Obama budget seeks to boost trade enforcement

WASHINGTON (AP) ? President Barack Obama’s new budget proposal will ask Congress to devote millions for a new trade enforcement center and more U.S. inspectors in China as the administration takes aim at unfair trade practices abroad, a senior administration official said Saturday.

It’s all part of Obama’s focus on boosting U.S. manufacturing and exports as he tries to win over voters and improve the economy in this election year.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Monday’s release of the president’s 2013 budget blueprint, said the document will call for plowing $26 million into a new Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

The center, which Obama first announced in his State of the Union address last month, will seek to use international rules and U.S. laws to challenge unfavorable trade policies, including intellectual property violations and subsidies other countries give to favored industries. The administration’s primary concern is with China.

The idea is to bring trade enforcement functions now conducted by the Commerce Department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and others under one roof and significantly increase their resources. The administration foresees 50 to 60 staffers working for the center once it ramps up over the next two years, including new hires and workers detailed from elsewhere in government.

Obama also will ask Congress for $13 million for Customs and Border Protection to improve trade inspections and increase its focus on imports of unsafe, pirated or counterfeit products.

And his budget will seek $10 million for the Food and Drug Administration to increase its inspection and analytic capabilities, including the addition of 16 new officials in China and three more U.S.-based China analysts.

Although trade often enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill there’s no guarantee Republicans will go along with the new spending in a tight budget year. However, the administration plans to move forward with the new trade enforcement center regardless of congressional action on Obama’s spending requests, the official said.