Office of the United States Trade Representative
Seal of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Flag of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Office of the Special Trade Representative
HeadquartersWinder Building 600 17th St. NW Washington, D.C.
Annual budget$73 million (FY 2021)
Agency executive
Parent agencyExecutive Office of the President of the United States

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is an agency of the United States federal government responsible for developing and promoting American trade policy.[1] Part of the Executive Office of the President, it is headed by the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet-level position that serves as the U.S. President's primary advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade matters. USTR has more than two hundred employees, with offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and Brussels, Belgium.

USTR was established as the Office of the Special Trade Representative (STR) by the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, leads trade negotiations at bilateral and multilateral levels, and coordinates trade policy with other government agencies through the Trade Policy Committee[2] (TPC), Trade Policy Committee Review Group[3] (TPCRG), and Trade Policy Staff Committee[4] (TPSC). Its areas of expertise include foreign direct investment, commodity agreements, trade-related intellectual property protection, and trade disputes before the World Trade Organization. Based in Washington, D.C., Katherine Tai is the current United States Trade Representative.



The head of the office holds the title of United States Trade Representative (USTR), which is a Cabinet-level position, though not technically within the Cabinet, as is the case with office heads not of US departments but rather of offices contained within the Executive Office of the President. To fill the post, the president nominates someone for the position, and the appointment is then approved or rejected by a simple majority of the Senate. The United States trade representative and deputy United States trade representatives (DUSTR) carry the title of Ambassador.

In the Obama administration, Michael Froman served as the US trade representative from 2013 to 2017, with Michael Punke and Robert Holleyman serving as deputy US trade representatives.[5] Ambassador Punke also concurrently served as the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Robert Lighthizer served during the Trump Presidency. Katherine Tai, the current U.S. trade representative, was nominated by Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate on March 17, 2021, by a vote of 98–0.

Office of WTO and Multilateral Affairs

The USTR participates in the World Trade Organization, which is currently in the Doha Development Round. This is partially managed by the USTR Office of WTO and Multilateral Affairs (WAMA). Relevant WTO agreements include the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Generalized System of Preferences.

History of the United States Trade Representative

Trade negotiations became more complicated in the twentieth century with the rise of multilateral organizations and technological advances allowing for more commerce. As a result, the organization of the U.S. government (with Congress in charge of regulating foreign commerce and the executive branch in charge of treaties) became less efficient and in 1962 Congress passed a bill calling for the president to appoint a Special Representative for Trade Negotiations who would make suggestions to the president on the matters of trade.[6] In the 1970s, Congress expanded this position, making it more accountable to Congress (the position has been called "a creature of congress"[7]), and made it cabinet-level. Finally, in 1980 the position was renamed the United States Trade Representative.[6]

The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 elevated the position's role to "coordinate trade policy, serve as the President's principal trade advisor and trade 'spokesperson', and lead U.S. international trade negotiations".[7] It also "required the USTR to report to both the President and Congress".[7]

Issue areas


National Trade Estimate

The National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (National Trade Estimate or NTE) is an annual series prepared by the USTR, which reports significant foreign barriers to U.S. exports. Since 1986, the NTE has provided, where feasible, quantitative estimates of the impact of these foreign practices on the value of U.S. exports. Information is also included on actions taken to eliminate barriers.[9] It is based on information provided by USTR, the U.S. departments of commerce and agriculture, and other agencies and sources.[9]

The Special 301 Report

Main article: Special 301 Report

  Priority Foreign Country
  Priority Watch List
  Watch List
  Section 306 Monitoring
  Out-of-Cycle Review/Status Pending

The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the USTR under Section 182 as amended of the Trade Act of 1974. The act states that the USTR must on an annual basis, by April of each year:

identify those foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, or deny fair and equitable markets access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection, and those foreign countries identified under" this "paragraph that are determined by the Trade Representative to be priority foreign countries". The Act defines "priority foreign countries" as "those foreign countries that have the most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices that deny adequate and effective intellectual property rights, or deny fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property protection, whose acts, policies, or practices described in" this "paragraph have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant United States products, and that are not entering into good faith negotiations, or making significant progress in bilateral or multilateral negotiations to provide adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.[10]

The Uruguay Round Agreement Act furthermore states that countries may be identified under Special 301 "taking into account the history of intellectual property laws and practices of the foreign country, including any previous identifications" and "the history of efforts of the United States, and the response of the foreign country, to achieve adequate and effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights". It also states that compliance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights does not include a country from being identified as denying "adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights".[11]

