WASHINGTON – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association issued a statement Jan. 16 expressing concern about President Obama’s proposal to consolidate six government agencies working in areas of international trade and economics. The proposal, announced on Jan. 13, was aimed at boosting efficiency.

The full list of agencies affected is: The Department of Commerce’s “core business and trade functions”, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the US Trade and Development Agency.

“The President is proposing to consolidate those six departments and agencies into one Department with one website, one phone number and one mission – helping American businesses succeed,” according to a White House fact sheet. “One Department: there will be one Department where entrepreneurs can go from the day they come up with an idea and need a patent, to the day they start building a product and need a warehouse, to the day they are ready to export and need help breaking into new markets overseas.”

According to an NCBA statement from President Bill Donald: “NCBA has strong concerns about President Obama’s proposal to merge the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) with other trade agencies. NCBA maintains that USTR should remain an independent agency within the Executive Office of the President, focusing on trade negotiations, trade agreements and trade enforcement. USTR is vital to ensuring successful trade negotiations concerning US beef and other agricultural commodities with our global trade partners. USTR must be in a position to have direct access to the White House.

“By being an independent office within the White House, USTR serves an important role reducing trade barriers and advocating for free and fair trade for all sectors of the US economy. USTR has played a crucial role in expanding exports of US beef by ensuring the passage of free trade agreements and working to achieve science-based trade protocols.

“NCBA is extremely concerned that USTR’s ability to continue its effectiveness will be jeopardized if it is wrapped into the massive Department of Commerce. NCBA has a strong history of working closely with USTR on behalf of the beef industry. We strongly support the continuation of the current structure and functions of USTR,” the statement concluded.