President Obama’s FY2014 budget was released this morning, and it includes some mixed messages on trade. Perhaps most significantly, the budget proposal includes a plan to reorganize – and consolidate – the government’s trade functions. As outlined in the FY2014 budget proposal, the President would like to consolidate six primary business and trade agencies into a new Department. The new Department would include the Commerce Department’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. It would also incorporate related programs from a number of other departments, including the Agriculture Department’s business development programs, the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund program, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) statistical agency and industry partnership programs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The President outlined a similar proposal in his 2012 State of the Union address, with a resoundingly negative reaction from the business community. In response to that plan, the NAM joined more than 80 other business groups in a letter arguing that subsuming USTR into a broader trade and business government department would severely harm its credibility and hamper USTR’s ability to play its unique coordinating role within the U.S. government. USTR is statutorily responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade and direct investment policy as well as overseeing negotiations with other countries. The head of USTR is the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member who serves as the President’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues. The NAM continues to be troubled by this reorganization proposal, given the importance of trade to manufacturers in the United States.
In looking at the budget proposals for specific departments, the budget proposal would provide additional resources for trade promotion initiatives and agencies. The Commerce Department budget overview includes an increase for the International Trade Administration (ITA), with a proposed a budget of $520 – or a 14 percent increase over the 2012 enacted level. ITA helps promote U.S. trade and investment and also ensures fair trade through rigorous enforcement of trade laws and agreements. The agency is home to the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, which promotes U.S. exports and provides commercial diplomacy support for U.S. business interests around the world.
The Commerce Department’s budget proposal also supports the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative, with $112 million for the Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS) to help sustain export licensing and enforcement activities while moving toward a more predictable, efficient and transparent export control system. The proposal would give BIS an $11 million increase from the 2012 enacted level.
The State Department’s budget proposal includes $307 million for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, USTR, U.S. International Trade Commission and OPIC – a combined $46 million increase over the 2012 enacted level. The President’s budget proposal also includes $131 million for the Ex-Im Bank’s administrative expenses and Inspector General, a $37 million increase over the 2012 enacted level.