Trade Policy Resources at the International Trade Commission (ITC) and How to Use Them
The U.S. International Trade Commission is best known for deciding high-stakes trade disputes involving dumped or subsidized imports and infringement of intellectual property rights. Worthy of at least equal attention, however, are the wide panoply of trade policy resources the Commission makes available free to the public. Businesses, associations, and NGOs can all make use of the Commission’s expertise in support of their policy goals.
Looking for trade data? Visit the Commission’s DataWeb service. DataWeb is an interactive platform that provides access to import and export statistics, tariffs, and tariff preferences, including historical data going back to 1989. Users can make and save customized product and country lists or generate reports for geographic regions, FTA partner countries, and trade preference programs. Also accessible via DataWeb is the HTS Online Reference Tool, which allows users to search by Harmonized Tariff System classification, translate common product descriptions into tariff compatible terminology, or translate between HTS classifications and other common product classification systems such as SIC, SITC, and NAICS. The system is set up to permit users to download data to a spreadsheet.
Even with all the data available, stakeholders sometimes find that the kinds of data needed to advocate in support of their policy goals do not exist, even from a commercial source. The Commission has a variety of tools for developing new trade data, most of which can be made public, at least in aggregated form. Upon request from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senate Finance Committee, or the House Committee on Ways & Means, the Commission can conduct a study under section 332 of the Trade Act of 1930, which grants the agency nationwide subpoena power to gather industry data through the use of questionnaires. Recent studies collecting previously unavailable trade data include Used Electronics, Inv. No. 332-528 (Feb. 2013), Remanufactured Goods, Inv. No. 332-525 (Nov. 2012), and Digital Trade II(forthcoming). The Commission also heads up the interagency 484f Committee, under Section 484(f) of the Tariff act of 1930, which evaluates petitions requesting new statistical breakouts in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The 484f process can be used to obtain import statistics on a product that would otherwise fall within a basket category.
The Commission’s extensive staff of trade economists and industry specialists are themselves valuable resources to those in the trade policy space. Staff research papers on a range of international trade and investment topics are available on the web site, and staff members are often available to give presentations on current trade topics at industry and professional meetings. Of particular note is the agency’s numerous recent reports on global supply chains.
For those engaged in public discourse on U.S. trade policy, international investment, or global competitiveness, the International Trade Commission’s treasure trove of data and analysis should not be overlooked.