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Obama signs order seeking to speed up export approvals

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the Safeway Distribution Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland February 18, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the Safeway Distribution Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland February 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday that will attempt to speed from days to minutes how quickly small businesses gain U.S. government approval for exports or imports.

The order, signed on Air Force One as Obama flew to Mexico to meet the Mexican and Canadian leaders, is the latest example of Obama using executive authority to act on his own where he can without needing congressional approval.

"Trade is critical to the nation's prosperity - fueling economic growth, supporting good jobs at home, raising living standards, and helping Americans provide for their families with affordable goods and services," the order said.

Obama's move has the aim of cutting the time needed for processing and approving for small businesses that export American-made goods.

His order is tantamount to a pledge to complete by December 2016, near the end of his presidency, the International Trade Data System, which aims to be a centralized online access point to connect U.S. Customs, the trade community and 47 government agencies.

The White House said in describing the move that businesses today must submit information to dozens of government agencies, often on paper forms, making businesses wait days for approval before moving goods across the border.

The new electronic system should reduce wait times to minutes and "will speed up the shipment of American-made goods overseas, eliminate often duplicative and burdensome paperwork, and make our government more efficient," a White House statement said.

Frustrated by government gridlock, Obama has vowed that this will be a "year of action," and that he will act on his own when he can to advance his agenda.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

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