Washington—Following up his comments during his State of the Union address to Congress in January, President Obama signed Tuesday an executive order creating the International Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) which will help ensure “a level playing field” for U.S. businesses.
“Robust monitoring and enforcement of U.S. rights under international trade agreements, and enforcement of domestic trade laws, are crucial to expanding exports,” Obama said, adding that the center would be under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Trade Representative.
One of the primary targets would be China which Obama has accused of lavishing subsidies on its companies and not doing enough to stop counterfeiting of American goods.
ITAC “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,” Obama added.
‘Counter Unfair Trade Practices’
The order comes during an election year when there’s added pressure to correct the huge trade deficit. Chinese imports account for more than 40% of the entire U.S. deficit, with China posting a $295.5 billion advantage in bilateral trade with the United States.
The issue has been the subject of debate among the Republican presidential candidates, too. Mitt Romney, for example, has pledged to take stronger action against China over its unfair currency practices if he were elected president.
China has rejected, calls from the United States and European Union to ease controls on its undervalued currency the yuan, saying any sudden change would adversely affect its economy.
The White House plans to spend $26 million dollars to hire 50 to 60 people to staff the new ITAC team, which will also draw on existing resources at the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury as well as the government’s intelligence agencies, reports said.
The administration has filed six cases at the World Trade Organization since taking office, or an average of two per year. Five of the cases have been against China.