Rumor has it he’s been offered the job:
Representative Xavier Becerra, who once declared U.S. trade policy “broken completely,” has been offered the job of President-elect Barack Obama’s top trade official, two Democrats close to the transition office said.
As U.S. Trade Representative, the 50-year-old California Democrat would take part in global trade talks, negotiate with China on copyright theft and export subsidies and possibly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The two people, interviewed last night, didn’t say Becerra had accepted the job.
Becerra, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade policy, said in a 2005 interview that he regretted voting for Nafta in 1993. He cited the problems with the accord as a reason he helped lead the opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement that year.
He also voted against a free-trade agreement with Oman, using the example of the record U.S. trade deficit with China as a reason to oppose it.
Becerra voted for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2000, a minority position among Democrats even though President Bill Clinton pushed for it. He also helped push for passage of a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Peru last year after Democrats forced the Bush administration to renegotiate the pact and stiffen the labor protections.
“He’s been articulate in support of open markets” while also advocating tougher “labor and environmental provisions,” said William Reinsch, the NFTC’s president and a former trade official in the Clinton administration. “Within the confines of where the Democratic caucus is, he’s been good.”
If he accepts, Becerra would be giving up a prominent position in the House as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic caucus. He would also be the second Hispanic in Obama’s cabinet, after Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson.