Friday, April 11, 2014

USTR Froman, Congress and Batman

I haven’t done a blog in a while.  But this can’t wait.

I intended to write an essay on why President Obama said – albeit somewhat clumsily in his February State of the Union Address to Congress – that he wants special Trade Promotion Authority but hasn’t done anything about it.  A month before those remarks, high-level Administration officials unambiguously told WTD that the President and his crew – including the Commerce Department and the US Trade Representative in particular – would be helping out.

Since the State of the Union?  Zilch.

I decided to cut this short because Sen. Orrin Hatch, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked the same question in remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies earlier this week.  Neither he nor I – nor the Administration for that matter – has any answers.

Give Mr. Hatch’s remarks a listen and then come back ( ).

My sentiments exactly, except that the very kindly Utah Mormon senator gives President Obama too much credit.

As for the chief trade agencies knowing much about trade or how Washington works, I can only provide two indicators from this week.  Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker – who says the country is “open for business” – told her Senate Appropriations subcommittee that she did not know the current status of the negotiations on the TransPacific Partnership and would have to get back to them.

The latest demonstration of ignorance came today in a brief press announcement from the USTR’s office which said – On Monday, April 14, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman will join employees at Atlas Devices in Boston to help open and tour a new state-of-the-art facility.  The company’s expansion, which is largely credited to its success in exporting, will allow Atlas Devices to expand its workforce to meet global demand.  This Boston-owned and operated company produces rescue and access solutions for government and military users worldwide, including a real-world version of Batman’s grappling tool.  The handheld Atlas Powered Rope Ascender can lift a fully-loaded soldier, firefighter, or safety inspector up the line, at up to 10 feet per second.  Their technology can also transform the average news helicopter into a disaster rescue vehicle in a moment’s notice.

Maybe the announcement was an April fool’s joke – two weeks late.

Even the “Caped Crusader” couldn’t get USTR Froman out of the mess he’s in with Congress – and an Atlas Powered Rope Ascender won’t help either.

What do you think?

Jim Berger

(ps – does “Boston-owned” make Atlas Devices a state-owned enterprise?)

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