President Obama will sign an executive order Wednesday mandating the government finish work on an electronic portal for small businesses to submit import and export information by the end of his second term.

The White House says the move would allow American companies to better compete in the global economy.

The order will mandate the completion of the International Trade Data System, a so-called “single-window” system that will allow businesses to submit in a centralized location all data required by the government to move goods across international borders, by December 2016.


Completion of the system would dramatically increase the rate at which legitimate goods can flow across the border, reducing costs and shipping times for the $3.8 trillion in goods imported and exported each year, the White House says. Now, businesses are regularly forced to submit duplicative forms to multiple federal agencies just to move goods into or out of the country.

“This new electronic system will speed up the shipment of American-made goods overseas, eliminate often duplicative and burdensome paperwork, and make our government more efficient,” the White House said in a statement.

Work on the system — which involves some 48 separate federal agencies — has been ongoing, but the White House says the program will benefit from a concrete deadline. The president is also ordering “enhanced transparency” in its implantation, forcing agencies to post their schedules for when they will transition from paper-based to electronic data collection.

Obama is also ordering the government to seek nongovernmental partners for a business council tasked with improving coordination between shippers and government agencies. The White House says the panel will suggest ways to cut red tape and reduce inefficiencies created by government in the supply chain.

The president will sign the executive order aboard Air Force One, as he heads to Toluca, Mexico, on Wednesday for a trip designed to strengthen trade ties with Canada and Mexico. 

During the visit, the president will look to assuage concerns over his ability to deliver on trade deals despite growing opposition among lawmakers in his own party. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have both signaled they would oppose current legislation providing Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the trade deals.

At the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Jay Carney downplayed the split, saying differing views on trade policy were the norm in Washington.

“The differing opinions on these matters are not new, and the fact that there are differing opinions within both parties is not new,” Carney said.

But the White House spokesman defended efforts to forge a Trans-Pacific free trade deal that would include America’s neighbors.

“The value in the kinds of trade agreements that, for example, we are trying to negotiate with the Pacific region is, I think, pretty self-evident when you look at the economic growth that that region represents, and the potential for American workers and American businesses through exports to capitalize on that growth through a trade agreement that would protect American workers and protect the environment,” Carney said.