Subcommittee on Standards, chaired by USTR, which manages policy coordination and forms U.S. government positions in standards. The second interagency group supporting the USTR is the Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) at the Deputy USTR or Under Secretary level. When there is a lack of consensus at the TPSC level or in the case of particularly significant policy matters, issues are referred to the TPRG. Matters of especially high priority or controversy at this level are often referred to the Deputies Committee of the NEC for decision and action.39
Several agencies, in addition to participating in the work of the NEC and USTR, support standards-related trade policy formation in specific areas of agency mandate or expertise.40 The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is involved