Xavier Becerra has withdrawn from consideration as US Trade Representative, concluding that trade will be neither the first, second, nor third priority for the administration (h/t Ben Smith–que bilingue!).
Meanwhile, Obama seems to have tapped former Iowa Gov. Tim Vilsack, a big ag subsidy advocate, for Agriculture.
If you are in the developing world, this is not good news, because it signals that the administration will not spend any political capital to reducing our horribly destructive agricultural subsidies, which not only waste money, but impoverish literally millions of third world farmers. This would be both the Ag Secretary’s job and USTR’s.
The more optimistic spin on this is that any President has to choose his fights. Obama has resolved to fight on health care, public works, energy, and climate change. Those are good priorities, and if he wins, then that’s a very productive first term. (Yes, of course agricultural subsidies impact energy and climate, but the administration seems to have determined that it is not as central.).
So once again I will suggest that Joe Stiglitz might be a really good person to put at the World Bank. If there is anyone who can call out the IMF on its often insane austerity policies, it’s Stiglitz. If the administration doesn’t want to take on certain powerful domestic constituencies, then that is its prerogative, and it might make sense. But at least it can try to ensure that the IMF doesn’t make the situation worse.