January 13, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:
The Obama Administration’s efforts to consolidate U.S. Government trade agencies into a more streamlined, efficient single entity are commendable. The goal of consolidation should be to increase coherence, effectiveness and accountability, and we have long argued that similar activities could strengthen the U.S. development system.
But any actions of this type must be done carefully and deliberately, and we are concerned that elements of the trade agency consolidation plan may hinder progress towards these goals. Two of the agencies in the plan – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) – are explicitly committed to advancing economic development and opportunity in emerging economies, as a way of promoting U.S. foreign policy. In contrast, the mission of larger agencies such as the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce are to promote exports from the United States, to open markets overseas, to negotiate trade agreements and to enforce existing trade laws and regulations.
We believe it is critical that agencies involved in consolidation share fundamental missions. Taking this into account, it would be more appropriate for OPIC and USTDA to be included in a discussion of reorganizing and consolidating the development system, within which their unique expertise as facilitators with the U.S. private sector is enormously important to the future of our global engagement. We hope to have the opportunity to work with the Administration and Congress on these important issues.