International Trade: Intensifying Free Trade Negotiating Agenda Calls for Better Allocation of Staff and Resources, Report to Congressional Requesters [open pdf - 1MB]
Free trade agreements (FTA) involve trade liberalization between the United States and selected countries or regions and are also expected to provide economic and other benefits. GAO was asked to review how potential FTA partners are selected, in view of the increased number of FTAs and their growing importance to U.S. policy. Specifically, GAO (1) provided information about the factors influencing the selection of FTA partners, (2) analyzed the interagency process for selecting FTA partners, and (3) assessed how the executive branch makes decisions about the availability and allocation of resources to FTAs. GAO recommends that USTR work with other key trade agencies to develop more systematic data and plans for allocating staff and resources across the full U.S. trade agenda, including FTAs and other negotiating priorities. The Trade Representative agreed that the intensifying trade negotiation agenda requires management improvements, but he disagreed with our specific recommendation. He attributes the main cause of strain at USTR to the amount of resources. We believe that better data and plans will promote the flexibility needed to respond to USTR's demanding multilateral, hemispheric, and bilateral FTA negotiations.
Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/