By and  on February 2, 2010

WASHINGTON — President Obama proposed more money for trade enforcement and export promotion but called for the elimination of a program for wool manufacturers in the $3.83 trillion federal budget he submitted to Congress on Monday.

Obama decreased the outlay for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is responsible for negotiating foreign trade pacts, by $1 million to $48 million.

“This budget reflects this administration’s commitment to a leaner fiscal outlook,” USTR Ron Kirk said. “But this budget still invests in sustained efforts to enforce Americans’ trade rights around the world and to enhance economic opportunity here at home.”

The Commerce Department’s Import Administration, which monitors textiles and apparel and investigates antidumping and countervailing duty trade cases, received an additional $4 million to $73 million. The International Trade Administration said its outlay rose about 20 percent to $534.3 million to help the agency with efforts to promote exports.

“The administration continues to have an emphasis on enforcement issues,” said Steve Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “It might be their expectation that there are still going to be antidumping and countervailing duty cases filed throughout the coming year.”

The spending proposal seeks to eliminate or reduce expenditures for a total of 120 programs for an estimated savings of $23 billion. One of the initiatives targeted for elimination is the “Wool Trust Fund,” which could adversely affect U.S. wool fabric producers and apparel and suit makers.

Under the program, U.S. companies are eligible for a limited refund of duties paid on wool imports, in addition to funding for improvements in wool production methods and development of the wool market. Spending was cut in this fiscal year to $5 million from $10 million.

“There are over 120,000 workers in the U.S. that either produce wool fiber, make wool into fabric and/or cut and sew wool garments,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “This program is designed to stabilize that critical sector of the industry and it’s just bewildering because this president says he wants to create jobs. This proposal could actually cost tens of thousands of jobs.”

U.S. Customs & Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, which seizes counterfeit goods shipped through U.S. ports, received a $70,000 boost to $9.64 billion. The administration is also requesting funds for 300 new Customs officers for passenger and cargo screening at ports of entry.

Funding for key programs at the Department of Labor received increases. The administration boosted its request for the enforcement of wage and hour standards governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act by $40 million to $275 million. The International Labor Affairs division received an increase of $22 million to $115 million.

The president, who is struggling with a still weakened economy, 10 percent unemployment and a federal deficit estimated at $1.56 trillion this year, is putting greater emphasis on economic initiatives in the 2011 fiscal year budget that begins Oct. 1.

Obama proposed $100 billion in spending for job creation and small business tax cut. To reduce deficits, he called for imposing new fees on some of the nation’s largest banks and allowing tax cuts to expire at the end of the year for families earning more than $250,000 a year.

“It’s a budget that reflects the serious challenges facing the country,” Obama said.

Democratic leaders in Congress, with majorities in the House and Senate, will submit their own budget proposals later this year and some have already expressed an unwillingness to commit to the president’s proposed three-year spending freeze.

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