President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, spent Thursday on Capitol Hill telling the Senate Committee on Finance that his goals of promoting growth and bolstering the economy will be achieved by renewing Trade Promotion Authority and making sure pending free-trade agreements come to fruition.
Obama tapped Froman, who has been serving as deputy national security advisor for international trade and economics, to run the agency on May 22. According to reports, Froman is expected to have no problems being confirmed by the Senate.
Trade Promotion Authority, which was passed by Congress in 2002 but expired in 2007, would allow for the administration to pass trade deals through Congress that are not open for amendments. By only allowing a yes or no vote on each bill, the trade deals would be fast-tracked through the system.
“TPA is a critical tool,” he told the committee. “I look forward to working with you to craft a bill that achieves our shared goals.”
His views on TPA are shared by a swath of U.S. business owners who, late last month, banded together to form the Trade Benefits America Coalition. Composed of eight trade associations, the group pledges to work with Congress to help pass TPA.
In addition to opening up new markets to U.S. trade and strengthening trade with the country’s current partners, Froman said he wants to make sure current trade laws are enforced and correctly implemented.
Ultimately, though, the best way to boost trade growth is to pursue free-trade agreements. A number of agreements currently in the pipeline would help accomplish Obama’s goal of doubling 2010 exports by 2015. Two of the biggest contracts the office of the U.S. Trade Representative is working on are the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“All of these negotiations are designed to strengthen the multilateral, rules-based trading system and press it to achieve the highest possible aspirations,” he said. “If we can conclude these agreements — and let me be clear, my view is that it is better to accept no agreement than a bad agreement — we will have positioned the United States at the center of a network of agreements creating free trade with 65 percent of the global economy," he said. "It is among the most ambitious trade agendas in history.”
Trade groups seem to be behind Froman's nomination, if a little wary of the direction that might be taken moving forward. A statement from the United Auto Workers pointed to Froman’s seasoned international negotiating work and his experience engaging with Chinese, Indian, Japanese and European officials on trade.
“Under the leadership of this respected international economic diplomat, we look forward to more engagement on trade policies that re-invigorate our manufacturing base, eliminate unbalanced trade and create good, quality jobs for America’s working families,” the UAW said.
Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said his group has some reservations about how trade regulations have been pursued in the past, but has worked well with Froman while he was serving in different roles with the administration.
"Michael has engaged us directly, made clear that our voices will be heard and indicated that he will work with us to identify how we can reform and update our nation's trade policies,” Gerard said in a statement. “Much work remains, and we don't know what the end result will be, but we do know that Michael will be an engaged, responsive and honest broker of the president's policies." - Jon Ross