The A Team for American Business Waits As the Down Economy Keeps Going

“U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade,” “Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs,” “Deputy United States Trade Representative,” “Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs,” “U.S. Ambassador to Brazil”…while these positions may sometimes go under the radar of our 24 hour media cycle, American CEOs and business leaders turn to the individuals in these posts in Washington for help getting a fair shake in foreign markets or untying global trade knots. 

Yet today, when every export dollar and trade-supported job is essential to America’s economic recovery, these key positions sit empty.  And, surprisingly, these five seats are empty because of stalls and behind-the-scenes maneuvers by Senate Republicans – usually key allies of U.S. business.  In each case, the names went up months ago.  The nominees – people like Miriam Shapiro, Arturo Valenzuela, Thomas Shannon, Frank Sanchez, and Lael Brainard - have strong credentials and many have demonstrated strong bipartisan support.  

The reasons for the holds and delays vary.  But even if the blocking actions are unrelated, collectively they deny American businesses their most effective overseas advocates at a most critical time. 

Who is hurt by these holds and staff delays?  Certainly the president, facing economic and political turmoil in many parts of Latin America, including the hot-button crisis in Honduras; but all Americans and American businesses are hurt as we find ourselves in the midst of a major economic crisis.  Moreover, there is no one to hold up the fort and defend U.S. businesses as they face discriminatory practices, trade disputes, and other international challenges that hurt them – and their employees – here at home. 

This post is limited to introducing this topic; stay tuned as I discuss the political background and implications of this nominations process in a series of opinion pieces.