Monday, December 16, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

What We’re Covering This Week......

The week begins with the start of the third round of negotiations on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. US and European Union negotiators meet here in Washington through Friday.
Another big trade meeting this week takes place in Beijing beginning Thursday, when top-level US and Chinese officials gather for the annual meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.
Here are some of the events we’ll be following:
             ●          On Monday, the third TTIP round gets underway and continues through the week.
             ●          Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker holds a Twitter chat to discuss her department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which focuses on revitalizing the National Export Initiative to double US exports and on promoting more foreign investment in the United States.
             ●          As the TTIP negotiations begin, a group of citizen organizations hold a press conference call briefing to outline their concerns with the trade pact.
             ●          On Tuesday, the US Chamber of Commerce holds its annual roundtable gathering US intellectual property attaches stationed around the globe.
             ●          The Global Business Dialogue holds a program assessing the outcomes of the World Trade Organization’s Bali ministerial held earlier this month.  Assistant US Trade Representative for WTO and multilateral affairs Mark Linscott is among the speakers.
             ●          Also Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Arun M. Kumar to be assistant secretary of Commerce and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service.
             ●          Another TTIP-related event, this time a public symposium sponsored by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
             ●          On Wednesday, TTIP negotiations break temporarily for a public event with stakeholders.
             ●          The American Enterprise Institute sponsors a program on Congress’ role in trade with Sen. Jeff Flake.
             ●          Ebay hosts an event on being a global small business.
             ●          The Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region with witnesses from the departments of State and Commerce.
             ●          Thursday, the two-day meeting of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade begins in Beijing.
             ●          The DC Bar sponsors a program on US-India trade issues, with speakers including Arun Venkataraman from USTR.
             ●          Indonesian Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal discusses his country’s economic development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
             ●          Politico sponsors a breakfast program with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
             ●          Friday, the third round of TTIP negotiations concludes with a press conference.
             ●          This year’s meeting of the US-China JCCT concludes in Beijing.

See you there!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

What We’re Covering This Week......

This week begins with a crucial meeting of trade ministers from the 12 TransPacific Partnership countries, who are racing to meet the goal of largely completing the trade pact by the end of this year.
             ●          On Monday, TPP trade ministers continue their meeting, which began over the weekend.  The meeting is expected to conclude Tuesday.
             ●          Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee hears from Secretary of State Kerry about the status of nuclear talks with Iran.  Expects lots of questions about whether US sanctions should be tightened.
             ●          The Atlantic Council sponsors a program on the other big trade negotiation taking place – the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  Sen. Christopher Murphy speaks.
             ●          Also on Tuesday, the Commerce Department’s Regulations and Procedures Technical Advisory Committee meets.
             ●          The American Enterprise Institute sponsors a discussion on Congress’ role in trade and the TransPacific Partnership with speakers including Sen. Jeff Flake.
             ●          Wednesday, the Washington International Trade Association sponsors a program on global supply chains and social responsibility.  Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Business and Economic Affairs Robert Manogue is among the speakers.
             ●          The Senate Finance subcommittee on international trade, customs and global competitiveness holds a hearing on the digital trade agenda.
             ●          Also Wednesday, the East West Center sponsors a program on the US-Korea relationship with speakers including Reps. David Reichert and Mike Honda.
             ●          Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro discusses TTIP at a forum sponsored by the Foreign Policy Group.
             ●          On Thursday, the Practising Law Institute holds its annual export controls seminar.
             ●          The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nuclear agreement with Iran, with a panel of Administration officials.
             ●          The Center for Strategic and International Studies sponsors a program on Korea’s recently-stated interest in joining the TPP, with Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young and Acting Deputy USTR Wendy Cutler.
             ●          Friday, the President’s Export Council subcommittee on export administration holds an open meeting by teleconference.
             ●          US and European Union farm policy is the subject of a discussion sponsored by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.  EU agriculture official Tassos Haniotis and Agriculture Chief Economist Joe Glauber speak.

See you there!

Monday, December 2, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

This is the make-or-break week for the World Trade Organization as trade officials from around the world gather in Bali to see if they can put together a small package on trade facilitation and other development measures.

             ●          Monday, discussions get underway in Bali as negotiators try to close some big remaining gaps in the trade facilitation package so that the 9th WTO ministerial is a success.
             ●          US Trade Representative Michael Froman, however, will be focusing on the TransPacific Partnership.  He visits Hanoi to meet with government officials about the TPP in preparation for a trade ministers meeting at the end of the week.
             ●          The 9th WTO ministerial officially gets underway in Bali on Tuesday and continues through Friday.
             ●          Colombian President Santos is in Washington this week.  He speaks on Tuesday to the National Press Club.
             ●          TransAtlantic relations – including the US-European Union trade agreement negotiations – will be the theme when a panel of European lawmakers speak at an event at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
             ●          USTR Froman moves on to Malaysia to continue his TPP discussions before heading to Bali for the WTO ministerial.
             ●          On Wednesday, the Washington International Trade Association sponsors a program on the North American Free Trade Agreement and manufacturing.
             ●          Colombian President Santos talks trade and investment at a US Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
             ●          Also Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Asia and Pacific subcommittee holds a hearing on US policy toward Burma, with a panel of Administration witnesses.
             ●          On Thursday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies sponsors a program on the TPP with the chairs of the new Congressional Friends of the TPP Caucus.
             ●          Ongoing efforts to craft a final US farm bill will certainly be on the agenda at the annual Farm Journal Forum.
             ●          Friday, should be the final – and hopefully successful – day of the 9th WTO ministerial.
             ●          On Saturday, TPP trade ministers move on to Singapore for a three-day meeting that they hope will pretty much wrap up negotiations on the 12 country trade agreement.

