Business is Picking Up at the U.S. International Trade Commission

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC),, heretofore the federal government’s only unabashed trade protectionist agency, which has operated for most of its history somewhat under the radar, the unwanted stepchild among an array of trade-promotion entities, is gathering steam. Now that we have our first openly protectionist administration since Calvin Coolidge, the perennially “sleepy” USITC is experiencing an awakening. That could mean both new public and private sector legal job opportunities.

Background. The USITC has been around for 100 years, having begun its existence as the U.S. Tariff Commission. This independent regulatory agency is bipartisan, required to have an equal number of Republican and Democratic commissioners. Its functions have not changed very much in the ensuing century. It is primarily a fact-finding agency. Its three principal activities involve—

  • Anti-dumping investigations
  • Countervailing duty investigations
  • Section 337 intellectual property infringement investigations

For years, the number of anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations and subsequent administrative hearings have, at best, remained static, while the number of Section 337 investigations has increased. However, that is expected to change, perhaps dramatically, now that the Trump administration has made allegedly unfair trade practices a centerpiece of its policy intentions. This policy reversal from trade expansion to protection is also encouraging aggrieved U.S. companies to more aggressively pursue USITC remedies.

The Implications of Increased Activity. Legal job seekers who are interested in international trade litigation are advised to monitor closely the evolving patterns at the USITC as well as among U.S. firms that believe themselves threatened by unfair trade practices.

 Commission Legal Structure. The USITC has multiple offices employing attorneys:

  • Offices of the Chairman and Commissioners
  • Office of the General Counsel
  • Office of the Administrative Law Judges
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Trade Remedy Assistance Office
  • Office of Investigations
  • Office of Unfair Import Investigations
  • Office of Tariff Affairs and Trade Agreements

 Private Sector Legal Opportunities. The international trade litigation bar is comprised of law firms of all sizes as well as sole practitioners. Other interested parties also get involved. They include lobbying organizations, trade associations, and corporations.

 For More Information

John M. Dobson. Two Centuries Of Tariffs: The Background and Emergence of the U.S. International Trade Commission