WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Peter Allgeier, is taking a job in the private sector next month, in another setback to long-running world trade talks.
Allgeier’s departure is a “serious, but not fatal” blow to Doha round negotiations now in their eighth year, said Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, a U.S. business group.
“His departure from Geneva, where a lot of the negotiations takes place, is a setback. You can’t have somebody with his abilities and his knowledge ... leave without having it felt,” Vargo said, a former U.S. Commerce Department official and long-time friend of Allgeier.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office confirmed Allgeier’s pending departure.
Allgeier has been U.S. ambassador to the WTO since 2005. He will start work on September 8 as president of trade and investment consulting firm C&M International.
One name mentioned to succeed Allgeier by industry aides is Montana author Michael Punke, who worked for former President Bill Clinton as White House director of international economic affairs, according to a biography on his Web site www.michaelpunke.com.
Punke served in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office from 1995 to 1996 as senior policy adviser, his biography said. He has written one novel and two non-fiction books about the West. He was not immediately available and administration officials had no comment on who Obama might tap.
Whoever takes over for Allgeier will step into talks still at odds over how much the United States will cut farm subsidies in exchange for big developing countries like India and Brazil cutting farm tariffs.
Obama and other world leaders recently set a new goal to finish the round by the end of 2010. But there is widespread skepticism countries will meet that target.
Allgeier joined the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in 1980 and served in several assistant secretary slots before former President George W. Bush tapped him to be deputy U.S. trade representative in 2001.
Editing by Philip Barbara