See you there!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

Here are some of the events we’ll be covering this week:

             ●          Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Organization of American States on US relations with Latin America.
             ●          The Washington Space Business Roundtable holds a discussion on the impact of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations with speakers including Commerce Assistant Secretary for Export Administration Kevin Wolf.
             ●          On Tuesday, US Trade Representative Michael Froman and a host of other Administration officials speak at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting.
             ●          Mr. Froman also participates in a program sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.
             ●          In Salt Lake City, TransPacific Partnership chief negotiators meet through the end of the week in hopes of clearing up some outstanding issues.
             ●          Wednesday, the American Enterprise Institute holds a discussion on US-India relations with India Caucus co-chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
             ●          The Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region.  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel and Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary for Global Markets John Andersen are among the witnesses.
             ●          Also Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Sarah Raskin to be deputy Treasury secretary and Rhonda Schmidtlein to be a member of the US International Trade Commission.
             ●          In Tokyo, Acting Deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler leads the US delegation in the fourth round of US-Japan bilateral negotiations being held in parallel to the TransPacific Partnership talks.
             ●          On Thursday, Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro speaks to the Caribbean-Central American Action annual conference.
             ●          The Senate Commerce Committee holds a nomination hearing on Arun Kumar to be assistant Commerce secretary for trade promotion and director general of the US Foreign Commercial Services.
             ●          On Friday, Deputy Assistant USTR for WTO and Multilateral Affairs Dawn Shackleford discusses trade facilitation at Georgetown Law’s 2013 Academy of WTO Law and Policy.

See you there.

Mike Froman and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

There is a very popular children’s book by Judith Viorst called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which follows the travails of a little boy to wakes up to a day that starts with gum in his hair and just keeps getting worse.  The reason the book, written over 30 years ago, remains so popular is because we all have those kinds of days.
Last Wednesday was that kind of day for US Trade Representative Michael Froman.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it was a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” for President Obama’s trade policy agenda.
The day started off wrong first thing in the morning with the announcement that WikiLeaks had made public a draft consolidated text of the intellectual property rights chapter of the ongoing TransPacific Partnership negotiations.  The text – even though it really just represents a snapshot of various countries’ positions back in August – is a godsend for TPP opponents because it gives them ammunition in their battle against the trade deal.
It also serves as a reminder to members of Congress that they are mostly being kept out of the loop about the negotiations – to the point that they have to rely on fugitive-from-the-law Julian Assange for their information.
Mr. Froman would argue that members are being consulted about TPP and trade policy in general.  He has repeatedly pointed out – as did his predecessor Ron Kirk – that the Administration has been operating as though the Congressional consultation process of the now expired Trade Promotion Authority was still in place.
But the problem is lawmakers apparently weren’t very happy with that process.
And that’s why the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day got worse.  Later that same day, over two-thirds of House Democrats released a letter saying they will oppose the TPP unless it comes with a new TPA process that gives them much more oversight of trade negotiations.  Then, 10 Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released their own letter saying they want more rigorous consultation and oversight in TPA.  And a group of House Republicans said they won’t vote for any TPA at all, because they’re not giving up their constitutional jurisdiction over commerce.
Then, just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for TPA or the TPP on Capitol Hill, the House’s biggest gun on trade weighed in.  Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich) put out his own statement blasting the Administration for failing to engage with Congress on the politically-important issue of whether disciplines on currency manipulation should be included in trade agreements like the TPP.  And he chided President Obama for missing a big opportunity to make the case for TPA when he gave a speech last week in New Orleans that was billed by the White House as a major address on trade.
Mr. Camp is getting annoyed because the attempt he’s been making for months to produce a bipartisan, bicameral TPA bill with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) is faltering – and he blames the White House for not helping.
Meanwhile, Mr. Camp’s Democratic counterpart, Sandy Levin (Mich), said he will vote against the TPP unless it includes currency provisions.  That position was echoed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (NC).
Mr. Froman’s response was that all this shows why Congress needs to pass TPA, so lawmakers can tell the Administration what they want in trade agreements.  But lawmakers say they need the President out in front making the case for why TPA is important for growing exports and creating US jobs.  Also, with TPP in the “end game” as Mr. Froman likes to say, it’s kind of too late for Congress to set negotiating objectives for an agreement that’s nearly complete.
So all in all, not a very good day.
In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, throughout his bad day our hero keeps threatening to pick up and run off to Australia in order to get away from all his troubles.
The day ended yesterday with an announcement from USTR that Mr. Froman was headed to California, with a stop at Disney.
Have a good day.

Mary Berger

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

This is a week for crucial meetings at the World Trade Organization in Geneva as countries try to pull together a package of deliverables for next month’s ministerial in Bali.  Meanwhile, the next round of negotiations on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership takes place in Brussels.
Here in Washington, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker gives a major address to lay out her priorities for the department.

Here are some of the events we’ll be following:

             ●          Monday, the recently-concluded Canada-European Union trade agreement is discussed by chief negotiator for Quebec Pierre Marc Johnson at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
             ●          The latest TTIP round begins in Brussels.
             ●          On Tuesday, negotiators on the TransPacific Partnership begin an intersessional on rules of origin.
             ●          Tuesday is the day for a crucial WTO Trade Negotiations Committee meeting in Geneva on the status of the Bali package.
             ●          On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the status of US-Iran nuclear negotiations.
             ●          The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on manufacturing with Commerce Secretary Pritzker.
             ●          The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a conference on commercial innovation, with speakers including Assistant US Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation Stanford McCoy.
             ●          On Thursday, Commerce’s Pritzker gives what is being billed as a major address on her priorities for the department.
             ●          Also on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks Farm Bill and other issues at an event sponsored by Politico.
             ●          On Friday, the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection holds a public meeting.

See you there!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

What We’re Covering This Week......

Here are some of the events we’ll be following this week:
             ●          Monday, the US Chamber of Commerce sponsors a luncheon for Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa-Eldin who will talk about the state of his country’s economy, along with other issues.
             ●          Also Monday, US Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg participates in a video conference briefing for the press arranged by the Foreign Press Center.
             ●          In Geneva, a round of negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement begin.  The talks are slated to last through November 9.
             ●          On Tuesday, former World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy puts in an appearance at the Brookings Institution, for a program on global challenges.
             ●          Wednesday, Acting Deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler – who is chief US negotiator in ongoing bilateral negotiations with Japan being conducted in parallel to the TransPacific Partnership negotiations – speaks at a Peterson Institute for International Economic program.  She is joined by Norihiko Ishiguro, vice president of international affairs for Japan’s MITI.
             ●          The Farm Foundation Forum sponsors a program on the status of the 2013 Farm Bill.
             ●          Also Wednesday, European Union Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida discusses the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership at the American University Washington College of Law.
             ●          On Thursday, Women in International Trade hosts a Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia Craig Allen for a program on the commercial relationship with Asia.
             ●          Friday, the inter-agency Trade Policy Staff Committee holds a public hearing in preparation for USTR’s annual report to Congress on China’s compliance with its WTO commitments;
             ●          Taiwan Ambassador Pu-Tsung King discusses bilateral relations at a George Washington University program.
             ●          The US Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center holds a global IP summit.

