Obama orders study of reorganizing trade agencies

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:25 PM
Obama orders study of reorganizing trade agencies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday ordered a 90-day study into whether a dozen government agencies that promote exports could be better organized to reduce costs and increase efficiency, a White House aide said.

"There are 12 different agencies involved (in trade). That results in a significant amount of fragmentation of roles and responsibilities," Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a meeting of the President's Export Council.

"At first look, there appears to be an opportunity for consolidation or streamlining," Zients said.

The study comes as both the White House and Congress are under pressure to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. It is intended to be the first wave of a larger Obama administration effort to see if the federal government can be better organized.

The initial focus on agencies involved in trade is driven partly by the goal Obama set last year of doubling U.S. exports to more than $3 trillion by the end of 2014.

However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat whose committee has jurisdiction over trade, this week questioned the wisdom of consolidating agencies such as the U.S. Trade Representative's office and the U.S. Export-Import Bank that have different missions.

Zients tried to reassure skeptics that the administration would not try to force change if it did not make sense.

"We are clear that moving boxes around for the sake of moving boxes around is always a losing proposition, and that the benefits of anything that we propose have to be very clear and outweigh the obvious short-term costs," Zients said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer and Caren Bohan; Editing by Vicki Allen)