Trade cheats beware: new U.S. team will come after you: Kirk

Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:43am EST
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By Warren Strobel

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - A new team of U.S. trade enforcers will make countries think twice about putting up unfair barriers to American exports, President Barack Obama's top trade official said.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters that the team, announced by Obama last week, will include intelligence officials as well as representatives of other agencies in order to beef up U.S. resources and crack open markets.

"We want to make sure we aren't resource-constrained. Other countries know our budget and our resources ... and so they'll game the system because they know that we're very discriminating on which cases we make," Kirk said in an interview.

"We don't want them to make ... that bet that we don't have the resources to come after them if they're intentionally and unfairly discriminating against American exporters," Kirk said, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He did not identify countries that could attract the attention of the unit, but Obama is under pressure to show business and voters he is taking a tough stance against China.

Republican presidential candidates have slammed Obama's handling of Beijing ahead of November's elections.

The U.S. trade deficit with China is expected to have hit a record of about $300 billion in 2011. Obama has set a target of doubling total U.S. exports between 2010 and 2015.

Kirk's office negotiates and enforces trade deals. But it has only about 250 employees, which could tempt countries to think they can flout world trade rules, Kirk said.   Continued...

<p>EU Trade Commission Karel De Gucht (R) and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk attend a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 28, 2012. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>