See you there!

Monday, October 28, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

Here’s What We’re Covering This Week......

It’s a busy week here in Washington, with two major conferences scheduled.  The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership also gets a lot of attention – thanks to a Senate Finance hearing and a visiting delegation of European legislators.
Here are some of the events we’ll be covering:
             ●          On Monday, former World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy discusses the state of globalization at a program sponsored by the Brookings Institution.
             ●          Tuesday, European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding discusses Transatlantic Trade and Investment at an event sponsored by Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
             ●          Also on Tuesday, the European Institute sponsors a roundtable with members of the European Parliament on data protection, privacy and security.
             ●          US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks at a program sponsored by Politico.
             ●          Wednesday, the Coalition of Services Industries holds its annual conference.  USTR Froman speaks again, along with EC Director General for Trade Jean-Luc Demarty and Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
             ●          The American University holds its annual trade seminar – this year focusing on regional trade agreements.  Speakers include WTO Apellate Body Chairman Ricardo Ramirez.
             ●          Also on Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee holds its first hearing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
             ●          Thursday, the Commerce Department launches its first SelectUSA Investment Summit aimed at promoting the United States as a destination for foreign investment.  President Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker are among the speakers on Thursday.
             ●          Meanwhile, the Coalition of Services Industries and Taiwan Coalition of Service Industries hold a program on services and investment in the Asia Pacific and Taiwan with speakers including Assistant USTR for Services and Investment Christine Bliss.
             ●          On Friday, Commerce’s SelectUSA conference continues.  USTR Froman and Secretary of State John Kerry speak.

See you there!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

Here’s What We’re Covering This Week.....

Now that the federal government shutdown is over, things are beginning to get back to normal here in Washington.
Here are some of the events we’ll be covering:
             ●          on Tuesday, the Center on Global Interest hosts a program on Russia-US relations with Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak.
             ●          Wednesday the Center for Strategic and International Studies sponsors a program on a new development agenda, with speakers including Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson.
             ●          the American International Property Law Association holds its annual conference beginning on Thursday.
             ●          also on Thursday, Rep. Karen Bass holds the latest in a series of breakfasts on issues relating to Africa – this time on eliminating barriers to trade.  House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce is among the speakers.
              ●          the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday sponsors a program on Abenomics.  Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Asia Robert Dohner are on the panel.
             ●          Friday, the Washington Foreign Law Society and Perkins Coie sponsor a program on US export controls reform with Assistant Commerce Secretary Kevin Wolf.

See you there!

Friday, October 18, 2013




October 17, 2013 
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

Fact Check Mr. President:
The House and Senate Have Already Started Farm Bill Negotiations

In his remarks to the nation this morning, President Obama said the following:

“[N]umber three. We should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on, one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need, one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve. Again, the Senate's already passed a solid bipartisan bill. It's got support from Democrats and Republicans. It's sitting in the House waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let's see them. Let's negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let's get this done.”

Fact Check:

The House adopted a motion to go to conference on Friday, October 11. The House named conferees to negotiate differences in the House and Senate-passed farm bills on Saturday, October 12.

As reported in Politico, the four principals of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met on Wednesday, October 16, to discuss next steps in enacting a comprehensive farm bill this year. The first, formal conference meeting is expected when the House and Senate are in session together.


Agriculture Committee Press Office

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Here we are in week two of the federal government shutdown.  As we write this, there are at least some rumblings of a possible deal between the White House and Congressional Republicans to reopen the government avoid defaulting on the US debt.  But it’s too soon to tell if a resolution is really in sight.
Even if this all ends soon, damage has already been done.
A prolonged shutdown threatens to cripple the US trade agenda and raise serious concerns among our trading partners that the relationship between President Obama and Congress is so dysfunctional that Washington will not be able to deliver on any of the commitments it makes in trade negotiations.
And that’s according to President Obama, who told reporters earlier this week that his absence from a meeting of the TransPacific Partnership leaders in Bali because of the shutdown didn’t help the negotiations move forward.  The President missed both the TPP meeting and the larger gathering of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders.  And that may have cost the United States.  Mr. Obama likened it to being a businessman who is unable to get to a face-to-face meeting with a prospective client and so fails to close a big deal.
If the stalemate continues, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the other 11 countries involved in the TransPacific Partnership negotiations and the US partner in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations – the European Union – will question whether they really can depend on the Obama Administration working with Congress to get Trade Promotion Authority so that when these FTAs are completed, they could not be torn apart by lawmakers.
The TPP and TTIP – the two cornerstones of President Obama’s much-touted second term trade agenda – have already fallen victim to the shutdown.
A large team of US negotiators were supposed to be in Brussels this week for the second round of TTIP talks – when the two sides were expected to really get down to work for the first time.  But Washington had to cancel at the last minute because it couldn’t send negotiators and support staff – many furloughed – to the meeting.
TPP talks went ahead last week and this week in Bali because many of the staff were in Bali before the shutdown – but President Obama did not show up.  He was absent from the long-awaited TPP leaders meeting that was held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.  The meeting went ahead without him – Secretary of State John Kerry filled in.  But the President’s absence may have come at a cost.  According to Kyodo news service, Washington had wanted the TPP leaders statement so say that work was “substantively finished” – a phrase that would have sent a strong signal the talks are nearing completion.  But with President Obama – who was supposed to chair the meeting – absent, the remaining 11 leaders opted for watered-down “significant progress” language.
The TPP leaders stuck to their goal of completing the deal by the end of the year.  But there was no mention of when negotiators or trade ministers would reconvene.  Assuming nothing can be scheduled until the federal government is back at work, that year-end goal could be seriously compromised.  That means the TPP – and any hope of getting Trade Promotion Authority – will slip into an election year, when it would be even more difficult to get any kind of bipartisan support.
But it’s not only the big ticket FTAs that are at risk.  The day-to-day US government functions to promote exports, defend US businesses against unfair trade practices, keep unsafe and counterfeits imports out of the market and maintain economic sanctions on Iran have largely ground to a halt.  The Commerce Department was not even able to release its latest monthly data on the US trade balance this week – let alone help potential US exporters find customers overseas.
Another several high-level US trade officials – actually working at their desks – cancelled out on several trade-related business events.  This is the week that Washington hosts the annual joint meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew snuck out of his office to testify before the Senate Finance Committee.  He pointed out that the shutdown, looming default and President Obama’s absence from APEC left a gapping hole that China has been quick to try to fill. Chinese officials ran around Bali touting Beijing as a more reliable economic partner than the United States.  And the possibility of default gives China and other countries like Brazil ammunition in their ongoing efforts to shoot down the dollar from its current perch as the world’s reserve currency.

