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Commerce Secretary, Other Trade Nominees Confirmed by Senate

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Senate late last week confirmed several nominees to trade-related positions in the Obama administration. Republican senators had vowed to block these nominations to force action on legislation to implement free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, which were signed into law by the president Oct. 21.

John Bryson is the new secretary of Commerce and, according to a statement by Obama, will be responsible for “working with the business community to promote job creation, foster growth, and help open up new markets around the world for American-made goods.” Bryson served as chairman and chief executive officer of utility and energy company Edison International from 1990 to 2008. Most recently he was a director of several large corporations, chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy and the Public Policy Institute of California, and co-chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy. At the start of his career he was a co-founder and attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Michael Punke was confirmed as deputy U.S. trade representative and U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, a position to which he was recess appointed in March 2010. Punke has worked in international trade law and policy for two decades, mostly recently advising clients on trade issues through his own consulting firm. From 1995 to 1996, he served as senior policy advisor at USTR, covering issues ranging from agricultural trade to intellectual property protection. From 1993 to 1995, he served at the White House as director for international economic affairs. From 1991 to 1992 he was international trade counsel to Sen. Max Baucus, then chairman of the Finance Committee’s International Trade Subcommittee.

Islam Siddiqui, also recess appointed in March 2010, was confirmed as chief agricultural negotiator at USTR. Siddiqui was previously vice president for science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, where he was responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals. Earlier in his career, he served in various capacities at the Department of Agriculture, including as under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs and senior trade advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman.

Paul Piquado, previously deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for antidumping and countervailing duty policy and negotiations, is now head of the Commerce Department’s Import Administration. Earlier in his career he served as executive director of the Office of Trade Policy for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where he served as the principal advisor to Gov. Ed Rendell on international trade and investment policy matters and also served as an advisor to USTR’s Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on Trade.

Several other trade-related nominations remain outstanding and their fate remains unclear. These include David S. Johanson as a member of the International Trade Commission, Eric Hirschhorn as chief of the Bureau of Industry and Security, and Alan Bersin as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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