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Obama Fills Key Spots on Economic Team

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama announces Penny Pritzker (R) as his new nominee for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Michael Froman (L) as his nominee for U.S. Trade Representative while in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 2, 2013.
President Barack Obama nominated economic adviser Michael Froman as his new U.S. Trade Representative, and businesswoman and political fundraiser Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary. The president spoke Thursday before leaving for two days of economic-related talks in Latin America.

As Trade Representative, Froman would replace Ron Kirk, who stepped down in February after four years on the job.

Obama called Froman “one of the world’s foremost experts on the global economy,” and said he was instrumental in helping Kirk finalize trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

“And over the past four years, he has been my point person at global forums like the G8 and the G20," Obama stated. "And by the way, when I say ‘point person,’ he has really been the driving force oftentimes in organizing these incredible international summits in which huge amounts of business get done.”

After his announcement, the president left for two days in Mexico and Costa Rica, where he was expected to talk with Central American leaders about expanding trade deals with other parts of the world.

Obama said Froman will help advance trade negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the Asia-Pacific region and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership with Europe. And he said his nominee will insist that trade be conducted fairly.

“He has won the respect of our trading partners around the world. He has also won a reputation as being an extraordinarily tough negotiator while doing it. He does not rest until he has delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers,” noted Obama.

Froman’s nomination received generally good reviews from the U.S. business community.

A frequent administration critic, U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Thomas Donohue, said Thursday his group will support Froman’s nomination. In a statement, Donohue said Froman “has the vision and experience to deliver new trade opportunities for American workers and companies at the negotiating table.”

In selecting Penny Pritzker to run the Commerce Department, the president called her “one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders.”

The Hyatt hotel heiress has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. She served on his Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board in 2009, and later on his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

If confirmed, Pritzker and Froman would fill the last remaining openings in the president’s cabinet. Obama urged the Senate to confirm both nominees quickly.