Obama to weigh changes to U.S. trade agencies

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:22 PM
Obama to weigh changes to U.S. trade agencies

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will consider reorganizing the many agencies that focus on trade and exports as part of a broad effort to restructure the federal government that he will launch on Friday.

One option open to the administration is folding the Trade Representative's office into the Commerce Department, an idea favored by some private-sector experts.

Obama announced in his State of the Union address in January that he wanted to streamline federal agencies, including the twelve that focus on trade.

On Friday, he will call for a 90-day review government operations that will look not only at trade agencies but also at other areas of government that could be made more efficient through a reorganization.

"We're looking at ways to reorganize the federal government in order to boost U.S. global competitiveness," said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Any overhaul of government agencies would require approval by Congress.

The review comes as a vacancy is opening up at the helm of the Commerce Department. Obama has nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next ambassador to China, replacing Jon Huntsman who is stepping down at the end of April.

Trade Representative Ron Kirk is among the people Obama could consider for the Commerce job. Some Democrats say that, alternatively, Obama could seek to fill the job with a businessperson.

Separately, Obama on Thursday named several businesspeople to a board that will advise the administration on how to improve efficiency and cut down on waste in the government.

The board will be chaired by Jeffrey Zients, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Its first meeting is scheduled for Friday.

Obama named Motorola Solutions Chief Executive Greg Brown, Sabre Holdings CEO Sam Gilliland, former Pfizer Inc CEO Jeffrey Kindler, BET Networks CEO Debra Lee, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern and Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen.

He also named Symantec Corp CEO Enrique Salem, OSI Restaurant Partners CEO Elizabeth Smith, Cummins CEO Tim Solso and Aetna Chairman Ronald Williams, the White House said.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Patricia Zengerle, editing by Anthony Boadle)