WASHINGTON — Michael Froman, President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Trade Representative’s post, overcame controversy about funds he has in offshore accounts when the Senate Finance Committee approved his nomination on Tuesday and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.
On Monday, the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee unanimously approved another of Obama’s cabinet nominees, Penny Pritzker, to become Commerce Secretary.
The Senate Finance panel unanimously approved Froman’s nomination on a voice vote, despite a controversy over nearly $500,000 he reportedly has in an offshore account in the Cayman Islands, which sparked some criticism from Republicans last week because it symbolically represents a tax loophole that Obama has said he wants to close.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) accused Obama of being a hypocrite for nominating Froman after the President “railed against fat cats who avoid taxes offshore.” Grassley had also criticized Pritzker for offshore investments.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) defended Froman’s record at his confirmation hearing Thursday.
“Mike Froman is the right person for this job,” Baucus said. “For the past four years, he has demonstrated a mastery of trade policy development and implementation. President Obama has outlined an ambitious trade agenda, one that requires a strong trade representative like Mr. Froman, who can hit the ground running. The time is ripe. The United States has an opportunity to share in the rapid growth of the Pacific region and unlock further economic gains from our already deep ties with Europe.”
Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs at the White House, has played a key role in Obama’s trade agenda over the past few years, often working alongside former USTR Ron Kirk, who stepped down in February.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Froman would lead Obama’s trade negotiations and act as the chief enforcer of trade agreements. Among his top priorities will be taking over the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the U.S. and 11 other nations and launching Trans-Atlantic negotiations with the European Union.
One of Pritzker’s top priorities at the helm of Commerce, if confirmed by the Senate, will be continuing and promoting the implementation of Obama’s National Export Initiative, which seeks to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The NEI has helped spur interest in a Made in America movement in the apparel and textile sector.
In other news, The U.S. Department of Commerce is creating the first “Select USA Investment Summit” in Washington on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Francisco Sánchez, undersecretary of commerce for international trade, gave the first word on the summit Tuesday at the “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” symposium at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel, telling the hundreds in attendance that the summit is meant to “encourage foreign and domestic business investment in the United States and connect them with economic development organizations across the country to support business investment in the U.S.,” which leads to job creation and growth in the country. “Attendees will learn what the United States has to offer and why it’s a great place to do business and meet the people that can help make those investments happen,” Sánchez said.