Two trade officials with major responsibilities for U.S. textile policy have won confirmation in Congress. Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, is the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and will serve as the Obama Administration’s main trade advisor. Among Kirk’s top priorities: expanding assistance to help workers losing jobs because of import competition, concluding the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and enforcing free trade agreements in which the U.S. is a partner. His support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was controversial among some Obama supporters, but he received full Senate approval to serve as the nation’s 16th, and first African-American, USTR.
Gary Locke, former governor of Washington state, will serve as Secretary of Commerce, developing the Administration’s trade agenda. He will oversee the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), among others, and stresses the importance of enforcing existing trade agreements over negotiating new ones. As Washington governor, Locke made several visits to China to promote trade, and was reported as saying that the U.S. cannot continue to have such a large trade deficit.