U.S. Trade Policy Primer: Frequently Asked Questions

Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. Since the end of World War II, U.S. trade policy has focused on fostering an open, rules-based global trading system, liberalizing markets by reducing trade and investment barriers through negotiations and agreements, and enforcing trade commitments and related laws. Internationaltrade and investment issues can affect the overall health of the U.S. economy and specific sectors, the success of U.S. businesses, U.S. employment opportunities, and the overall standard of living of Americans. The benefits and costs of international trade and the future direction of trade policy are active areas of interest for many in Congress.

This report addresses frequently asked questions regarding U.S. trade policy and is intended to assist Members and staff who may be new to trade issues. The report provides context for basic trade concepts and data on key U.S. trade and investment trends. It also addresses how U.S. trade policy is formulated and describes the trade and investment policy tools used to advance U.S. objectives.

The report is divided into five sections:

The Basics of Trade explains key economic concepts, including why countries trade, the benefits and costs of trade expansion, and the role of global value chains in international trade. The section also highlights common trade terms and principles.

U.S. Trade Trends provides broad data on key U.S. trade relationships, the U.S. trade deficit, and sector-specific issues related to manufacturing, agriculture, services, and digital trade.

Formulation of U.S. Trade Policy describes key objectives and functions of trade policy. The section outlines the roles of Congress, the executive branch, private stakeholders, and the judiciary in the formulation and implementation of U.S. trade policy.

U.S. Trade Policy Tools explains some of the key vehicles for advancing U.S. trade policy objectives, including trade negotiations and agreements, special trade programs, tariff policy and trade remedies, trade adjustment assistance, and export promotion programs and controls.

Link Between International Investment and Trade explains the motivations of foreign direct investment (FDI) and its relationship to trade. The section provides data on top sources of FDI in the United States as well as destinations of U.S. FDI abroad, and explains the role of investment agreements and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States(CFIUS).

This report is intended as an introduction to U.S. trade policy and does not provide in-depth coverage of all trade and investment issues.    Purchase this Volume