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Senate confirms Portman as US Trade Representative

DTN - 29 April 2005

Senate Confirms Portman as Trade Representative

OMAHA (DTN) — The Senate has confirmed President Bush’s nomination of Representative Rob Portman to be U.S. trade representative.

Shortly after midnight April 29 the senators made their decision by voice vote after Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, dropped the legislative hold that could have stalled Senate action.

Senate leaders sought quick confirmation so that Portman could attend a May 3-4 Paris meeting, where many key ministers in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations are assembling. A former trade lawyer, Republican Portman has represented a district in southern Ohio, including Cincinnati, for 10 years in the House of Representatives.

When sworn in Portman will replace Robert Zoellick, the former trade representative who now serves as deputy secretary of state.

At his April 21 confirmation hearing in the Finance Committee, Portman said he would take a tougher approach to China and devote more staff to assuring China’s compliance with trade obligations.

A hold is an informal Senate practice that allows an individual senator to block votes on legislation and nominations, sometimes for policy reasons and sometimes for leverage on other issues.

Bayh had placed the hold to press Senate leaders to schedule a vote on his bill, which would change U.S. trade law to allow easier challenges to subsidies in nonmarket economies such as China.

In the end, though, Bayh settled for less, a promise that a Senate committee hearing on U.S.-China trade would consider his bill, according to published reports.

Later April 29 Portman issued the following statement through the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative:

I am humbled and honored that the Senate has confirmed me as the U.S. Trade Representative.

I want to thank the Senate, in particular Senators Grassley and Baucus, other Members of the Senate Finance Committee, and my colleagues in the House on both sides of the aisle, for their support.

President Bush has provided the world with great leadership on global economic issues, and Bob Zoellick’s skill and diplomacy were instrumental in successfully implementing the President’s trade agenda that has contributed to our economic success.

As I said during my confirmation hearings, I plan to focus on continuing this record of opening markets to expand freedom and reduce poverty, working closely with the U.S. Congress.

I will also redouble our efforts to enforce international trade agreements and U.S. trade laws.

As a now former Member of Congress, I know well the positive, and at times disruptive, effects of trade.

I will work hard to make sure Americans are competing on a level playing field and have the opportunity to sell their world class goods and services in overseas markets.

Congressional approval of the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, China trade issues, the enforcement of existing agreements, keeping on pace the Doha talks to lower trade barriers, and our ongoing regional and bilateral trade negotiations, are all front and center issues for me.

I will miss representing the people of the Second District of Ohio in the U.S. Congress.

It has been the greatest honor of my life. But I look forward to continuing to serve our area and our country in my new capacity as United States Trade Representative.

The United States Trade Representative post is a challenging job, and an important one for the future of our economy and jobs here at home.

I look forward to taking on the challenge of opening markets for U.S. products and services, ensuring trade is fair by enforcing our trade laws and international rules, and promoting freedom and democracy through expanded trade.

I look forward to joining a talented and committed team at USTR.

I will hit the ground running by attending next week’s trade meetings in Europe on the Doha Round, which holds so much promise for promoting prosperity throughout the world and for contributing to sustained economic growth and development.

 source: DTN