JOHNSON SAID DUE TO BE TEXTILE CHIEF
Byline: Jim Ostroff
WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration is set to name former Congress member Don Johnson to be the next chief textile negotiator, according to sources.
Johnson, 49, a Democratic member of the House Textile Caucus during his single term, said in a phone interview from his office in Royston, Ga., it is “inappropriate for me to comment.”
The negotiator’s post requires no Senate confirmation, but traditionally, the White House also nominates the negotiator as an ambassador, and this does require such confirmation.
Sources said the White House is waiting to name Johnson to the post until Rita Hayes moves from that job to Geneva, where she is to be U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing on Hayes Sept. 9, and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon.
An attorney and graduate of the London School of Economics, Johnson was elected to Congress in 1992, representing Georgia’s 10th District, which includes Athens, Augusta and the Atlanta suburbs. He was defeated for reelection in 1994.
Subsequently, he lectured at the University of Georgia Law School’s Dean Rusk Center for International and Comparative Law and worked as an attorney on international business contracts, according to his resume.
After graduating from the University of Georgia Law School in 1973, Johnson worked on the House Ways and Means Committee’s international trade staff and helped to draft the 1974 Omnibus Trade Act, then was in the U.S. Air Force for four years. He then worked at Continental Illinois National Bank and the Atlanta-based law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer and Murphy, where he did international trade law.
Johnson served in the Georgia State Senate from 1987 to 1992 and was chairman of its appropriations committee.
The reports of Johnson’s impending nomination were greeted warmly by industry officials here.
“It’s our understanding that he’s a strong supporter of free trade, that he specifically voted for NAFTA, that he understands the value of free trade and the value of the apparel industry,” said a spokesman for the American Apparel Manufacturers Association.
Julia Hughes, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel’s Washington vice president, said, “Certainly, former Congressman Johnson will bring an excellent perspective to textile issues. A former member of Congress, he is used to dealing with divergent constituent interests, and I’m sure he will bring that expertise to the sometimes controversial position of chief textile negotiator.”
Robert Hall, a National Retail Federation vice president and international trade counsel, said, “We’re pleased the administration is looking at someone who has a proven track record on international trade issues. We’re also particularly pleased he was a strong supporter of NAFTA and GATT.”