Senate backs Froman as next trade representative

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Froman, a senior White House economic adviser and classmate of President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, on Wednesday won Senate confirmation to be the next U.S. trade representative.

The confirmation vote was 93-4, elevating the 50-year-old Froman to the head of an agency now involved in two of the most significant trade deals in recent history.

“In his new position, Mike will stay focused on our primary economic goals – promoting growth, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class,” Obama said in a statement lauding the Senate’s action. “And he will continue to help open new markets for American businesses, level the playing field for American workers, farmers and ranchers, and fully enforce our trade rights.”

Voting against From were an independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and three Democrats: Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren said in a floor speech that she was voting against the nominee because he would not commit to more transparency on positions taken by the United States and other countries in trade negotiations.

“I believe we need a new direction from the trade representative, a direction that prioritizes transparency and public debate,” she said.

Froman, nominated by Obama in May, succeeds former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who resigned as USTR in February after serving through Obama’s first term and finalizing free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

Froman has been serving as deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs and has been involved in coordinating White House policy on international trade, investments and energy.

When he announced Froman’s nomination, Obama credited him with helping negotiate the three free trade agreements.

One of his main responsibilities as USTR will be meeting a goal to complete negotiations this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asian-Pacific trading bloc that includes the U.S., Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Peru and Japan.

The trade office will also be at the forefront of just-initiated trade liberalization talks with the European Union known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

“He’s very smart, he’s very tough, he’s the right person for the job as the United States begins to negotiate trade agreements with Asia, the so-called TPP, as well as trade agreements with the Europeans,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., in support of the nominee.

Froman worked as Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin’s chief of staff during the Bill Clinton administration, He was a managing partner at Citigroup and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations before joining the Obama administration.

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