Trade barriers are generally defined as government laws, regulations, policies, or practices that either protect domestic products from foreign competition or artificially stimulate exports of particular domestic products. While restrictive business practices sometimes have a similar effect, they are not usually regarded as trade barriers. The most common foreign trade barriers are government-imposed measures and policies that restrict, prevent, or impede the international exchange of goods and services. These include:

  • Service barriers that regulate international data flow and foreign data processing;
  • Lack of intellectual property protection;
  • Import policies such as tariffs, quantitative restrictions, import licensing, and customs barriers;
  • Testing, labeling, and certification with an unnecessarily restrictive application of standards;
  • Export subsidies that offer export financing on preferential terms and displace U.S. exports in third-country markets;
  • Investment barriers;
  • Other barriers.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative puts out an annual report, called Foreign Trade Barriers on 45 countries describing the trade barriers that exist in each country and estimating the impact on U.S. exports. Some of the countries included in the report are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, and Venezuela.

You can order Foreign Trade Barriers directly from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), by calling (202) 512-1800. Other useful information may be obtained through the Trade Information Center, a one-stop information source on a multitude of federal export-assistance programs. This service connects the caller with international trade specialists on a toll-free line.

For more information, contact the Trade Information Center, Department of Commerce, Room 7424 at 14th Street, NW, and Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC 20230. Phone (800) 872-8723.