Notorious markets

Main article: Notorious markets

In 2006, along with the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the USTR published a list of places where large-scale copyright infringement takes place in the Special 301 Report. Since 2010, the notorious markets report has been published as a separate report.[12]

List of United States trade representatives

  Denotes an Acting U.S. Trade Representative
  Denotes Nominee for U.S. Trade Representative
# Portrait Officeholder Term start Term end Days in office President(s)
1 Christian Herter December 10, 1962 December 30, 1966 4 years, 20 days John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
2 William Roth March 24, 1967 January 20, 1969 1 year, 302 days
3 Carl Gilbert August 6, 1969 September 21, 1971 2 years, 46 days Richard Nixon
4 William Eberle November 12, 1971 December 24, 1974 3 years, 42 days
5 Frederick Dent March 26, 1975 January 20, 1977 1 year, 300 days Gerald Ford
6 Robert Strauss March 30, 1977 August 17, 1979 2 years, 140 days Jimmy Carter
7 Reubin Askew October 1, 1979 December 31, 1980 1 year, 91 days
8 Bill Brock January 23, 1981 April 29, 1985 4 years, 96 days Ronald Reagan
9 Clayton Yeutter July 1, 1985 January 20, 1989 3 years, 203 days
10 Carla Hills February 6, 1989 January 20, 1993 3 years, 349 days George H. W. Bush
11 Mickey Kantor January 22, 1993 April 12, 1996 3 years, 81 days Bill Clinton
Charlene Barshefsky
Acting: 1996–1997
April 12, 1996 March 18, 1997 340 days
12 April 12, 1996 January 20, 2001 4 years, 283 days
13 Robert Zoellick February 7, 2001 February 22, 2005 4 years, 15 days George W. Bush
Peter Allgeier
February 23, 2005 May 16, 2005 113 days
14 Rob Portman May 17, 2005 May 29, 2006 1 year, 12 days
15 Susan Schwab June 8, 2006 January 20, 2009 2 years, 196 days
Peter Allgeier
January 21, 2009 March 17, 2009 55 days Barack Obama
16 Ron Kirk March 18, 2009 March 15, 2013 3 years, 362 days
Demetrios Marantis
March 15, 2013 May 23, 2013 100 days
Miriam Sapiro
May 23, 2013 June 21, 2013 28 days
17 Michael Froman June 21, 2013 January 20, 2017 3 years, 213 days
Maria Pagan
January 20, 2017 March 1, 2017 40 days Donald Trump
Stephen Vaughn
March 2, 2017 May 15, 2017 74 days
18 Robert Lighthizer May 15, 2017 January 20, 2021 3 years, 250 days
Maria Pagan
January 20, 2021 March 18, 2021 57 days Joe Biden
19 Katherine Tai March 18, 2021 Incumbent 3 years, 82 days

See also


  1. ^ "Mission of the USTR | United States Trade Representative". Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "15 CFR § 2002.0 - Trade Policy Committee". Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  3. ^ "15 CFR § 2002.1 - Trade Policy Committee Review Group". Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  4. ^ "15 CFR § 2002.2 - Trade Policy Staff Committee". Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  5. ^ Obama taps Penny Pritzker, Mike Froman for top economic jobs Archived May 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. CBS News (2013-05-02). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  6. ^ a b Claussen, Kathleen (2017). "Trading Spaces: The Changing Role of the Executive in U.S. Trade Lawmaking". Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies. 24 (2): 345–368. doi:10.2979/indjglolegstu.24.2.0345. ISSN 1080-0727. JSTOR 10.2979/indjglolegstu.24.2.0345. S2CID 158184598.
  7. ^ a b c U.S. Trade Policy Functions: Who Does What? (2020). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from on 2021-01-14.
  8. ^ "Issue Areas | United States Trade Representative". Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Office of the United States Trade Representative. "Reports and Publications". Archived from the original on November 11, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  10. ^ Masterson, John T. (2004). International trademarks and copyright: enforcement and management. American Bar Association. ISBN 978-1-59031-359-6.
  11. ^ Masterson, John T. (2004). International trademarks and copyright: enforcement and management. American Bar Association. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-1-59031-359-6.
  12. ^ "USTR Releases 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy". United States Trade Representative. Retrieved August 27, 2022.