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Senate confirms Wetjen, Punke and Siddiqui

The Senate late Thursday confirmed three key presidential nominees who have roles in agriculture:
  • Mark Wetjen as a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Michael Punke as deputy U.S. trade representative and ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva
  • Isi Siddiqui as U.S. chief agricultural negotiator
Wetjen, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was confirmed for a term that runs through June 19, 2016. When sworn in, Wetjen will succeed Michael Dunn, whose term has expired.

The Senate also confirmed Daniel Gallagher and Luis Aguilar as Securities and Exchange Commission commissioners.

Both the CFTC and the SEC are in the midst of implemeting the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill.

CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a news release today that Wetjen “was the majority leader’s point person in bringing the Dodd-Frank Act through the Senate.”

Gensler congratulated Wetjen on the confirmation, adding, “His experience and dedication to public service will be valuable to the commission as we continue to finalize the critical reforms to bring transparency to markets and to lower risk.”

Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn, outgoing CFTC commissioner
Gensler also thanked Dunn, who has served on the CFTC for six years, including a period as acting chairman. Dunn has also served in other government positions and Gensler noted that Dunn had been confirmed by the Senate “an astonishing six times.”

Dunn voted reluctantly for the speculation limits the commission approved earlier this week, but Gensler said Dunn “has helped frame and improve all of the rules that the commission proposed to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. He is a trusted friend and an honorable public servant.”

Punke and Siddiqui have been serving in their positions on recess appointments since March 2010. President Obama had formally nominated them earlier, but then-Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., had held up the nominations over a dispute about Canadian regulations of tobacco.

Punke is a former USTR and White House aide who also was also trade counsel to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. He has also been a partner at the Washington, D.C. office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, & Maw, and a novelist.

Before his service at USTR, Siddiqui served as a vice president at CropLife America.

During the Clinton administration, Siddiqui served in the Agriculture Department as senior trade adviser to Secretary Dan Glickman and as undersecretary and deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. He also spent 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“The Senate’s confirmation reflects the importance and quality of the work that Ambassadors Punke and Siddiqui do for the American people, opening markets around the world for our exports and supporting jobs here at home,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a news release.

“This confirmation allows them to continue this important work every day for American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers.”