California Democrat considered for trade job

/ Source: The Associated Press

California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra, a strong proponent of labor protections in free trade pacts, is in discussions with the Obama transition team about taking the job of U.S. trade representative.

Two Democratic officials confirmed Wednesday that Becerra was a contender for the job. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

Becerra's spokeswoman, Fabiola Rodriguez, said Tuesday night that she could provide no information. She did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter declined comment Wednesday

The U.S. trade representative is responsible for negotiating trade deals and overseeing trade policy. The job would be important in the administration of Barack Obama, who's called for renegotiating the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Becerra was elected to the House in 1992 from Los Angeles and sits on the Ways & Means panel that oversees trade issues. He voted for NAFTA but later said he regretted the vote. He opposed giving the White House fast-track negotiating authority in 2002 and led opposition to the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement, citing what he called "sub-par labor standards."

A member of the House Democratic leadership as vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Becerra supported the Peru trade deal last year.