Mary Berger

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

The continuing government-wide shutdown is curtailing US officials participation in trade-related events this week – and forcing the cancellation of some.  But the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are drawing a lot of high-level foreign trade and financial officials, including a visit by World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo.

Here’s what we plan on covering –
●        on Monday a George Washington University program on the internet and trade, with speakers from the Mexican and Swedish embassies, along with a finance minister from Estonia.
●        also on Monday the American Society for International Law sponsors a session on the “electronic Silk Road,” with New Zealand Ambassador Mike Moore.
●        Tuesday WTD will be at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International studies to hear Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai talk about US-China relations.
●        The NDN holds a seminar on US-Mexico relations, perhaps with Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Alan Bersin.  On Thursday the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will hold a program on US-Mexico relations.
●        On Wednesday we will participate in the annual National Foreign Trade Council dinner with Sen. Ron Wyden.
●        Thursday SAIS will host visiting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.  Later in the day he will be at the US Chamber of Commerce.
●        Also on Thursday the US Chamber of Commerce will host several finance ministers from the Pacific Alliance countries of Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru.
●        The World Bank will sponsor a seminar on the rise of the middle class and services in Latin America and the Caribbean, with World Bank President Jin Yong Kim.
●        The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosts a discussion on India’s growth potential with visiting Finance Minister Paloniappan Chidahbaram.
●        On Friday the Kazakhstan Embassy sponsors a program on regional economic integration.
●        The Council on Foreign Relations hosts a session with French Minister of Economy and Finance Pierre Moscovici.
●        The Woodrow Wilson Center holds a session on Brazil’s economy.
●        The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee conducts a hearing on the government shut-down and US economic security.
●        Friday is when WTO Director General Azevêdo speaks to the US Chamber of Commerce.

See you there.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Christian Science Monitor and Journalistic Ethics

This falls in the category of “I Can’t Believe I Heard That”  – or rather “I Can’t Believe
They’re Doing This.”

Having heard through the grapevine that US Trade Representative Michael Froman was being hosted in a rare press interview by the Christian Science Monitor, we naturally thought that we would be excluded – given our size.

Nevertheless, we asked anyway.  And lo-and-behold an invitation came saying the Monitor would be happy to include Washington Trade Daily in the breakfast roundtable with several other press organizations.  We were happy and quickly said yes.

A few minutes later WTD received an e-mail from the Monitor saying bring $47 dollars – in cash, check or credit card.

Whoa!  Wait a minute!

Since when does any organization – much less one that calls it self a news organization – charge for news.  I don’t pay out money for news.  I said so and the Monitor said the $47 only covered the cost of breakfast in a fancy Washington hotel.  I responded that we could not pay to cover news events, but would be happy to come, stand around the wall, not ask questions and not eat.

No go, said the Monitor.  Everyone of the members of press at the event (I don’t know if it applied to Christian Science Monitor reporters) had to pay $47 whether he or she ate or not.  I was told that it was a requirement of the hotel.  ABSOLUTELY NOT SO.

The Washington bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor listed press outlets that agreed to pay.  They included The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg BNA, The Associated Press, Reuters, Politico, CBS
News, Politico, ABC News and National Public Radio

(By the way –  our chief competitor, Inside US Trade, didn’t know about the event.)

I objected to the charge and shot off an email of protest to the chief editor at the Boston headquarters –

>> From: <>
>> Date: Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 5:15 PM
>> Subject: Charging for Christian Science Monitor press breakfast
>> To:
>> I want to express may extreme disappointment with the CSM about
>> charging the press to cover newsmakers events in what is laughingly
>> called CSM breakfasts for the press.
>> How can a newspaper charge other reporters to cover events they
>> sponsor.  Will CSM reporters covering this Thursdays' event in
>> Washington have to pay $47 dollars to cover a senior Administration
>> official -- US Trade Representative Michael Froman.
>> Doesn't the Monitor have any ethics left.  Since its only on-line now,
>> I guess it does not consider itself a legitimate newspaper.
>> Jim Berger
>> Washington Trade Daily
>> 301-946-0817

The email was promptly redirected to the same Washington bureau chief that I was objecting to.

Everyone involved seemed mystified by my objections.  The simple fact, especially for Washington Trade Daily, is that if a news outlet pays for news – with or without a meal – it would justify other organizations charging the press to attend their events.  With all the events – many small – we cover, that would lead to charges upwards of hundreds of dollars a day.

The small, but influential Global Business Dialogue, in fact, had an event at the same time in the same hotel.  It did not feel compelled to charge the press.  Pastries and coffee were even provided.

Conversely, the same principle can apply to sponsors of news events paying reporters to cover their event and write stories.  (Wouldn’t that be nice).

The Christian Science Monitor press breakfasts have been going on for at least two decades, we recently discovered.  Some major news outlets, including Reuter news services, had in the past refused to participate based on the objections we outlined.  But one time the Associated Press got a story and they didn’t, so that rule ceased.

