Business groups, lawmakers express support for Pritzker, Froman nominations

Pritzker is the billionaire heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune with a net worth of $1.85 billion, making her the 277th richest person in the United States, according to Forbes. 

She a longtime supporter of the president and one of his most prominent fundraisers in their shared hometown of Chicago. Obama called her “one of the country’s most distinguished business leaders.”

Froman has served as the top adviser on trade and the global economy during Obama's entire tenure as president. He is a trusted friend from law school who Obama said "was much smarter than me then, he continues to be smarter than me now." 

In their support of Froman, lawmakers focused on a promise from the Obama administration to move forward with trade promotion authority (TPA) as part of an expanding trade agenda that includes the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the start of talks on a U.S.-European Union trade deal this summer. 

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) urged Froman to move forward with bipartisan fast-track legislation. 

"I am confident that his skills and experience will stand him in good stead as he leads the administration's trade policy and takes the helm at one of the most professional and productive agencies in the U.S. government," Camp said. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose committee will oversee Froman's nomination, called him the right choice for the job. 

"The administration is sending a clear signal that trade is a top priority," he said. "He has been an instrumental player in trade negotiations over the last four years and will hit the ground running."

“Strengthening our trade ties with Europe and across the Pacific is one of my top priorities for the next year and a half, and I’m eager to work with the administration to make sure those trade agreements bolster our economy and create jobs, including through swift passage of trade promotion authority.”

In a recent hearing on the TPP, Baucus said he wanted to introduce fast-track bipartisan legislation by June. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member on Senate Finance, said he hoped Froman's nomination was a signal that the White House is ready to work with Congress on renewing fast-track authority.  

"If the next U.S. Trade Representative is going to effectively lead these negotiations and deliver real market access opportunities for our workers; farmers; ranchers and job creators, he is going to need the tools to get the job done, and one of the most important tools in our trade arsenal is TPA," he said. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former U.S. Trade Representative and member of the Senate Finance Committee, said Froman "knows the trade portfolio well, and his expertise is needed, given all that is on [the trade representative's] plate."

“I look forward to hearing his views on the importance of working with Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority so the administration can start opening more markets for American workers, farmers and service providers."

If Froman gains enough support to win the job, he could likely usher through the TPP and the U.S.-EU deals.

Business groups also lined up behind the Froman and Pritzker nominations, stressing the importance for both nominees, if confirmed, to team up to ensure fair competition for U.S. businesses around the world. 

"The TPP and U.S.-EU trade negotiations are at the forefront of the U.S. trade agenda this year, and it is essential that we have a trade ambassador with experience negotiating and finalizing trade agreements," said National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) President Bill Reinsch.  

He called Froman "a proven closer of agreements" for his work on the free-trade deals completed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. 

U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said Froman "has the vision and experience to deliver new trade opportunities for American workers and companies at the negotiating table."

Still, Froman's nomination was not without its detractors. 

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said Froman "has been instrumental in pushing Obama’s trade policies backward to the corporate agenda that Froman also championed during the Clinton administration."

"This choice doesn’t inspire confidence that the administration will get on track to fulfill President Obama’s 2008 campaign commitment to replace the NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] model of trade deals that GOP, Democratic and Independent voters oppose after living with their damaging results," she said. 

Baucus said Pritzker's business experience and "leadership will help spur greater innovation across our economy and make us more competitive around the world."

U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) President John Frisbie said the complex trade agenda, which includes a growing number of enforcement challenges "require steady engagement from the Department of Commerce and USTR [U.S. Trade Representative], coordination with like-minded allies, and, when necessary, utilizing rules-based, internationally accepted trade tools, such as World Trade Organization cases to level the playing field for American companies and workers."

He said Pritzker and Froman will need to work together to prioritize the top issues in the U.S.-China commercial relationship including market-access restrictions and improving intellectual property rights protection.

"In the world of business Penny Pritzker has broken through the glass ceiling with her extraordinary intelligence and business acumen," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

"I believe Penny will bring a new perspective to a department that is charged with leading America forward in business growth and job creation. I look forward to supporting her nomination and working closely with her in this important assignment."

The travel industry also expressed support for Pritzker and Froman. 

"As a result of her family’s creation of the Hyatt brand and her own investments of time and capital in the expansion and growth of the lodging industry, she brings particularly valuable insights on the issues of importance to hoteliers in this country," said Katherine Lugar, American Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO.  

"Michael Froman’s invaluable world perspective on issues impacting both the global economy and the workforce here in the United States will be crucial as we continue our efforts to market this country as a destination of choice.”

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said Pritzker's "successful track record as an innovative business leader and entrepreneur makes her ideally suited to take charge of a department focused on issues that directly impact U.S. economic growth."