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Michael Froman '85

Michael Froman '85U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman ’85 announced on Oct. 5 that the United States and 11 Pacific Rim Nations had reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Froman wasnominated by President Barack Obama as the U.S. Trade Representative on May 2, 2013 and stepped into the position on June 19, 2013. Froman received an A.B. in Public and International Affairs from the Wilson School in 1985. He then earned a Ph.D. in International Relations/Affairs from Oxford University in 1989 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991.

Photo:
Michael Froman '85
Photo:
Michael Froman '85

Economics professor Alan Blinder ’67, whomet Froman during the first part of the Clinton administration when Froman was on the National Economic Council Staff under Robert Rubin,said that Froman is very smart and serious.

"He’s very well organized and the kind of person you’d meet and say he’s a very solid citizen, somebody with judgment, who’s trustworthy and has focus,” Blinder added.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

According to the United States Trade Representative website, the TPP is a trade agreement that intends to open markets, set high-standard trade rules and address 21st century issues in the global market.

The TPP will eliminate over 18,000 taxes that various countries impose on exports made in the United States, according to the White House, whichadded that import taxes on U.S. auto products will now be cut in member nations.

Froman said that the TPP is the most ambitious trade agreement in decades, noting the challenge of coordinating and working a diverse array of 12 developed and developing countries from across the Asian and Pacific regions.

“Collectively, we have set new, higher standards for the global trading system and so we’re breaking new ground in various 21st century areas like digital economy and state-owned enterprises,” he explained."We are raising labor and environmental standards around the world with this agreement, and we’re making sure that we tear down barriers to U.S. exports so that our workers and farmers and ranchers here can benefit from the global economy."

Froman noted estimates that the TPP will produce hundreds of billions of dollars of additional economic activity for the global economy, and it is estimated to increase U.S. exports by over a hundred billion dollars.

“Those exports support good, well-paying jobs in the U.S., jobs that pay up to 18 percent more on average than non-export-related jobs. This is all about opening markets and leveling the playing-field by raising standards,” Froman said. “We can have more and better jobs here in the United States, and that’s what we set out to do.”

Froman said that the TPP is one of the elements on the trade agenda that he executed.

“I was very excited about the trade agenda that we were pursuing and felt very, very lucky when the President asked me to take over the USTR to execute on that agenda and to make sure that it was fulfilled,” Froman said.

University Days

Froman explained that he attended the University largely because of the Wilson School, adding that he wanted to study and pursue public policy and was deeply impressed by the undergraduate program at the University and the University’s overall focus on undergraduates.

In addition to the Wilson School, he said that he spent most of his time at Tower Club.

“I seem to have spent most of my time crossing the street between Tower Club and the Wilson School,” Froman said.

He said that he worked closely with recently deceased Wilson School professor Richard Ullman, doing research and developing and helping to lead a policy conference with him.Froman said that the University environment is unique in that the undergraduate students are able to easily access their professors

He said his biggest challenge at Princeton was that there was so much going on around the campus that he sometimes felt he didn’t have the time to take advantage of it all.

However, the Wilson School and the relationships he made at the School were central to shaping his later career, Froman said. He noted the beneficial approach of the Wilson School of trying to bring practical policy-making into the classroom through task forces and policy conferences, bringing people from government to the campus to interact with the students and give people a sense of how to link the research and the work that they’re doing to real policy-making.

Though Froman has never practiced law, he said he has found it very useful in understanding the legal framework behind government and policy-making. Law school gave him a structure for thinking through issues that he found extremely useful both in government and in business, he explained.

Froman also noted that he met President Barack Obama while at Harvard Law School.

“We worked closely together on [Harvard] law review and developed a relationship there,” Froman said.

Wilson School professorStanley Katz said that he knows Froman because of Froman’s connections to the Wilson School and because Ullman, Froman’s thesis advisor, was a close friend of Katz.

