Obama nominates pair to lead commerce, trade efforts

President Obama shared a laugh with longtime fund-raiser and nominee for commerce secretary Penny Pritzker. Michael Froman was nominated as US Trade Representative.

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

President Obama shared a laugh with longtime fund-raiser and nominee for commerce secretary Penny Pritzker. Michael Froman was nominated as US Trade Representative.

WASHINGTON — President Obama rounded out his second-term Cabinet choices Thursday, nominating Penny Pritzker, his longtime financial backer and an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, to be commerce secretary, and Michael Froman, a law school friend and White House adviser on international economics, as trade representative.

Obama introduced his two friends in the Rose Garden just before leaving for a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, along with Froman. He has now completed his selections for a Cabinet depleted by departures after his first term.


Several nominees, including the new ones, still need Senate confirmation. Republicans are opposing the labor nominee, Thomas Perez, and are likely to closely scrutinize Pritzker’s financial and investment record.

Pritzker, a Chicago donor and fund-raiser for Obama, had been expected to be his pick for the long-vacant Commerce Department post, but vetting of her assets and ties delayed a formal announcement, administration aides have said. She had been a candidate for commerce secretary after Obama’s election in 2008 but withdrew from contention amid the public scrutiny at the time.

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With Pritzker, Obama would bring a woman and a voice for business interests into a Cabinet that has been criticized as having too few of either.

Froman, 50, has served in the White House as deputy national security adviser for international economics since Obama first took office. The post is not a Cabinet position, but Froman had proximity to the president and a portfolio thicker than that of the Cabinet-rank trade representative, encompassing not only trade but international development and climate change issues.

Obama initially intended to nominate Jeffrey D. Zients, a businessman who had been acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be trade representative. But opposition to Zients from Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, scuttled it.


Froman has been the president’s ‘‘Sherpa,’’ making preparations for past and upcoming global summits, including the G-8 and G-20 gatherings and the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conferences. He also oversees economic relations with Europe, Japan, and the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — and development policies for Africa and the Middle East.

On Thursday, Obama gave Froman credit, along with the man he would succeed, Ron Kirk, for finishing free-trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama begun in the Bush administration. The foremost issues will be to negotiate trade deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim region.

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