WASHINGTON — President Obama proposed increasing federal funding to strengthen trade enforcement, open new markets for U.S. exports, strengthen U.S. defenses against cyber attacks and crack down on counterfeit products in the federal budget blueprint he submitted to Congress on Monday.
Obama’s $4 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 that begins Oct. 1 would increase funding for trade agencies and also reiterated a previous proposal to reorganize and merge several trade agencies into one consolidated mega-department.
Obama’s plan is not expected to be enacted in its entirety, because Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, oppose many of the President’s proposals and plan to write and pass their own spending legislation this year. But administration officials said Monday there could be common ground on specific proposals, such as corporate tax reform and trade. The budget blueprint also sent a signal to the business community that the President is placing an emphasis on international trade.
The White House is in a full court press to get presidential Trade Promotion Authority, seen as a crucial tool the President needs to conclude free trade negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and advance a trans-Atlantic trade pact with the European Union. Under TPA, Congress can only vote up or down on a trade agreement, which gives the administration leverage with trading partners who will know they can make their final offers without Congress changing the deal.
“The budget provides resources to help deepen U.S. trade in the Asia-Pacific region as the U.S. leads the way in negotiating the high-standard TPP with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which will boost American exports and create jobs at home by promoting strong rules to protect labor, the environment and intellectual property,” the administration said in the budget.
Obama’s fiscal blueprint would increase the budgets of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, two key agencies that work closely with the industry. The International Trade Administration, a division of Commerce that is leading the President’s National Export Initiative and also houses the Office of Textiles and Apparel, would receive a $25 million boost in funding to $497 million under the President’s proposal.
Obama’s budget would maintain a funding level of $15 million for the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center that addresses unfair trade practices and barriers. It would also maintain funding of $20 million for the SelectUSA program that promotes reshoring and attracting foreign investment. The proposal would increase USTR’s budget to $56 million from $54.2 million as it wraps up TPP talks and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.
In the plan to consolidate trade agencies and programs into one department, pending Congressional approval, Commerce’s core business and trade functions, USTR, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and U.S. Trade and Development Agency would be combined.
Customs and Border Protection, which makes seizures of counterfeit goods and monitors cargo containers and the flow of commerce through U.S. ports, would see an increase in funding to $11 billion from the current level of $10.5 billion. Obama also proposed $14 billion in funding for several agencies overseeing cyber security, in the wake of a string of online attacks against government assets and the private sector.