Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Article examines the changes brought about in United States trade policy by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Mr. Phillips provides a detailed history of the evolution of the Act's three main revisions of section 301: the transfer from the President to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) of the power to identify foreign unfair trade practices and to take action in response; the imposition of mandatory retaliation by the USTR against unfair trade practices unless one of six exceptions applies; and, under the "Super 301" provision, the USTR's obligation to identify unfair trade balances and either to negotiate reductions in or to take mandatory action against such imbalances. Mr. Phillips states that in cases involving minor trade disputes the revisions effected by the Act should depoliticize and bring greater certainty of action to United States responses to unfair trade barriers. Mr. Phillips observes that although the new authority of the USTR may help take non-trade considerations out of some cases, it probably will not affect the highly controversial disputes. While Super 301 contains mandatory retaliation provisions, the President retains power to influence how the USTR implements retaliatory actions. Super 301 could also cause United States to violate trade agreements. Mr. Phillips concludes that the Act can only have a minor effect on the United States trade deficit, the largest part of which results from macroeconomic policies.