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article imageFormer Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk Named Trade Rep

By Sadiq Green     Dec 22, 2008 in Politics
President-elect Barack Obama announced Friday afternoon that he has named former Dallas, Texas Mayor Ron Kirk his U.S. Trade Representative. Kirk cut his teeth politically as a legislative assistant to Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen in the early 1980’s.
A native of Austin and a University of Texas School of Law graduate, Kirk briefly served as Secretary of State under Governor Ann Richards. One year after leaving state government Kirk made history by becoming the first Black mayor of Dallas in a landslide win that saw him capture 62 percent of the vote with widespread support across racial boundaries. He served as mayor from 1995 to 2002.
Due to the structure of the Dallas city charter that pays the mayor a meager stipend, Kirk maintained his partnership in one of the city’s premier law firms, Gardere & Wynne. He is curretly a partner with the law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP.
Kirk accepted the nomination live on CNN, thanking his family and promising a progressive trade agenda that he said will balance the interests of robust trade as well as the interests of America's workers. The U.S. Trade Representative is responsible for the nation’s international trade policy. It is a cabinet level position with the rank of ambassador. The Trade Representative sits as a member of the board of the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The officer also represents the country for all activities related to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and negotiates on behalf of the United States with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Office of the Special Trade Representative was created by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and formally established by an Executive Order issued by President John F. Kennedy on January 15, 1963. President Jimmy Carter renamed the agency and the position the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by Executive Order in January, 1980. Five members from the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate serve as congressional advisers on trade policy as a result of an effort in the 1970’s to strengthen Congressional oversight over the agency.
The selection of Kirk is considered a fallback selection as Barack Obama reportedly first offered the job to Representative Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles. Becerra recently won a House Democratic leadership post, and apparently did not want to give up that post, so he declined the offer. And although there is no real choice that Mr. Kirk, or any of Mr. Obama's other nominees will not be confirmed, there are those who are resistant to his appointment.
Some leaders of organized labor have mixed feelings about the trade appointment and are not sure what to make of Mr. Kirk. Also the top Republican on the Senate panel that will confirm the next trade representative, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, questioned Mr. Kirk's qualifications. His aides noted that while most of Mr. Obama's Cabinet picks have deep experience in their fields, Mr. Kirk has little background on trade issues.
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