It is unfortunate that any sponsor of a newsworthy – on the record – event should exclude any press, much less insist on them paying to attend.  It is doubly worse when a news organization itself does it to make money.  In fact, it makes no sense that a newspaper should capture a Cabinet-level official and then charge others to attend.  WTD would have kept the official in close quarters, do the interview, write the story and then provide it to our subscribers.   But the Christian Science Monitor apparently doesn’t see it that way.

I suppose USTR Froman – himself a liberal Democrat (I think) – doesn’t either.  Why would he allow himself to be put on display for a fee, as if he were a part of Barnum’s New York Museum.

Now before anyone thinks that WTD is beyond deviousness in obtaining news stories, we must say that although we did not attend the event we snuck in a tape recorder and got the story anyway.

(p.s.:   We wrote a story, but in my opinion, it wasn’t worth $47.)

(p.p.s.:  In full disclosure, WTD has, in fact, paid for lunches in the past.  The $13 for all-you-can-eat Chinese food at the monthly National Economic Club events are just too good to pass up – especially when its mid-day in Washington and the reporter is starving.  The NEC gives the press the option, however, of attending free and not eating.  Tough choice, unlike the Christian Science Monitor event).

Jim Berger
Washington Trade Daily

Monday, September 30, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

Here’s What We’re Covering This Week

The federal government may shut down beginning Tuesday, but a busy week is still on tap:

Monday – US Trade Representative Michael Froman is in Brussels to discuss the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  He delivers an address on TTIP to the German Marshall Fund there.
Here in Washington, the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America holds its annual outlook forum at the US Chamber of Commerce.  House New Democrats Chair Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is among the speakers.

Tuesday – USTR Froman moves on to Geneva, where he will address the World Trade Organization’s public forum.  He also meets with WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo and other officials in hopes of making progress on a package of trade facilitation and development issues for the WTO’s December ministerial.
Meanwhile, in Bali, chief negotiators on the 12-country TransPacific Partnership begin a two-day meeting to try to wrap up more technical-level issues in advance on meetings of TPP trade ministers and then the leaders of the 12 countries.

Wednesday – The Cato Institute sponsors a program on the WTO and future of multilateralism with speakers including New Zealand Ambassador Mike Moore – a former WTO director general.

Thursday – The globe-trotting USTR Froman ends up in Bali, where he will participate in a TPP trade ministers meeting and meetings related to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings.
In Washington, the Washington International Trade Association sponsors a program on the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the future of US-Africa relations.

Friday – The US Trade Representative’s office holds a public hearing on China’s compliance with its World Trade Organization commitments – if the federal government is open.
In Bali, the TPP trade ministers are slated to meet.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Twenty and Ten Years Ago This Week

I’ve been in the trade reporting business for upwards of 30 years.  And after the first half decade I realized that the truism:  “There is nothing new under the sun” is more than a truism – it’s true.

WTD on a monthly basis will outline some of the major stories covered in the newsletter 10 years and 20 years ago to the week.  


From September 15 to 19, 2003 – President Bush (the younger) was chief of state and the crucial “Cancun” World Trade Organization ministerial was supposed to pull through a dying Doha Development Agenda.  But it collapsed.  Today in Geneva – and later in Bali – WTO ministers will make another desperate attempt to come up with a life-saving “small” WTO trade package for world trade ministers to revive the moribund Doha round.

Speculation today – as it was in September 2003 – is it will take a miracle.

But back in 2003, the United States wasted little time after the collapse of the Cancun ministerial to announce a new strategy of an “ambitious” free trade agreement program.  It started with a reinvigoration of President Reagan’s idea of a free trade agreement – from the Bering Straight to Tierra del Fuego – renamed by the Bush Administration a Free Trade Area of the Americas.   Didn’t happen, but the Bush Administration ended up with a string of successful FTAs nonetheless.

Mr. Bush – and his crack team at the US Trade Representative’s office – was credited with successfully negotiating 15 FTAs during his two terms in office.  That number represents three-quarters of US FTAs now in force.  The string of successes were Australia (2005), Bahrain (2006), the Central American Free Trade Agreement with five countries (2004), Chile (2004), Morocco (2004), Oman (2009), Peru (2006) and Singapore (2004).  The Bush Administration negotiated three other accords – with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, but they were delayed by the current Obama Administration for three years, until early 2012.

President Reagan was in charge of the country when the first US FTA was reached with Israel in 1985.  President Bush (the elder) moved to join the two giant economies of North America in the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement; President Clinton was President when the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994 and he negotiated the FTA with Jordan in 2000.

President Obama is in charge of the 12-member TransPacific Partnership negotiations.  Predecessor Bush committed the United States to those negotiations just before leaving office in 2008.

Negotiations with the European Union, for which the Obama Administration can fully take credit, began in July of this year.  (British Prime Minister Churchill first floated the idea of a United States of Europe – including free trade with the United States – just after World War II).


Also a decade ago, the United States – sparked by a push by the National Association of Manufacturers – started pressuring China on doing something about its intentionally undervalued currency.
That “high profile” debate continues today.

TWENTY YEARS AGO – September 13 through 17, 1993.

President Clinton geared up for a country- and Congress-wide push to gain final approval of what turned out to be a controversial North American Free Trade Agreement – negotiated by the previous Bush Administration.  Early in the week, the President gathered three of his predecessors the White House – former Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush – to convince Congress that NAFTA was a good idea.  Opposition mainly came from organized labor and an influential environment community, both of which worried that the first US FTA with a developing country would lower standards of living and environmental quality on both sides of the southern US border.  The United States already had an FTA with Canada.
The Clinton Administration had to come up with side agreements to the accord on labor and the environment as a pallative to gain final support from Congress.  The Administration finally won over some major environmental groups with its promises of a development bank that would address degradation on both sides of the border, but couldn’t convince labor on a similar labor side letter.
Liberal House Democratic Leader Rep. Richard A. Gephardt continued to speak out against the accord during that week in 2003.
By mid-week President Clinton was in pro-trade New Orleans to highlight the importance of NAFTA to the country.  And ranking Clinton cabinet members – including USTR Mickey Kantor along with Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen – were working on members on Capitol Hill.  Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was in the jaws of the enemy speaking in Pittsburgh on how the US steel industry would benefit by freer trade with Mexico.
And the Wall Street Journal reported that a public opinion poll showed that 36 percent of the American people outright opposed NAFTA; 25 percent supported it and a full 34 percent had no opinion.

