Revolving Doors and Trade Imbalances

Frank Ruggiero, who took over as acting special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan following Richard Holbrooke’s death, is carrying on with his former boss’s engagements. Later this week Ruggiero will head to Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet with government officials and civilian representatives on a trip that Holbrooke had previously scheduled. According to State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, Ruggiero “will focus on preparations for the upcoming U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral meeting scheduled to take place in Washington next month.” Ruggiero will also take part in a meeting this afternoon between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

The administration shuffle continues, and President Obama might announce some key position changes on Friday. As noted yesterday, Pete Rouse and William Daley are the two top choices for the chief of staff spot. And Gene Sperling will likely be Larry Summers’ NEC successor. But there’s been another late-breaking bombshell—White House spokesman and Obama confidant Robert Gibbs might be leaving too. According to the Washington Post, Gibbs may be planning to set up his own consulting business and help with the 2012 campaign. Or he could just move to another position in the White House. Top on the list of replacements are Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton and VP Joe Biden’s communications director, Jay Carney.

Elsewhere in the administration, the NSC senior director for Asia, Jeffrey Bader, is also expected to depart sometime after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit on January 19. He could possibly be replaced by Daniel Russel, currently working on Asia on the National Security Council.

Yesterday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in a closed-door session. Though details were not made public, the two were meeting to lay some groundwork for the Hu Jintao meeting. Keeping the pressure on China to revalue its currency and deal with a trade imbalance, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had a face-to-face with the foreign minister yesterday as well. Donilon reportedly “stressed the importance of effective efforts to reduce imbalances in both the global economy as well as in U.S. China trade.” President Obama popped in on Donilon’s meeting with Yang, and Secretary Clinton will have a sitdown with him today. All that pressure could of course be for naught. Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping maintained today that appreciating China’s currency wouldn’t have any effect on China’s trade surplus with the United States.