December 15, 2008 / 7:55 PM / 9 years ago

Ex Dallas mayor mum on possible U.S. trade post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk said on Monday he had been in talks with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, but would not comment on whether he could be picked to be U.S. trade representative.

“I have met with the transition team, and I have not or will not make any comment about the subject of our talks or whom I met with,” Kirk told Reuters in a phone interview.

NBC’s local affiliate in the Dallas area reported on Sunday it had been told by an “extremely high level source” that Kirk was one of two finalists for two different administration jobs: U.S. trade representative and transportation secretary.

The same source told NBC5 in Dallas-Fort Worth that Kirk would be thrilled with the job of chief U.S. trade negotiator, but happy with either post.

Kirk, a partner at the Houston-based law firm of Vinson and Elkins, told Reuters it would not be appropriate for him to comment on any potential job in the Obama administration.

Staff aides on the Obama transition team in Chicago said they had no comment on the report.

Kirk was the first black mayor of Dallas from 1995 until 2001, when he launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States Senate.

He was an aide to late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen during the 1980s and followed Bentsen to the Treasury Department, when former President Bill Clinton tapped the Texas Democrat as his first Treasury secretary.

Obama has been considering Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, for U.S. trade representative and many business and labor lobbyists believe Becerra is still a leading candidate for the job.

Becerra’s office has confirmed the lawmaker met earlier this month with Obama to talk about the U.S. trade representative’s job.

Becerra was recently elected vice-chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, making his decision to give up his congressional seat more difficult if Obama officially offers him the job.

Obama is expected to announce his picks to lead the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency late on Monday afternoon.

With many other high-level slots already filled, Obama could announce his choice for USTR before Christmas, business and labor lobbyists said.

Additional reporting by Deborah Charles in Chicago, editing by Anthony Boadle

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