Commerce budget would create new trade enforcement center

The Obama administration signaled its intent to get tough on trade in its budget proposal for the Commerce Department, pledging funding for a new trade enforcement arm a day before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet with President Obama.

The president is seeking a 5 percent increase to the Commerce budget, to $8 billion.

The Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, highlighted in the president’s State of the Union address in January, would challenge unfair trade practices around the world. It would be funded with $26 million in new money through the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. At least 50 people would staff the panel, monitoring and enforcing trade agreements and laws, officials said.

The panel would oversee all foreign trade, but Obama singled out China as a source of concern in his State of the Union address.

The budget also seeks new money for satellite systems for weather prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, resources to speed up approvals at the Patent and Trademark Office and money to enhance the competitiveness of manufacturing.

The budget does not reflect the president’s proposal to combine all of the federal agencies that deal with trade into one organization. A Commerce official said the administration is waiting for approval from Congress to move ahead with the reorganization.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

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