ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: Saying that he has come to the realization that trade is not a priority for the incoming Obama administration, Rep. Xavier Becerra has decided not to accept Barack Obama's offer to be United States Trade Representative, according to an interview the California Democrat gave to the editorial board of La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles.
"Mi preocupación es qué tanto peso hubiera tenido esta posición y llegué a la conclusión de que no sería prioridad número uno, quizá ni siquiera dos o tres," Becerra told La Opinion.Translated to English, Becerra said, "My concern was how much weight this position [U.S. Trade Representative] would have and I came to the conclusion that it would not be priority No. 1, and perhaps, not even priority No. 2 or 3."
In the wake of the La Opinion story, Becerra’s office at first declined to comment and eventually put out a written statement attempting to frame the rejection of the president-elect in a more positive light.
"Working for and with incoming President Barack Obama would be an opportunity of a lifetime," said Becerra in his statement. "I will get to experience that thrill… by working by his side in the People’s House just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The clock is ticking; I'm ready to go!"
In the official statement, there was no mention of the rationale articulated to the editorial board of La Opinion.
In the run up to Ohio’s Democratic primary, Barack Obama talked up his intention to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) if Mexico did not agree to new labor and environmental standards.
Since then, Obama has de-emphasized his willingness to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA if the trade deal is not improved.
Democrats told ABC's Jake Tapper on Dec. 3 that Obama had offered the job of US Trade Rep to Becerra.
Obama’s transition office had no immediate comment to the La Opinion story, saying that it does not comment on discussions with prospective appointees.