Wilbur Ross seeks bigger budget for trade enforcement

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Appropriations Subcommittee about the newly released 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that a $5.5 million increase requested for the agency’s enforcement budget this year will have a “real impact” in cracking down on unfair trade practices and export security violations.

Ross told a House Appropriations subcommittee that an additional $4.5 million requested by the Trump Administration for the International Trade Administration’s enforcement and compliance section will fund 29 new positions whose primary focus will be the self-initiation of antidumping and antisubsidy investigations.

Ross has pledged to have the Commerce Department take the lead in launching trade cases on behalf of industries that lack the resources or the organization to pursue them.

“We will ensure that no country or foreign corporation can take unfair advantage of U.S. markets,” Ross said.

The enforcement increases are contained in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget requests, which propose deep cuts to food assistance, health care and other social programs along with increases in military spending.

Commerce also would get a $1 million increase in funding for the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the division that enforces export controls on sensitive technologies. Ross said this would fund 19 new special agents at the division that took the lead in an investigation that led to a criminal fine of $1.19 billion against China's ZTE 000063.SZ for violating trade sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

“BIS took the lead in cracking this case open. So I am confident that these 19 additional agents, and the bandwidth they represent, will have real impact,” Ross said.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by David Gregorio