Obama names Indian American to key agricultural post

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : After waiting for months for the Senate to act, President Barack Obama has announced he would bypass a vacationing senate to make recess appointments of 15 nominees, including an Indian American agricultural scientist as chief agricultural negotiator in trade talks.

Support TwoCircles

Announcing his decision to nominate Indian American Islam A. Siddiqui, a B.S. in plant protection from Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar, India, and 14 others, Obama accused Republicans of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him.

“I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” he said in a written statement. “The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees.”

“But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.

“Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate.”

Siddiqui, named Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative, is currently vice president for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, where he is responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals.

Previously, Siddiqui also served as CropLife America’s Vice President for agricultural biotechnology and trade.

From 1997 to 2001, Siddiqui served in various capacities in the Clinton Administration at US Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programmes, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programmes.

As a result, he worked closely with the USTR and represented USDA in bilateral, regional and multi-lateral agricultural trade negotiations.

Since 2004, Siddiqui has also served on the US Department of Commerce’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, and Health/Science Products & Services, which advises the US Secretary of Commerce and USTR on international trade issues related to these sectors.

Between 2001 and 2003, Siddiqui was appointed as Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he focused on agricultural biotechnology and food security issues.

Before joining USDA, Siddiqui spent 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He has MS and PhD degrees in plant pathology, both from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])