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Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Combine Trade Agencies

The Obama administration has abandoned a plan to consolidate several trade agencies into one organization.

President Obama previously proposed to collapse several independent trade agencies into one “new department with a focused mission to foster economic growth and spur job creation.” The plan to was to merge the Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture’s business development programs, the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund program, the National Science Foundation’s statistical agency and industry partnership programs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the Department of Labor.

According to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the Obama administration decided to ditch the idea since there was a lack of congressional support for it. She said that “Congress is not interested in it, so I’m not spending a lot of time focused on it.”

Originally, the White House argued that such a consolidation would streamline the various trade functions of the pertinent trade agencies, increasing efficiency by systematically eliminating redundancies. Regulatory simplification, according to President Obama, could potentially stimulate American exports, a central objective of U.S. trade policy.

The reaction from Congress to the proposed reorganization was intensely critical. Particularly unpopular was the prospect of combining the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce, a coupling many considered incongruous given their very different policy objectives.