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Current Developments in Market-Access Talks and Policy

Negotiations over market access traditionally focus on tariffs and quotas, but lately much of the discussion has focused on how volatility and misalignment in currencies may undo the value of liberalization. This topic was examined in depth in the April 2 WTR (Vol.28 No.11).

Washington and Geneva have rarely been in synch on trade policy in recent years, but seem to agree now on one point: The controversy over currency misalignments is among the most significant issues in the trading system today. No other topic in trade has a higher potential to spark direct confrontation between the United States and China, nor is any other more likely to become an issue in the presidential election. Those two points are closely connected.

The Chinese renminbi, also called the yuan (after its major denomination), is not freely traded and is widely believed to be significantly undervalued. That undervaluation makes Chinese exports cheaper, and other countries’ shipments to China more expensive, than would be the case in a truly free market. The resulting frictions between China, the United States, and other countries in the trading system bear a resemblance to the conflicts between the United States and Japan a generation ago, but Beijing is less willing to accommodate demands from Washington and other capitols than Tokyo was in the 1980s.

Brazil hopes that the WTO discussions will lead to new rule-making, but the prospects for that happening in the near future are slim. A more likely development is that the issue will gain a higher profile in the U.S. presidential campaign, perhaps prodding the House of Representatives to act on a bill that the Senate already approved last year to allow for such sanctions as the application of countervailing duties against imports from currency-manipulating countries.

:: NAMA Negotiations in Doha :: Understanding Schedules :: U.S. Bound and Applied Tariffs

The following are the main documents in the negotiations over NAMA in the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO:

See the U.S. negotiating objectives on market access as stated in the Trade Act of 2002.

A related concept is trade facilitation, especially simplification of procedures at the border. See the Kyoto Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures and the WTO Agreement on Preshipment Inspection.

Reading and understanding market-access commitments requires first that one know the differences between Applied and Bound tariffs, and between non-discriminatory Commitments and Discrimination. See the PDF document on The A-B-C-Ds of Tariff Negotiations.

The market-access commitments in trade agreements are usually provided for in separate schedules for each of the parties to the agreement. See the PDF document How to Read the WTO Tariff Bindings for guidance on the schedules of WTO members. Those schedules can be accessed on-line at the page on Current Situation of Schedules of WTO Members.

See also the PDF document How to Read the U.S. Tariff Schedule.





The applied tariffs of the United States, both MFN and preferential, are all recorded in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). Click here for the latest version of the 2012 schedule (a very large PDF file). See also the U.S. International Trade Commission's on-line versions of the HTS, which can be accessed by chapter, a searchable version, and in an archive of earlier editions (back to 1987).

Note that the bound rates of the United States are not recorded in the HTS. The MFN bindings of the United States in the Uruguay Round are recorded in the following ten Excel spreadheets:

See also the fees for customs services, the 2011 amendments to these fees, and the harbor maintenance tax.