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Obama: Merge Trade, Commerce Agencies

January 13, 2012

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.

The 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.

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