Chinese Tire Producers Hire Top Former U.S. Government Trade Officials In '421' Dumping Case
By Richard A. McCormack
It didn't take long for a handful of the Bush administration's top trade officials to start representing foreign business interests. Eight members of the House of Representatives have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate five recently departed senior trade officials at the Department of Commerce who are representing Chinese tire companies in the "Section 421" case that was recently brought before the International Trade Commission.
According to congressional lobbyist disclosure forms, former senior officials at the Commerce Department"s Import Administration have been hired by the "American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires" to lobby U.S. government trade agencies and Congress on behalf of American Omni Trading Company, Del-Nat Tire Corp., and Dunlap & Kyle Co. These companies were named in the "421" case (TA-421-7) brought against them at the ITC by the United Steel, Paper, Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.
The members of Congress are irate. "We need to slam the revolving door so that government employees do not walk out of their office and into lobbying positions where they may work against the best interest of American workers and industries," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). Added Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio): "We need to broadly examine the activities of these people and determine what steps may be appropriate to restrict their actions in the future."
In their letter to acting U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the members of Congress note that American taxpayers invest in these officials' training and that they are trusted to uphold the public's interest. "American taxpayers should not find their hard earned money used in ways that ultimately jeopardize the interest of those producers who are struggling to survive in an increasingly competitive world market," write the representatives. "These individuals should be helping to promote growth and opportunity not undermine it."
Among those who are working on the Chinese industry's behalf on the Section 421 case are James Jochum, the most recent Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration and former Assistant Secretary for Export Administration. Jochum is now a member of the law firm of Black Swan LLC -- Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC. On the firm's Web site, Jochum states that he "advises clients on all aspects of international trade law and regulations including antidumping and countervailing duty matters, U.S. export controls and national security controls (CFIUS). Mr. Jochum also lobbies before the U.S. Congress and Administration, primarily on international issues." While at Commerce, Jochum was in charge of implementing U.S. trade remedy laws, including antidumping and countervailing duty laws. Prior to joining the Commerce Department, Jochum worked as the international trade council for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and played a "key role in all trade legislation that appeared before the Congress from 1994 to 1999," he says on his firm's Web site. He also served as the lead international trade counsel on the Senate Banking Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas).
Another member of the team representing the Chinese tire interests is Andrew Shore, formerly chief of staff of the House Republican Conference; Policy and Coalitions director of the House Republican Conference; legislative director for Rep. Phil. Crane (R-Ill.); and senior legislative director for Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas).
Marguerite Trossevin, recently the Deputy Chief Counsel at the Commerce Department's Import Administration, has also been hired as a lobbyist for the Chinese tire companies, according to the lobbyist disclosure forms submitted on May 8, 2009. She, too, works for Black Swan LLC -- Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC. In her bio, Trossevin says that while at the Commerce Deparment she provided "legal advice and advocacy on subsidy and trade remedy issues in the context of administrative proceedings, litigation before the federal courts and bi-national panels under NAFTA, legislation and negotiation." She also states that since leaving the Commerce Department she has "represented clients in connection with international trade matters before the Commerce Department, the International Trade Commission and U.S. Customs and in litigation before the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit."
The eight members of Congress requesting the GAO investigation say that the business activities of Stephen Claeys and David Spooner also need to be reviewed. Claeys is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations at the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration. He is a member of the Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC firm representing the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires. Spooner is a lawyer at Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP and is the firm's lead attorney in the case. According to the ITC, Spooner represents the Sub-Committee of Tire Producers of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemical Importers & Exporters, and the China Rubber Industry Association. Spooner was Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration from November 2005 to December 2008. Prior to that, he was the U.S. government Textile Negotiator working in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Earlier he worked as press secretary for Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.).
Also on the Squire Sanders team representing the Chinese producers is attorney Ritchie Thomas, formerly staff counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. International Trade Commission, and Peter Koenig, who, according to a Web searches, was international trade counsel to U.S. Steel Corp.
Beyond the officials named by the eight members of the House in the letter to the GAO, other former government trade officials are representing the Chinese in the tire case, including Regina Vargo, senior director at Greenberg Traurig. Vargo was Assistant U.S. Trade Representative and a 30-year veteran of the Commerce Department. Her husband, Frank, also served in the Commerce Department and is in charge of international trade issues at the National Association of Manufacturers.
The members of Congress requesting the GAO audit say that the individuals they list represent "just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to those who have chosen to represent foreign interests in administrative actions, before the Executive Branch or on Capitol Hill." They tell the GAO to conduct a comprehensive review to include "those who are covered not only by lobbying disclosure or Foreign Agent Registration Act requirements, but to analyze the activities of those who have appeared in legal proceedings on behalf of foreign producers or importers of their products."
They ask that the study be conducted in two phases. The first looking at individuals involved in current trade disputes and then a more thorough review of "the activities of former trade staff and officials over the last 15 years."
Signing the letter were Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Gene Green (D-Texas), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Phil Hare (D-Ill.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Betty Sutton (D-Ohio). .
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