International Trade: Improvements Needed to Track and Archive Trade Agreements
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DIV
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The number of trade agreements to which the United States is currently a party is uncertain. Officials at key agencies were unable to provide a definitive count of all U.S. trade agreements that are currently in force, despite the fact that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, State, and Commerce have created separate archives containing many agreements. We identified 441 different trade agreements that entered into force from 1984 through 1998 among the three archives, but were not able to determine the total number of U.S. trade agreements currently in force. This is because 1 agency archives serve different purposes, 2 a,, governmentwide definition of what constitutes a trade agreement does not exist, and 3 there are record-keeping weaknesses and inconsistencies in the archives. The most comprehensive of these archives, which belongs to Commerce, was intended to include all agreements but contains only about two-thirds of the total number of agreements that we identified by examining all three sources. Commerces archive is incomplete because federal agencies have not worked together to establish criteria for identifying agreements to be included, and no interagency procedure has been instituted for forwarding such trade agreements to Commerce.
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