The question for this week is whether President Obama will show his face outside the White House in support of the TransPacific Partnership which is supposed to wrap up by the end of the year.  Or will he decide that the benefits of free trade with the biggest and fastest growing nations of Asia and the Pacific side of Latin America are obvious – and need not be questioned either by the American people or Congress.
On Friday of this week public citizen groups opposed to TPP noisily demonstrated outside the US Trade Representative’s office while chief TPP negotiators were meeting inside.

Also this week in 1993, President Clinton took some administrative actions to ease the US trade embargo on Vietnam, and House Ways and Means trade subcommittee chair, the late Rep. Sam Gibbons, was conducting a lonely fight to normalize trade relations with Vietnam – nearly two decades after the end of the war.
Vietnam is now a full partner in the TPP negotiations which will end in a free trade agreement with the United States and 10 other nations.


Monday, September 16, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

What We’re Covering This Week...

Here are some of the stories we’ll be following this week:

Lots of foreign trade officials will be in town this week, including the chief negotiators for the TransPacific Partnership.

On Monday, US Trade Representative Michael Froman meets with Turkish Minister of Economy Safer Caglayan. In Geneva, negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement begin and are expected to continue until the end of the week.
Tuesday, the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy sponsors an event on China trade and investment policy with several speakers from USTR. The Bipartisan Policy Center holds a discussion on Iran sanctions with Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Dan Coats.
Wednesday, USTR’s Froman meets with South African Trade Minister Rob Davies. The President’s Export Council subcommittee on export administration holds an open meeting. So does the US Export Import Bank’s advisory committee. Chief negotiators for the 12 TPP countries start to gather in Washington for a multi-day session in preparation for the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders meeting.
Thursday, the President’s Export Council meets. USTR Froman and other cabinet members will attend.
On Friday, the Cato Institute sponsors a program on the TPP. House Ways and Means Democratic trade counsel Jason Kearns participates.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

Here are some of the things we’ll be covering this week:

Monday – The US Trade Representative holds a public hearing on its Section 301 investigation of whether Ukraine is failing to protect intellectual property rights. On the Hill, key senators – including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) – hold a news conference to press for action on a new five year farm bill before US farm programs expire at the end of this month. Also on Monday, the House is slated to consider the Global Investment in American Jobs Act (HR 2052).
In Geneva, the World Trade Organization General Council meets.
Tuesday – The TransPacific Partnership negotiations are the subject of a program sponsored by the Council of the Americas. New Zealand Ambassador Mike Moore and officials from the Japanese and Mexican embassies are among the speakers. Meanwhile, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations will be discussed a two separate events. Also, the Commerce Department’s Regulations and Procedures Technical Advisory Committee holds a public meeting.
The World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body meets in Geneva.
Wednesday – Indian barriers to US investment and financial services is the topic of a hearing before the Senate Banking subcommittee on national security and international trade and finance.
Thursday – The TPP will be a predominant topic of discussion at a day-long conference on Asia sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Friday -- Mexican Ambassador Medina Mora addresses a National Press Club news maker program.
Looks like it’s starting to get busy again...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Here's What WTD Is Covering This Week

Here are some of the stories we’ll be covering this week:

On Wednesday, US Trade Representative Michael Froman meets privately with members of the Biotechnology Industry Association, where he is likely to brief them on the status of biotech issues in the TransPacific Partnership negotiations. Also on Wednesday, the Commerce Department will release its report on the US trade balance for July.
Thursday, we’ll be covering the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, where Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade Elyor Ganiev will speak. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni speaks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. How the US and Japan can promote prosperity in the Asia Pacific will be the topic of a program sponsored by the US-Japan Research Institute and the Brookings Institution.
Friday, the National Bureau of Asian Research sponsors a program on the US, Japan and the TransPacific Partnership Agreement.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


 About a week ago I dutifully attended an all-day Turkic American Convention on the economies of the half dozen “stan” countries in Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

 It was well attended, including by a number of US House and Senate members.

 Actually, it was enlightening to learn how quickly those new countries – most of which were held under tight Soviet rule until the early 1990s and had little autonomy of their own – have advanced their economies.  All are in, under consideration or desiring the join the World Trade Organization.

 Turkmenistan – because of its proximity to US ally Afghanistan – appeared to be the US favorite at the session, with the attendance of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake and US Trade Representative’s office director of Central Asia Laurie Curry attending a panel on doing business in the relatively rich country.

 Also popping in unscheduled was Navy Rear Admiral Ron MacLaren – who asked if anyone in the audience knew why a Navy guy was on a panel on how to do business with Turkmenistan – a landlocked country.

 The answer is simple.  Given its proximity to Afghanistan – where the United States is fighting its latest war – he was on the lookout for alternative suppliers for American troops in country.

 That sounded fine, until the rear admiral enumerated the types of goods he has procured for US troops stationed south of the border.  They included everything from toothpaste, to bottled water, to aluminum roofing, to rebar for road construction, to cement, etcetera.

 The admiral gave a very boring lecture on negotiating techniques he uses to procure from the Turkmens – such as stressing the importance of quality and threatening to turn to other suppliers outside the country, among others.  Some experienced Turkmenistan hands suggested to this reporter that those general “negotiating” techniques were laughed at by the sellers – who ended up selling at their own prices anyway.

 But the kicker was when the admiral said not buying from US sources actually benefitted
Americans.  Prices and transportation costs were much lower when purchased in Turkmenistan, he explained.  Procurement of those supplies avoided the higher US prices and expenses to ship in US bottoms to the battlefront – all on the backs if American taxpayers.  Cement – for example – purchased in Pittsburgh and sent directly to Afghanistan would cost a lot more than buying from close-by Turkmenistan.

 I couldn’t believe I had just head that.

