Administration officials visiting Atlanta last week bitterly attacked Republican proposals in the U.S. Congress to break up the Department of Commerce and relegate its trade operations to a new bureaucratic entity, the United States Trade Administration.

“I think it’s a tragic irony that when the Commerce Department finally is doing the job it is supposed to do, there are those who want to demolish it,” said Philip Lader, a South Carolina businessman who serves in the President’s Cabinet and is the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Mr. Lader, formerly president of Sea Pines Co., a developer/operator of recreational communities, and later an executive vice president of Sir James Goldsmith’s U.S. holding company, was in Atlanta to attend ceremonies marking the opening of the U.S. Export Assistance Center here.

He praised the efforts of the Commerce Department to place the country’s commercial interests, including those of small to medium-sized businesses, on the country’s foreign policy agenda.

David J. Barram, deputy secretary at the Commerce DEPARTMENT, said that U.S. companies must receive the same support from the U.S. government as companies from other countries receive from their governments in their efforts to enter foreign markets.  He pointed to the export center as part of this policy.

Under some of the Congressional proposals, the newly opened center in Atlanta and 14 others being developed around the country would be closed.