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Update on Senior Trade Positions in Obama Administration

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

New senior officials who will influence the Obama administration’s trade policy moved toward taking up their positions this week, while an agriculture negotiator announced plans to leave.

- Jeh Johnson, who most recently served as general counsel for the Department of Defense, was confirmed by the Senate Dec. 16 as head of the Department of Homeland Security.

- The Senate Finance Committee favorably reported the nomination of Rhonda Schmidtlein, a former associate general counsel with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and most recently a consultant to the World Bank, to be a member of the International Trade Commission.

- Senate committees recently held confirmation hearings on Arun Kumar, who has been nominated as director of the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service after recently retiring as a partner from KPMG, and Cathy Novelli, a former USTR official and Apple executive tapped to take on the role of undersecretary of State for economic growth, energy and the environment.

- There have been no Senate hearings yet on the nomination of R. Gil Kerlikowske, who has served as director of national drug control policy since 2009, to be commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Acting CBP Commissioner Thomas Winkowski said recently he hoped Kerlikowske would be confirmed and in place by the time the next meeting of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of CBP is held in February.

- Islam Siddiqui, who currently serves as the chief agricultural negotiator at USTR, will step down in early 2014.

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