An elderly couple sit on a bench by Lake Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (Photographer: Michele Limina/Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday directing his administration to make it easier for small businesses to band together to set up retirement-savings plans.

“Small businesses will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage and small business workers will be treated more fairly,” Trump said at a signing ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina. The “will be able to pool their resources so they’ll have the same purchasing power -- or even more, frankly -- as large businesses.”

The order is designed to cut some of the administrative burdens and costs that can discourage smaller employers from offering 401k plans for their workers, administration officials said Thursday. Trump’s order directs the Labor and Treasury Departments to study the issue and offer new rules, they said.

One area the Labor Department will look at, the officials said, is expanding criteria for so-called multiple employer plans. Currently they are limited to companies that share common characteristics, such as operating in the same industry, a requirement that could be changed so more firms could participate.

Among the regulations the Treasury will review are those governing minimum distributions retirees must take from their 401ks and Individual Retirement Accounts, the officials said. Those may be lowered so that savers can keep more money invested for a longer time.

The review by Labor and the Treasury could take months, the officials said, adding that public comments would be solicited before new regulations are approved.

--With assistance from Robert Schmidt and Margaret Collins.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua Gallu, Mike Dorning

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.