“Froman has exactly the kind of career that Ullman hoped for all of his students, which is to say that he is an incredibly intelligent and publically committed sort of person whose work that he’s done on the TPP, Dick would’ve thought, was the culmination of a terrific career,” Katz said."He’s still a pretty young guy, so Mike is sort of everything we’d hope a Woodrow Wilson student would be."

Both Katz and Dean of the Wilson School Cecilia Rouse also noted that Froman was a part of a group of family and friends that came up with and are supporting the Ullman Fellowship and was also a speaker at Ullman’s memorial service.

“I know he’s deeply grateful for his Princeton experience and for his relationship and mentoring from Richard Ullman and is trying to provide those opportunities for other students as well,” Rouse said.

In the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations

Froman became a member of the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium after graduating from Harvard Law School. He then worked for the American Bar Association in Albania providing technical and legal assistance to the newly elected democratic government.

He explained that he helped to provide assistance and bring in experts for the Albanian government to be able to work on its constitution and civil code, set up courts and train lawyers, among other things.

“It was terrific. It was really one of my favorite jobs,” Froman said. “This is a country that had had its first election and we arrived a week later.”

Froman served as Director for International Economic Affairs on the newly-created National Economic Council and the National Security Council under the Clinton administration from January 1993 to December 1995.

Paul Blustein, nonresident fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution and former staff writer at the Washington Post, where he mostly covered economic policy and related issues, said that he first met Froman when he was covering economics for the Post and Froman was Robert Rubin’s chief of staff.

Rubin did not respond to a request for comment.

Blustein said he and Froman both went on a trip with Rubin to Brazil, where he got to know Froman more closely, and recalled that Froman was always very professional.

“I just thought the world of him. He was always professional and there was no question whose side he was on,” Blustein said."He was working for the U.S. Government, particularly for his boss, the U.S. Treasury Secretary. It was the same when he went to work for the Obama administration."

Froman then served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Eurasia and the Middle East for the U.S. Treasury from January to December 1996. He was the Treasury Chief of Staff from January 1997 to July 1999.

Froman said that he had a terrific experience in Washington.

“Washington is a place where recent graduates can have a disproportionate amount of responsibility,” he said, noting that he worked incredibly hard in Washington, but that his work was incredibly worthwhile.

Froman worked at Citigroup from December 1999 to January 2001. He explained that while at Citigroup he studied and wrote on negotiations out of his interest in economics.

He noted that one of the reasons he had gone to Harvard Law School was their program in negotiation, and that this interest in negotiations, once he entered government, morphed into an interest in trade.

Froman advised Obama during Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and eventually served on the advisory board of the Obama campaign’s transition team. After the 2008 election, Froman served as assistant to the president and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.

Froman explained that he worked for the first four and a half years at the White House doing international economics including trade among other things, such as helping to coordinate trade policy.

Rouse, who knew Froman from when she spent two years at the beginning of the Obama administration working at the Council of Economic Advisers, said that he was always extremely thoughtful, had a great perspective in thinking through many issues and had good questions whether or not he was directly knowledgeable about an issue.

“He always had really good questions and that’s what very much impressed me, along with how carefully and thoughtfully he approached the topics,” Rouse said.

Blustein noted that he had a chance to interview Froman a couple of times when Froman was with the Obama administration.

“I was very flattered. [Froman] asked my opinion about some trade issues and asked me to have lunch with him because I had done a book about the World Trade Organization,” Blustein noted. “He’s one of those guys who is obviously very comfortable with reporters.”

Blustein explained that, unlike many in Washington who want to ingratiate themselves with reporters or, conversely, despise reporters, Froman stood out from the pack. He noted that Froman never sought self-aggrandizement, something that Blustein deeply respected as a reporter.

“Mike was the kind of guy who really was the goldilocks perfect, not too hot and not too cold,” he said."He was a very personable guy, but he never seemed to be looking out for number one. He really was a guy who cared about doing a good job in whatever job it was."

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