WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to place "regulatory reform" task forces and officers within federal agencies in what may be the most far reaching effort to pare back U.S. red tape in recent decades.
Trump signed the directive in the Oval Office with chief executives of major U.S. corporations standing behind him including Dow Chemical Co DOW.N, Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and U.S. Steel Corp (X.N).
The sweeping order directs every federal agency to establish a task force to ensure each has a team to research all regulations and take aim at those deemed burdensome to the U.S. economy and designate regulatory reform officers within 60 days and must report on the progress within 90 days.
"Excessive regulation is killing jobs, driving companies out of our country like never before," Trump said before signing the order. "Every regulation should have to pass a simple test; does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers?"
The effort is part of a Republican push to undo many of the actions of former President Barack Obama, who left office last month after two four-year terms.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan created a presidential task force on regulatory relief but that effort did not establish task forces at the cabinet level. Other presidents including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, carried out attempts to reduce or streamline government regulations.
Trump's order requires agencies to "measure and report progress in achieving the president’s directives." Each task force will make recommendations on which regulations to repeal or simplify, Trump said.
The order says agencies should seek to repeal regulations that "inhibit job creation," are "ineffective," impose costs that exceed benefits or "create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory initiatives and policies."
Trump on Friday said the United States does not need "75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs."
The Republican has vowed a sweeping cut in U.S. regulations and previously ordered agencies to repeal two rules for every new one adopted.
Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon told a gathering of conservatives on Thursday that deregulation, which he called "the deconstruction of the administrative state," was a top priority for the administration.
Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group, said "this order is a directive to kill the safeguards Americans depend on for clean air, drinkable water and safe food."
The Trump administration says executive orders from the previous government cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The Obama administration said the benefits of those regulations to the public far outweighed the costs.
The White House said the Obama administration finalized more than 3,000 regulations. Many of those were required by Congress.
Robert Verchick, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, a think tank, criticized Trump's new order as "clearly aimed at embedding his overtly political, anti-protections agenda at federal agencies that are supposed to be using science and expertise to safeguard us all."
U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Neil Bradley praised the Trump administration for "tackling the regulatory state head on.... We look forward to working with the federal agencies to help identify rules that harm the economy and threaten jobs."
The order Trump signed in January sets an annual cap on the cost of new regulations but does not apply to most financial reform rules introduced by the Obama administration.
The Trump administration also ordered a freeze on regulations pending review and has stopped some regulations from taking effect.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Alistair Bell)