Fight over Becerra?

FIGHT OVER BECERRA?…. By and large, Barack Obama’s cabinet selections have been met with very little resistance from the right. There’s been some fuss over Eric Holder, but the conservative reactions have been surprisingly muted.

It appears, however, that one prospective choice might actually generate some heat. Greg Sargent has the story:

[Obama’s] rumored choice for U.S. Trade Representative, Congressman Xavier Becerra, is reportedly worrying some pro-big business and free-trade types.

The possibility that Obama might award the post to Becerra — who professed his regret for voting for NAFTA, opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and once pronounced U.S. trade policy as “broken” — is already being praised by some progressives. David Sirota sees it as a sign that “Obama is serious about reforming our trade policies.”

And now Business Week reports on some rumblings of opposition from the pro-business and free-trade camp:

Philip Levy, who’s now with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the mag that the choice is “troubling,” arguing that “to oppose Nafta is in many ways to lash out symbolically against trade.” A business lobbyist added to the mag that he and his colleagues are “pretty concerned.”

Becerra, who has been active in trade policy debates on the Hill for a while now, hasn’t always been predictable. He voted for Nafta, for example, but later regretted it. Becerra opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, but supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, and supported the free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Peru last year.

The AEI crowd may be “concerned,” but it’s worth noting that pro-trade business groups like the National Foreign Trade Council had generally positive things to say about Becerra. “He’s been articulate in support of open markets” while also advocating tougher “labor and environmental provisions,” said NFTC president William Reinsch. “Within the confines of where the Democratic caucus is, he’s been good.”

Greg noted that it’ll be worth “watching closely … to see how Obama reacts in the face of corporate opposition, should Becerra be the pick and should business groups oppose it.” Quite right. But also watch to see if corporate interests end up splitting on this — if business groups go all out on Becerra, they’ll run the risk of Obama picking a Trade Rep. who’s even less friendly to their agenda.

I can’t help but think, AEI complaints notwithstanding, most of the business interests would conclude Becerra is “good enough.”

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