 I guess not only does the US military have its own criminal system, but it also follows different law than other Americans.

 Jim Berger

Friday, March 8, 2013

Toys and Triffles

With recent efforts to bolster the US manufacturing base and produce more goods domestically than purchased abroad, the debate over other countries’ ability to raise and lower their currency almost at will to benefit their trade has risen to the surface again in Washington. A lot of members of Congress – including its champion Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) – are stomping their feet and introducing bills requiring the US government to penalize countries that do so.  China is the most obvious and talked about most in Washington.

But it’s not a new issue.

Following is an article – entitled: Toys and Trifles – on the subject published in Washington’s National Intelligencer newspaper on February 16, 1856 –

Toys and Triffles

"On this them, a long while ago, (says the Boston Courier,) we took occasion to remark that the United States imported more unnecessary articles and exported more of the necessary articles of life than any other nation. The following extract from the Albany Evening Journal will no doubt strike others as it does ourselves of the truth of our remark. At the same time it speaks volumes in favor of the argument of regulating in some measures a currency which contributes forcibly to open wide the door of so remunerative a market for the introduction of articles that we ourselves might so easily produce; or if it must be that our people will continue to avail themselves of foreign industry, in preference to their own at home, let it be done on more equal terms than our own currency now permits it to be:

The Nation’s Extravagance

For the year ending August 31, 1855, we Americans imported from Europe, for our own heads and those of our wives and daughters, $1,982,560 worth of bonnets of silk, straw, and leghorn, and of hats and caps. Yet how few of the head-pieces one sees give evidence of having been sent for three thousand miles away. All are seemingly home-made. In that same year, young and old America treated themselves to $8,722,850 worth of watches, chronometers, and clocks of European make. Their appetite too for foreign jewelry was baited with $974,120 worth of the article upon which, without sighing, they paid a duty of thirty per cent. Of leather to cover their hands and their feet they sent across the ocean and bought to the tune of $3,069,860 – enough to hide-bind the nation and sicken it in various ways.

Having killed off all our woolen manufacturers, we let the foreigners take from us in the same year $24,225,379 for fabrics of wool that we had to have, or thought we wanted; for linen goods $8,617,165, for cotton goods only $15,742,923, for embroideries $3,892,749, and for iron and steel and their manufactures $22,980,728. Considering that America is the richest country on the face of the globe in the ores of metals and the means and skill to reduce them, the last item must have been a hard one in a double sense, and perhaps induced the importation by our people for solvents and aids to digestion in the shape of $4,615,735 worth of wines and liquors. Old and Young America bought abroad last year, and on tick, of things they could mostly have made at home, to the extent of $11,281,245! Any other concern in the world would "bust up" under such reckless house-keeping and management."

WTD's Friday Afternoon Podcast for March 8, 2013


Sunday, February 24, 2013


Monday, February 11, 2013


The next US Trade Representative will face some tough challenges – like completing the TransPacific Partnership negotiations, launching a new trade deal of some sort with the European Union and making sure that countries like China play by the rules.

But the toughest challenge facing the next USTR will be USTR, itself.  More specifically, they are the cream-of-the-crop hard-working employees who toil day and night at the Office of the US Trade Representative – an agency that used to be praised as being the leanest and most nimble federal agency around.

But shockingly, USTR also happens to be the agency with the unhappiest employees, according to an little-noticed annual survey of government employees which was quietly issued and then shoved-away last December.

In 2012 – for the second year in a row no less – USTR came in lowest in employee satisfaction and commitment of any federal agency surveyed as part of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings.  IN OTHER WORDS, USTR IS THE WORST PLACE TO WORK IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  This is according to the people who work there.  Even the employees of the Internal Revenue Service – often portrayed as the very stereotype of dispirited, soulless bureaucrats – are way happier than the folks at USTR.

It makes me wonder what’s going to happen to what little morale is left at USTR if President Obama moves ahead with his grand scheme to subsume the small agency into a huge new federal Department of Business – essentially a reconstructed Commerce Department.  And, what kind of message would it send to USTR employees if the “architect” of the new plan – acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients – becomes their next boss?

But back to the survey.  Not only was USTR at the bottom for the second year in the row in 2012 – with a ranking of 32.7 out of 100 – but employee satisfaction last year was down 15 percent from the previous year.  USTR’s slide into the basement of employee satisfaction began in 2009, according to the survey and has dropped by 24.7 points since 2010.

USTR employees responding to the survey rated themselves unhappy with almost every aspect of their work, including pay and performance-based rewards (okay, who’s ever happy with those?), support for diversity (surprising), access to training and development (surprising) and work/life balance (not so surprising for a small workhorse agency).

Also not so surprising is that the one area where the tightly-knit USTR staff are more satisfied is with each other.  USTR employees gave their highest scores (although still not great) to teamwork and employee skills.

But most telling of all, USTR staff gave their lowest ratings to the agency’s leadership – or rather what USTR staffers saw as the lack of effective leadership.  USTR EMPLOYEE RATINGS FOR EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP WERE THE LOWEST OF ANY AGENCY SURVEYED – with a score of 35.7 out of a possible 100.  Senior leaders got a score of only 18.6 – AGAIN THE LOWEST SCORE FOR ANY FEDERAL AGENCY.  In the category of whether agency leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce, USTR’s score was 12 out of 100.


Of course, the next USTR can always take comfort in the old adage that “when you’re on the bottom, there’s no place to go but up” – unless you stay on the bottom.

The Best Places to Work  rankings are compiled each year by the Partnership for Public Service, a New York-based organization that describes its mission as seeking “to revitalize our federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.”  Most of the data used is collected first-hand by the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.  The survey was administered April 2 through June 30, 2012, to full-time and part-time permanent executive branch employees and completed by more than 687,000 federal workers – a response rate of 46.1 percent.

The 2012 rankings are available at

HAVE A GOOD READ and weep.

Mary Berger

Monday, January 28, 2013


It’s not exactly a horse race – selecting the head of the World Trade Organization. It’s more like the popular American television show "Dancing With the Stars" where contestants are sequentially eliminated.

