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White House Reportedly Drops Plan to Consolidate Trade Agencies

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker reportedly indicated last week that the Obama administration has dropped a plan to consolidate a number of federal trade agencies. The president had proposed to bring together into a “new department with a focused mission to foster economic growth and spur job creation” 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.

The rationale for the change was to eliminate redundancy among programs and services and make it easier for U.S. companies to increase their exports, which has been one of the Obama administration’s top trade priorities. However, the president’s proposal has been widely criticized by current and former government officials as well as the business community, particularly the idea of combining USTR and DOC because of their different roles in trade policy.

According to an Inside US Trade article, Pritzker has now acknowledged “the reality” that the consolidation is “not going to happen.” She expressed support for change but added that “Congress is not interested in it, so I’m not spending a lot of time focused on it.” Instead, she said, DOC and the other agencies are working to improve their coordination.

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