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Obama Expected to Nominate U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce Secretary This Week

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

President Obama is expected to announce this week his intention to nominate Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative and Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary.

Froman currently serves as Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs and is generally regarded as an experienced negotiator with close access to the president. These traits are likely to be key to successfully concluding and then securing congressional approval of sweeping free trade agreements with 11 Asia-Pacific countries as well as the European Union. A Financial Times article quoted a former Bush administration official as saying that “Mr. Froman as USTR is good news for all those wishing to see a more globally engaged United States.”

Pritzker is a Chicago businesswoman who played significant roles in the president’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Press reports indicate that she was considered for the position of commerce secretary during Obama’s first term and has undergone a “long vetting process” this time around.

Both Commerce and USTR are currently without Senate-confirmed chiefs, as former USTR Ron Kirk departed in March and former Commerce Secretary John Bryson left for health reasons last summer. Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis is currently serving as acting USTR and will likely return to that post once Froman is confirmed. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank will take the position of chancellor of the University of Wisconsin this summer.

Still unclear is whom the president will nominate as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is currently being helmed by Acting Chief Operating Officer Thomas Winkowski after Acting Commissioner David Aguilar retired March 30.

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