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New U.S. Trade Enforcement Agency Takes Shape

An executive order signed by President Barack Obama this week created a new trade enforcement agency within the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

First proposed in his January State of the Union address, the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) will serve as the primary forum within the federal government for USTR and other agencies to coordinate enforcement of U.S. trade rights. It will also encourage greater participation among U.S. workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers in the identification and reduction or elimination of unfair trade practices and barriers.

Although it will operate within the office of the USTR, the president's fiscal 2013 budget splits the agency's $26 million budget between that agency and the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration. "President Obama took a major step toward leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses today in establishing the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, a new trade enforcement unit to investigate unfair trading practices worldwide," said Commerce Secretary John Bryson. "The Commerce Department is committed to making it as easy as possible for U.S. businesses to build things here and sell them everywhere, because we know that when American businesses and workers get a fair shot, they can compete and win."

In his executive order, Obama stipulated that ITEC will coordinate enforcement matters with several other agencies, including the Departments of State, the Treasury, Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security.

"This new trade enforcement unit will better enable USTR and the Department of Commerce to join forces—with the support and collaboration of partner agencies like Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Treasury and the Intelligence Community—to ensure that America's trading partners play by the rules," said Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk. "It will help American workers and businesses compete and win on a fair global playing field."

Kirk will eventually choose ITEC's director, while Bryson will designate a deputy. The center will be ready to open within 90 days.

Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer