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WASHINGTON — President Obama signed an executive order Tuesday establishing his new Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, which officials said will be staffed within the next 90 days.

This story first appeared in the February 29, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The center will be housed within the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and draw support from several agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, as well as from the intelligence community.

Its aim is to intensify efforts to crack down on unfair trade practices by all trading partners, but most notably China.

The center will “build on the strong track record of enforcement over the last three years…strengthening the international playing field by bringing a dedicated whole government approach to addressing unfair trade practices and more significantly enhancing the administration’s capability to challenge foreign trade barriers,” said Michael Froman, deputy assistant to the President and deputy national security advisor for international affairs. “The [executive order] will increase the resources devoted exclusively to trade enforcement, while leveraging existing resources more efficiently across the administration.”

USTR Ron Kirk said, “With the ITEC announcement today, we are doubling down on the administration’s commitment to strong trade enforcement. We’ll bring more resources to bear on the most commercially significant challenges facing our producers, as well as emerging issues that have important implications for the future of our rules-based global trading system. The ITEC will also enable us to investigate and enforce trade cases on a scale commensurate with the growing complexity of today’s global economy. With additional resources, we’ll be better able to shine the spotlight on trade practices that distort markets and inhibit U.S. exports.”

Froman said USTR and the Commerce Department will both lead the new center. Kirk will select the director of the center, while Commerce Secretary John Bryson will choose the deputy director. James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, will select the intelligence community liaison.

The center will also be staffed with trade litigators, economic analysts, language proficiency experts and foreign-based personnel. Obama requested $26 million in new funding for the center in his 2013 budget proposal, which faces a tough road ahead because it must ultimately be approved by a highly divisive Congress. In the interim, officials said they are redirecting existing funding to “kick-start” the creation of the center.

“We will bring an aggressive government-wide approach to trade enforcement,” said Bryson. “Our plan is to link, leverage and align the resources we already have in a number of these agencies and add even more resources.”