As with everything in the WTO – and perhaps it is a flaw, according to one contestant for the seat who wants a United Nations-style one-nation, one-vote – the selection process for the next Director General will be tedious and slow because it will require the consensus of all 159 members.

The nine candidates come from all regions of the globe and a several-step selection process will eliminate all but a final couple on a rotating basis.

There are two candidates from Africa – former Ghana trade minister Alan Kyerematen and Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, who is executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. There are two candidates from South/Central America – Costa Rica’s trade minister Anabel Gonzalez and current Brazilian chief envoy to the WTO, Roberto Azevedo. Former Mexican trade minister Herminio Blanco also is in the contest.

From Asia comes Indonesia’s former trade minister and current tourism and creative economy minister Mari Pangestu along with South Korea trade minister Bark Taeho.

Jordan has put up former trade minister Ahmad Tougan Hindawi.

New Zealand nominated its current trade minister, Tim Groser.

The fun of guessing who will come out on top – hopefully by mid-summer – has already begun. Speculation and rationales are running wild in Geneva. And, in fact, it has gone beyond the Geneva trade capital. On-line betting houses are also getting into the game.

In Dublin, the Paddy Power betting parlor is in the game – but it is way off on a prospective winner. Leading the pact as of January 25, according to Paddy Power, is Kenya’s Mr. Kyerematen with nine to four odds. He was the first candidate to announce in December. He is followed by New Zealand’s Mr. Groser and Costa Rica’s current trade minister Anabel Gonzalez – both with 11 to four odds to win.

The riskier bets – according to Paddy Power – start with Indonesia’s Pangestu with six to one odds; Brazilian Robert Azevedo with eight to one odds and Kenya’s Ms. Mohamed with 12 to one odds.

From far behind comes Mexico’s Blanco with 16 to one odds followed by Jordan’s Hindawi and Korea’s Bark trailing each with 20 to one odds.

(IRELAND SHOULD STICK TO HANDICAPPING HORSE RACES) Everybody but Americans – where on-line betting is outlawed – can bet and perhaps make some money.

Here is where Washington Trade Daily comes out – and why (although we are not putting any money on the line):

Winning will be Indonesia’s Ms. Pangestu – a veteran trade negotiator who has a wealth of experience representing her own country and coordinating various alliances of developing countries. Over the years she also has shown her ability to stand up to economic giants like the United States and the European Union while also developing strategic alliances with both.

The United States and the EU, however, will likely stick to the Indonesian candidate for more pragmatic reasons. Selecting an Asian for the top slot will mean that the four deputy Director Generals would have to come from other regions of the world. That precludes China from taking up a leadership post.

(ps – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk was spied last week in Davos at the Indonesia Night party).

South Korea’s Bark, so far, has taken a low profile in the debate. He was in Davos too last week.

As for the two African candidates, the United States is likely to stand steadfast against both, given Washington’s less-than-enthusiastic – and sometimes antagonistic – stances toward Africa. The Obama Administration also has looked askance at important African trade policy demands, including insistence that the United States change its cotton support policies for the benefit of small producers in West Africa. The United States also strongly opposes another major African trade tenet – that industrial nations eliminate all tariff and nontariff barriers to imports from least-developed countries.

As for the three-way South/Central America/Mexico grouping, Washington probably will like to support Mexico’s Mr. Blanco, but the rest of the world would go against that selection – benefiting Brazil’s Azevedo or Costa Rica’s Gonzalez. Mr. Blanco apparently has been "singing the US song" to delegates in Geneva, but offset by a reputed offer to China that it would be given a Deputy Director General post.

Given its long history of policy disagreements with Brazil, Washington will not want a Mr. Azevedo at the helm.

Ms. Gonzalez could be a strong candidate, lasting until the final elimination rounds. Costa Rica is a member of the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and has been a staunch supporter of the United States in the WTO on a number of controversial issues.

Central America also has a free trade arrangement with the European Union.

One "dark horse" in the contest is Jordan’s Mr. Hindawi. But he too could become a viable alternative in a deadlock, gaining support from the United States and the EU. Both have free trade agreements with the country.

New Zealand’s Mr. Groser has very little chance, but could emerge from a seriously deadlocked process – which nobody expects. Traditionally, the Director General has been held by a developed-country representative, alternating with someone from a developing country. The rule, however, is not chiseled in stone, as emphasized by current Director General Pascal Lamy – a Frenchman.

But New Zealand has had a turn when former Prime Minister Mike Moore held the post in the 1990s.

Mr. Groser has already told envoys in Geneva that he expects to be eliminated in the first round of decisionmaking.

There is an inordinately large number of candidates in the contest. So the WTO is grappling with how to make the process shorter. A three-member selection team headed by General Council Chair Elin Østebø Johansen of Norway is holding consultations with members now on how to reduce the number of rounds and speed up the process.

"Horse-trading" for the appointment of the four Deputy Director General posts also could become a major tool in the campaigns.

The selection team is made up of the General Council chair, Dispute Settlement Body head Shahid Bashir of Pakistan and the chair of the Trade Policy Review Body, Muñoz Gómez of Colombia.

In the last contest in 2005, which ended in the endorsement of EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy, there were only four candidates.

One official in Geneva suggested there would be at least eight consolation rounds between the selection committee and members to eliminate one candidate each time. Another suggested that the process would have to be shortened even more – perhaps to two months.

It is expected at this point that at least four candidates would be eliminated in the first round, culling another three in the second, with perhaps as few as two left standing in the final round. Much will depend on the modalities for elimination and whether each member will have three or four equal choices.

The candidates will show up in Geneva on January 29, 30 and 31 for a formal exposition of their views followed by questions from the audience of envoys.

According to one knowledgeable speculator in Washington, running for the WTO top post is made difficult by members quietly courting US support – but trying to keep it under wraps. Outright endorsement by Washington is the "kiss of death" for any candidate. The easiest way to gain more credibility from members is to get surreptitious support from Washington and then start criticizing the United States.

Several of the WTO candidates were in Washington over the past several weeks, but those visits were kept secret. Washington Trade Daily only found out about them after the fact – sometimes within a couple of hours.

Jim Berger