December 14, 2016


[Megan Cassella | December 14, 2016 |Politico]

President-elect Donald Trump may be inching closer to a decision on who to tap for U.S. trade representative after Wayne Berman, a senior executive with the Blackstone Group, stopped by Trump Tower this week for an unannounced meeting, a source familiar with the transition told POLITICO. Berman and Bridgewater Associates President David McCormick, who met with the president-elect last month at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., have both been added to the list of top candidates Trump is considering to lead the trade agency, another source familiar with the list said.

The two business executives, who join Dan DiMicco and Robert Lighthizer as candidates Trump's considering, both have a history of government service: Berman worked in the Commerce Department under President George H.W. Bush before chairing the government relations department at the K Street firm Ogilvy, which he left for Blackstone in 2012. McCormick, meanwhile, served under President W. Bush as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for international affairs from 2007 to 2009, following stints in the Commerce Department as the undersecretary for industry and security and in the White House as Bush's deputy national economic security adviser for international economic policy.

In contrast to DiMicco and Lighthizer, who both have strong ties to the steel industry, which tends to view trade in more combative tones, Berman and McCormick would likely bring more of a mainstream Republican "internationalist" perspective to U.S. trade policy, one longtime trade observer told Morning Trade.

That might not be what the Trump team is looking for, however. Dan Ikenson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, noted that "considering his previous role on K Street in conjunction with his accumulated wealth, Berman seems like the kind of person Trump's 'drain-the-swamp' supporters would find offensive." Read more on the candidates from POLITICO's Anna Palmer and yours truly here.

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