[A2k] Complete FT article on Obama's picks for USTR and Commerce

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Apr 29 04:55:53 PDT 2013


Last updated: April 28, 2013 11:49 pm
Barack Obama cements focus on trade for second term
By Richard McGregor in Washington

Barack Obama has cemented the elevation of trade in his second-term agenda with the expected appointment of his top White House adviser on the global economy as the new US trade representative.

Michael Froman, 50, who had initially been expected to stay on as Mr Obama’s chief adviser for international economic affairs in the White House, will take over a significantly expanded trade agenda as the USTR.

Penny Pritzker, 53, who was Mr Obama’s finance co-chair for his 2008 presidential campaign, is also slated to be appointed as commerce secretary, a position she was in the running for in his first term before pulling out.

Forbes magazine ranks Ms Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, as the 271st richest person in the US, with wealth estimated at $1.85bn.

Mr Obama is due to formally announce their appointments this week, administration officials said. Both positions require Senate confirmation.

Mr Obama is on Monday also due to nominate Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, to be his next transportation secretary, a White House official told Reuters on Sunday. If confirmed by the US Senate, Mr Foxx would replace Ray LaHood, who has served as secretary since January 2009.

After a first term in which domestic priorities largely shunted aside an activist international economic policy, the administration has two large trade negotiations on its plate, an EU-US deal and also the trans-Pacific Partnership with Asia-Pacific countries.

Late in Mr Obama’s first term, in October 2011, Congress passed trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, but all three had been signed under George W. Bush, before they were renegotiated.

Daniel Price, who handled international economic policy under George W. Bush, said Mr Froman’s expected appointment “confirms that the trade will receive much higher priority in the second term”.

“Mr Froman as USTR is good news for all those wishing to see a more globally engaged United States,” he said.

The US-EU talks and the TPP negotiations have taken on an importance beyond trade, with a strategic dimension focused on China.

The TPP negotiation, which does not include China, binds Asia-Pacific countries more tightly to the US, while the EU have the potential to set fresh global standards for trade and cross-border regulation.

Both negotiations face formidable hurdles. US business and congressional leaders pressed the Obama administration this week to maintain a tough line in TPP talks that have gathered momentum following Japan’s bid this month to enter the pact.

Compared with the EU deal, the TPP faces greater domestic political opposition amid concerns the US could fail to secure real benefits for its companies, while exposing them to unwanted competition at home.

The stakes in the TPP talks were lifted this month when Japan made a bid to join the negotiations – increasing the potential economic impact of any deal, but also heightening concerns about its terms. Japanese auto imports are of particular concern in Congress.

All TPP countries have agreed to let Japan join the talks, though it will be some months before Tokyo will be allowed to participate directly in the discussions.

Mr Froman has previously worked as a banker and also in government, including in the Treasury during the Clinton administration.

Mr Froman’s crammed set of trade negotiations in the next two years could benefit from the support in Congress of Max Baucus, the Democratic chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr Baucus, a strong supporter of freer trade, announced last week he would not run for re-election in 2014 but is committed to an activist agenda in the meantime.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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