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Free-Trader Top Candidate for Trade Rep?

1:11 PM, Dec 17, 2008 • By KEVIN VANCE
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Politico confirms that California congressman Xavier Becerra turned down Barack Obama's offer to become the U.S. trade representative.

The other leading candidate is rumored to be former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk. Kirk was elected Dallas's first black mayor in 1995 and earned a reputation for being pro-business and pro-trade.

At his mayoral inauguration, Kirk said he wanted Dallas to become "the capital city of NAFTA and the Americas." He often extolled the virtues of NAFTA and in 1996 he expressed hope that Chile would join the agreement.

In 2000, at an event in support of China's membership in the World Trade Organization, Kirk told the Dallas Morning News, "If any state stands up for trade, it should be the state of Texas because of all the success we've enjoyed with NAFTA."

When Kirk ran for the Democratic nomination in the race for retiring Sen. Phil Gramm's seat in 2002, he tacked to the left a little bit on trade, saying he supported free trade but opposed a bill that would have given the president unilateral authority to negotiate trade agreements. Kirk said he wanted to ensure that trade bills contain enough environmental and labor protections.

Nevertheless, Kirk's position on free trade and NAFTA is a far cry from a former position of Barack Obama that NAFTA was "a big mistake."

Kirk's name has also been mentioned as a possible transportation secretary, but Kirk as the U.S. trade rep would be about as good a choice as a free-trader could imagine coming from Obama. Kirk, a lawyer who has lobbied for Southwest Airlines and TXU Energy, must be hoping Obama continues to ignore his own earlier statement that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."