Obama pushes agencies to streamline export-import process

Wednesday - 2/19/2014, 4:25pm EST

President Barack Obama is pushing the dozens of agencies that have a hand in the export-import process to speed up processing times and eliminate redundant paperwork requests that often hamper American companies.

Currently, businesses interested in importing or exporting goods must submit reams of paperwork to as many as 48 different federal agencies.

In an executive order signed aboard Air Force One on his way to a trade summit in Mexico, Obama pledged the federal government would finish building an electronic "single-window" system for companies engaged in the export-import process by December 2016.

The International Trade Data System (ITDS) aims to reduce costs for both businesses and the government and to allow agencies to obtain shipping information more quickly and reliably.

"By demonstrating our commitment to utilizing technology, coordinating government processes, fulfilling international obligations, and embracing innovative approaches to promote new opportunities for trade facilitation in the 21st century, we can lead by example and partner with other countries willing to adopt similar programs," the order stated.

The 2006 SAFE Port Act called for the creation of a new one-stop electronic system, to be maintained and operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. However, the system has been beset by delays and funding problems.

An annual update on the project issued to Congress last month cited "significant progress" on key elements of the new system. Still, in recent years, budget constraints led to the elimination of about 30 contractor support staffers in the ITDS program office who haven't been replaced.

The latest effort is similar in some ways to the launch of BusinessUSA.gov in January 2012, which consolidated into a single online platform information for small-business owners seeking government resources.

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