January 24, 2012President Barack ObamaThe White House1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.Washington, D.C. 20500Dear Mr. President:On behalf of U.S. small, medium and large enterprises representing a wide segment of the business andagricultural communities engaged in international trade and investment, we are writing to express deepconcerns over your
proposal to merge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative withfive other agencies responsible for business and trade into one single cabinet-level department. Whilenot collectively taking a position on your request for reorganization authority, our organizations stronglyvalue the goals of creating more efficient and better-functioning government agencies that will betteradvance U.S. competitiveness in the international economy.At the outset, we would like to underscore the critical importance of U.S. international trade andeconomic engagement. The United
States is the world’s largest trading nation and has enjoyed
enormous prosperity in large part because of the policies on trade and investment liberalization itadopted in 1934 and thereafter, which is the mission of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)to pursue. Over the last decade, U.S. trade in agricultural, consumer and manufactured goods andservices has accounted for an increasing share of U.S. economic growth and has contributed significantlyto the high standard of living enjoyed by American workers and their families, in no small part due to thetrade and market-opening agreements USTR has negotiated.
With 95 percent of the world’s populationand about 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside U.S. borders, trade and investment
vital to grow America’s industries, jobs and economy. The U.S. government’s role i
n international tradepolicy, negotiations, enforcement and promotion is highly important and raises very complex issues onwhich a broad range of stakeholders within government and outside has strong interests.While we are still assessing the breadth and potential impact of the proposal, we would like to share ourimmediate concerns about one aspect of the trade-agency reorganization proposal: the apparentelimination of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as a separate entity underthe Executive Office of the President. This extremely efficient, focused and effective entity was firstcreated in 1962, at the request of Congress, and then expanded in 1974 when Congress officially createdUSTR, where it negotiates, enforces and administers the U.S. trade agreements program and is directlyaccountable to both the President and Congress. USTR also plays an invaluable role in coordinating themany different entities within the U.S. government that have specialized trade functions based on theirown expertise. This role in balancing the interests of various constituencies and agencies helps provideassurance to all stakeholders that no one has a thumb on the scale, or that important commercialinterests will be traded for other unrelated policy objectives, including foreign policy.Congress and the business and agricultural communities have often noted the importance of havingUSTR as a separate entity within the Office of the President, so that it can act responsively to negotiate,implement and enforce U.S. trade objectives. For the U.S. agricultural and business communities, USTRhas played a highly important role that has grown U.S. exports, eliminated foreign market barriers andimproved the overall competitiveness of U.S. farm and manufactured goods and services in theinternational economy.