Obama trade pick gets unanimous committee backing

With no Republican objections, President Obama’s pick to lead U.S. trade efforts abroad passed a key Senate committee vote Tuesday and could be confirmed by the full upper chamber as soon as next week.

The Senate Finance Committee paused a hearing on sex trafficking for about one minute to approve Michael Froman, now deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, to be U.S. trade representative.

The nomination was approved on a voice vote, with no senators opposing the nomination.

Mr. Froman did face some sharp questioning during his confirmation hearing last week after his financial records revealed that he has about $500,000 in Cayman Islands bank accounts. Panel Republicans noted that Mr. Obama had criticized GOP rival Mitt Romney in the 2012 election for having offshore accounts as well.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the panel, noted that Mr. Obama had nominated two other people with financial ties to the Cayman Islands, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Republicans also called into question a sizable bonus that Mr. Froman earned for his work at Citigroup, which was one of the big banks bailed out in the 2008-2009 global financial crunch.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Froman will have a full agenda negotiating pacts with both the European Union and a handful of Asia-Pacific nations. In his confirmation hearing last week, Mr. Froman pressed Congress to give Mr. Obama the expired “fast-track” authority to negotiate major trade deals that lapsed six years ago.

Negotiations on the trade agreement with the European Union, dubbed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, will begin later this summer, and officials hope to complete it by the end of 2014. Negotiators are expected to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open up trade with 11 Asia-Pacific nations, by the end of this year.

“We’re counting on you to be very energetic,” Mr. Hatch said at last week’s hearing.

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