President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday establishing an Interagency Task Force on Commercial Advocacy.

Obama said he took the action “in order to help level the playing field on behalf of U.S. businesses and workers competing for international contracts against foreign firms and to facilitate.”

The order builds on 2010 executive order 13534 creating the National Export Initiative, "which provides unprecedented Federal support for exports of goods and services by American businesses. "

The new executive order's policy reads in part:

“The creation of a new whole-of-government commercial advocacy task force that will provide enhanced Federal support for U.S. businesses competing for international contracts, coordinate the efforts of executive branch leadership in engaging their foreign counterparts on commercial advocacy issues, and increase the availability of information to the U.S. business community about these kinds of export opportunities, will ensure that U.S. exporters have more support for selling their goods and services in global markets."

The task force, short for a new bureaucracy, will be headed by the Commerce secretary, but will also include senior officials from State, Defense, Treasury, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and other agencies.

According to the executive order, the functions of the new task force are:

(a) review and prioritize commercial advocacy cases in which the Advocacy Center at the Department of Commerce has approved the provision of commercial advocacy services, and coordinate the activities of relevant agencies to enhance Federal support for such cases, in order to increase the success of U.S. exporters competing for foreign procurements;

(b) coordinate the engagement of agency leadership with their foreign counterparts regarding commercial advocacy issues, particularly with respect to their foreign travel and other occasions for engagement with foreign officials, and evaluate reports on the outcomes of such engagement, in order to increase the number of senior-level agency officials regularly and effectively advocating on behalf of U.S. exporters;

(c) develop strategies to raise the awareness of commercial advocacy assistance within the U.S. business community in order to increase the number of U.S. businesses utilizing commercial advocacy services;

(d) institute processes to obtain and distribute information about foreign procurement opportunities that may be of interest to U.S. businesses in order to expand awareness of opportunities for U.S. businesses to sell their goods and services to foreign governments;

(e) facilitate voluntary short-term personnel exchanges, not to exceed 120 days, between the Department of Commerce and other Task Force agencies, in order to cross-train Federal personnel to better serve U.S. exporters; and

(f) submit a progress report to the Export Promotion Cabinet every 180 days, which should include, but not be limited to, the number of commercial advocacy cases opened and successfully concluded, the number of commercial advocacy engagements by senior-level agency officials, and the number of U.S. businesses utilizing commercial advocacy services. The Advocacy Center at the Department of Commerce will be responsible for managing and tracking all commercial advocacy reporting for the Task Force.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, "The executive order, signed today by President Obama, creating an Interagency Task Force on Commercial Advocacy will help American businesses compete more effectively overseas. This is an important step in the ongoing effort by this Administration to ensure a level playing field for American companies seeking to do business abroad and export their goods."

"House Democrats have been working over the past two years, through our Make It In America jobs plan, to pass legislation that helps our businesses access foreign markets and turn overseas profits into investments in jobs and growth here at home," he continued. "There are limits to what President Obama can do on his own, and it is up to the House Republican leadership to build on today's executive order by allowing Make It In America bills to be considered on the Floor - where I believe they will garner strong, bipartisan support."

A fact sheet that was released claims that there will be "No New Costs. This Executive Order builds upon and coordinates existing programs to create a whole-of-government efficiency that can best compete against state-supported international competitors."

Right. This is a brand new task force that won't incur additional costs. Is anyone buying this? I'm not. There is nothing efficient about government. Anything and everything they put their hands too ends up costing more, takes longer to do, and just becomes more complicated.

In addition, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said, "Through this new task force, we will bring to bear the resources and engagement of over a dozen Federal agencies. Together, we will help level the playing field for U.S. exporters with regard to their foreign competitors."

"We’re going to provide stronger commercial diplomacy, better market intelligence, heightened visibility of new opportunities, and better access to all of the tools and resources that agencies provide, including financing and technical assistance," she said.

Anyone else familiar with that "level the playing field" phraseology? That's right. It means government involvement to bring someone down in order to the level of someone below them. Anyone want to guess that this will inevitably bring U.S. companies down to the level of their foreign competitors?

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