Democrats tell ABC News that President-elect Obama has offered the job of U.S. Trade Representative to Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.
Becerra, a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has not yet announced that he has accepted the job. Having just been elected vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Becerra’s office Wednesday morning would only say that he’s looking forward to his work in the 111th Congress. Already there is talk on Capitol Hill of Reps. Joe Crowley, D-NY, Kendrick Meek, D-Florida, and others running for Becerra’s vice chair seat.
The move to tap the liberal Southern California congressman indicates that Mr. Obama’s campaign rhetoric about trade was not just words, and U.S. policy will soon make a dramatic shift from the trade policies of the Bush administration, with more union and environmental concerns taken into account during trade negotiations.
Becerra has said that "all the evidence points to the fact that NAFTA and CAFTA are not the approach to free trade or fair trade. They’re a prescription for increased commerce, but one that concentrates the benefits of that commerce in the hands of very few." Becerra voted for NAFTA in 1993, but has said he regrets the vote.
The congressman from the Golden State’s 31st congressional district, first elected in 1992, in 2007 voted for the free trade deal with Peru, but he voted against free trade deals with Oman in 2006, with Central America in 2004, and against the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act in 2005.
Speaking against the free trade deal with Oman in 2006, Becerra assailed trade deals that lead to massive trade deficits and don’t protect U.S. interests.
"I hate to say it, but I think it has become very obvious that our system for devising trade agreements, so very important to this country’s functioning around the world, has not only broken, but it has broken completely," Becerra said.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra, if he becomes USTR, would be the second Hispanic to join PEBO’s Cabinet, in addition to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose nomination as Secretary of Commerce Mr. Obama will announce this morning.