Office of International Trade | Resources

What are Trade Agreements?

Trade between the U.S. and other countries is regulated through bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements. A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more countries to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers affecting trade among them. Free trade agreements have the most significant impact on small and medium-sized businesses doing business abroad.

Many countries designate certain areas within their borders as "free trade" zones. Each participating country applies its own independent schedule of tariffs to imports from countries that are not free trade partners. The United States has free trade agreements with several countries and regions.

Free trade zones help to minimize international trade barriers, enabling importers and exporters to operate under better economic conditions. However, many importers and exporters are unfamiliar with free trade zones and are uncertain of how to take advantage of them.

How Do I Report a Trade Barrier?

Trade agreements are meant to remove barriers to trade, and the success of your business overseas depends on foreign governments and companies complying with their part of the agreement.

If you encounter barriers to doing business in foreign markets, the Trade Compliance Center provides a one-stop shop for finding U.S. government assistance in resolving trade barriers or unfair situations.

The Center's Report a Trade Barrier online form allows businesses to report barriers and unfair situations. For more information about trade barriers, visit the Trade Compliance Center FAQ page, which provides answers to frequent questions about filing trade complaints and finding help to resolve trade barriers.

More Information

To learn more about free trade agreements and how they can benefit your business, visit the U.S. Free Trade Agreements page on