[A2k] Wall Street Journal: Obama Signs Order Targeting Unfair Trade Practices
thiru at keionline.org
Tue Feb 28 23:32:50 PST 2012
• CHINA NEWS
• FEBRUARY 29, 2012, 12:18 A.M. ET
Obama Signs Order Targeting Unfair Trade Practices
By JARED A. FAVOLE And TOM BARKLEY
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama signed an order Tuesday to create a task force to target unfair trade practices in countries such as China, as part of a strategy to more aggressively protect U.S. business interests abroad.
The executive order represents "a more aggressive 'whole-of-government' approach to getting tough on trade enforcement," a White House official said.
"I'm creating a Trade Enforcement Unit that will bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to investigate and counter unfair trade practices around the world, including by countries like China," Mr. Obama said in prepared remarks to a United Auto Workers convention in Washington.
The president first said he was going to create such a task force in his State of the Union Address in January, and some see his toughening stance on China as part of a re-election effort to bolster his position among the business community. Companies have long complained about intellectual and other business violations by China and other countries.
The task force also fits in with the president's theme of trying to show he is doing everything he can to lift the economy without needing Congress to step in.
"President Obama's action today marks the most significant commitment of resources and expertise devoted to trade enforcement since USTR was created over 50 years ago," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a conference call with reporters.
Mr. Kirk said the center would allow the administration to "double down" on its enforcement effort, which has already resulted in bringing World Trade Organization cases against China at twice the pace of the Bush administration. But the focus will be on quality, not quantity, targeting the most commercially significant trade barriers, he said.
Mr. Kirk will select the director of the center, which will be supported by a variety of U.S. agencies, including the Commerce, Treasury, Justice, State and Agriculture departments and intelligence community.
Commerce Secretary John Bryson, who will appoint the deputy director, said his department "is committed to making it as easy as possible for U.S. businesses to build things here and sell them everywhere, because we know that when American businesses and workers get a fair shot, they can compete and win."
The center is scheduled to be up and running in 90 days, including core personnel.
"I suspect you will find results in the very near term, in terms of the work of the center in addressing trade barriers," said Tim Reif, general counsel at USTR.
Housed at USTR, the center will include trade lawyers, researchers, economic analysts and foreign-based personnel. It is unclear whether some of the experts will be based in China.
The White House official said the task force will be required to coordinate with the intelligence community to exchange information about violations of trade agreements.
Write to Tom Barkley at tom.barkley at dowjones.com
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