Urge to Merge: Is Obama's Idea to Reorganize Trade and Commerce Good, Bad or Irrelevant?

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Wednesday at AEI, a panel of trade policy experts gathered to discuss President Obama's recent idea to merge six trade agencies into one agency that would focus on trade and competitiveness. Craig VanGrasstek called the proposal unexceptional given the government's recent attempts to reorganize trade; consistent, because it follows what has already been accomplished; and incomplete, since the proposal demands only one type of fast-track authority. Jitinder Kohli focused on the capacity of a government to control competitiveness effectively, asking, "Who is responsible for economic policy and what is the content of such policy?" Kohli also shared his personal experience of working at a U.K. agency where he focused on economic policy.


John Murphy addressed two concerns that the business community has regarding the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the president's administration: first, the office should not be moved out of the executive office of the president, as doing so would weaken its ability to negotiate trade-liberalizing agreements; and second, the Obama administration seemingly has more interest in the political value of the legislation than in gaining congressional support. Gary Horlick agreed with many of the other panelists' ideas and argued that, despite the USTR's effectiveness, a single U.S. trade agency is an impossible idea. AEI's Claude Barfield concluded with a brief statement on U.S. competitiveness and areas the nation needs to focus on to maintain its competitiveness, such as long-term tax policy, regulation and education.

Event Description
As part of a bid for renewed authority to streamline government, the White House wants to merge six agencies into one bureaucracy focused on trade and competitiveness. The plan has sparked substantial criticism from the U.S. business and trade policy communities. An expert panel will weigh in on the controversy and evaluate President Obama's reorganization proposal.

If you cannot attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be available within 24 hours

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