Obama Probably Will Combine Agencies in Second Term, Blank Says

President Barack Obama will probably revisit his proposal to consolidate several U.S. agencies including those handling trade and commerce if he wins a second term, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said.

Obama would ask Congress to give him the authority to streamline agencies including the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and trade functions of the Commerce Department, Blank said today at an event in Washington.

If lawmakers approve, “I believe that there will be a major effort to bring a reorganization of Commerce forward that integrates a lot of these other agencies in,” she said.

Obama in January asked Congress to consolidate some executive branch offices. In addition to those related to trade, the president is interested in creating an agency for data, including the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis, and a separate agency for innovation, which would include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Blank said.

The acting Commerce Secretary discussed other themes, including manufacturing, during her remarks today at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We have a unique opportunity to attract business investment into the United States in the immediate future, particularly in manufacturing,” she said.

A decline in natural gas prices since 2008, due to increased production from shale, is helping to promote investment in manufacturing in the U.S. and overseas, Blank said.

‘Enormous Advantage’

“This provides us with an enormous advantage as our natural gas costs drop relative to other countries,” she said.

Natural gas futures prices were trading at $3.310 per million British thermal units at 2:19 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down from a five-year high of $13.577 on July 3, 2008.

Blank said foreign investment in the U.S. from Europe and Asia will probably increase, due in part to a debt crisis in Europe.

“Chinese investment is very much welcome,” Blank said, while acknowledging that there are security risks from some nations including China.

“We do have to be cautious when there are certain countries where that investment may pose a problem for us,” she said.

Obama today barred a Chinese-owned company from building wind farms near a U.S. Navy installation in Oregon, the first time in 22 years that a president has blocked a transaction on national-security grounds.

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