U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to allow him to merge the
country’s sprawling foreign trade and commerce agencies to speed the
government’s transactions with businesses and consumers.
The U.S. leader said Friday in a White House speech that lawmakers
should give him the power to reshape and shrink federal agencies to his
liking, authority past U.S. presidents have had, but not since 1984. As
part of that effort, he called for combining six agencies that deal with
the nation’s economy, the world’s largest.
Mr. Obama told a group of small business owners that “the government we
have is not the government we need.” He noted that five agencies deal
with housing issues, and a dozen with food safety, while two different
agencies regulate salmon catches depending on whether they are swimming
in fresh water or saltwater.
White House said merging the business agencies could streamline
government services, as well as cut 1,000 to 2,000 jobs as workers
routinely retire or leave their jobs and save $3 billion over the next
decade. With many American voters saying the national government has
grown too large and spends too much, the merger proposal could prove
politically popular for Mr. Obama as he faces a contentious re-election
contest in November.
But opposition Republicans in Congress have often rebuffed his ideas and
it is far from certain that they will give him the new government
reorganization authority or approve his business agency merger plan. The
Democratic president first broached the idea nearly a year ago in his
State of the Union address to Congress.
Under Mr. Obama’s plan, the Commerce Department’s business and trade
functions would be merged with agencies dealing with small businesses,
overseas trade, the financing of exports and imports, private overseas
investment and trade and development.