WASHINGTON — President Obama filled four key international trade posts on Saturday by bypassing the Senate and overcoming Republican opposition with many of his first recess appointments.
Two of the appointees lead complex global trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization, while another oversees international trade and the Office of Textiles & Apparel at the Commerce Department, and the fourth will head U.S. Customs & Border Protection.
Obama appointed Michael Punke as ambassador to the WTO and deputy trade representative; Francisco Sanchez as Commerce undersecretary for international trade; Alan Bersin as commissioner of Customs & Border Protection, and Islam Siddiqui as chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
Punke, a senior trade official in the Clinton administration who has worked in the field of international law and policy for two decades, succeeds Peter Allgeier at the WTO in Geneva. He has been tasked with taking over negotiations for the Doha Round of global trade talks aimed at reducing tariffs on a wide range of industrial and agricultural products. The trade pact has been stalled over differences between rich and poor countries on agricultural subsidies.
“Michael Punke will be a valuable asset as WTO Ambassador as USTR works to conclude a balanced and ambitious Doha Round of trade negotiations that will benefit American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service providers,” said USTR Ron Kirk.
Sanchez, a senior advisor to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on international trade issues, will oversee four divisions at Commerce that employ more than 2,100 people with offices in 77 countries. He will have oversight over textile and apparel import issues at OTEXA and the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, which includes decisions on antidumping and countervailing duty cases.
One of Sanchez’s top priorities will be the implementation of Obama’s national export initiative that seeks to double the amount of U.S. exports in the next five years and create 2 million jobs.
At Customs, Bersin, who was assistant secretary of international affairs and special representative for border affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, will oversee container programs affecting apparel importers and counterfeit investigations and seizures.
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