On February 14, 2011, President Obama sent his 2012 budget request to Congress. Consistent with the themes sounded in the President's State of the Union address, the budget provides increased funding for numerous trade programs.
The budget favors in particular the National Export Initiative, with a proposed $109 million increase in funding. The U.S. Department of Commerce ("Commerce") would receive the bulk of these funds to support manufactured exports. Commerce also expects to benefit from smaller funding increases proposed for (1) the International Trade Administration's ("ITA") Market Access group, which assists U.S. exporters; (2) ITA's Import Administration group, which administers the trade remedy laws; and (3) the Bureau of Industry and Security, which controls high-technology exports. Eliminated from Commerce's budget are the emergency steel guaranteed loan program and trade adjustment assistance ("TAA") for firms and communities. TAA for individuals and special TAA funding for training through community colleges will continue to be funded.
The Administration also requests increased funding for two programs administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("Customs"): (1) cargo release functionality in Customs' Automated Commercial Environment and (2) pilot cargo screening. The Administration also proposes funding increases for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
The bipartisan U.S. International Trade Commission ("ITC") has requested a $5 million (6 percent) budget increase for 2012. The ITC handles a range of trade-related functions, including the adjudication of disputes under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. Among other things, Section 337 provides U.S. patent and trademark holders a means for expedited relief from imports that infringe U.S. intellectual property ("IP") rights. The ITC's Section 337 caseload has increased substantially in recent years. Nonetheless, in January 2011, the ITC Chairman, Deanna Okun, outlined a series of cut-backs in the agency's adjudication of these cases. In particular, the ITC's Office of Unfair Imports, which is staffed with IP specialists, would focus its resources in support of specific goals: (1) expeditious adjudication of cases; (2) representation of the public interest; (3) expertise on domestic industry issues; and (4) briefing IP issues where there are a limited number of respondents.
Separately, the Administration is studying options for reorganizing the government's trade functions. On January 30, 2011, the White House tasked Jeffrey D. Zients, the new U.S. Chief Performance Officer, to lead this effort. Lisa Brown, a White House official who led the Obama-Biden transition team's analysis of U.S. government operations, also will be involved. It is possible that the Administration's plans would be guided by a report issued by the Center for American Progress, which discussed consolidating certain Commerce agencies, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. No timetable has been set for recommendations.