Groups urge Senate vote on USTR nominees

An ad hoc coalition of food and agricultural organizations, led by the National Pork Producers Council, urged quick Senate confirmation of nominees for two key positions with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

In a letter signed by 42 organizations and delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the other 98 members of the Senate, the coalition asked that the Senate vote to approve Michael Punke as deputy U.S. trade representative based in Geneva, Switzerland, and Dr. Isi Siddiqui as chief agricultural negotiator for USTR.
“The U.S. needs strong leadership in these key positions, and these gentlemen are eminently qualified to provide it,” said the coalition.
The Senate Finance Committee already has approved both nominees.
Punke served as international trade counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, followed by four years dealing with international affairs in the Clinton administration, including two years as senior policy adviser for then-USTR Ambassador Mickey Kantor.
Siddiqui also served in the Clinton administration, working in the U.S. Department of Agriculture as deputy undersecretary and as undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs and as senior trade adviser to then-Sec. Dan Glickman. He also worked with USTR and represented USDA on bilateral, regional and multilateral agricultural trade negotiations. He served for 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“We urge you to approve Mr. Punke and Dr. Siddiqui as soon as possible,” the coalition concluded.

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