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Froman, Pritzker in line for trade and commerce posts: sources

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is close to choosing White House deputy national security adviser Mike Froman to be the next trade representative, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Friday.

After a long vetting process, Chicago businesswoman and Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker is still in line to be nominated as commerce secretary, the sources said.

The two trade jobs are among the final positions Obama has to fill in his second-term cabinet. Both require confirmation by the Senate. An announcement of their nominations is likely to be made next week.

The White House declined to comment.

Froman was an early front runner for USTR but sources told Reuters earlier this year he preferred to stay in his current White House job, which includes the trade portfolio along with energy, development, and other international economic issues.

Jeff Zients, the long-time acting White House budget director, then became a top contender for the post, but Obama asked him to stay at the budget office.

Froman played an instrumental role in negotiations that led to congressional approval of the South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade pacts during Obama's third year in office.

He is well known in diplomatic circles for his work as Obama's right-hand man or "sherpa" in the G8, G20, and other international forums.

Froman would replace former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who stepped down last month.

Pritzker, the 271st richest American according to Forbes magazine, was Obama's national finance chair in 2008 and his campaign co-chair in 2012. Her personal fortune is worth an estimated $1.85 billion, putting her at the pinnacle of the top 1 percent of American households.

The Stanford University-trained lawyer and business woman is on the board of the Hyatt Hotels Corp, which her uncle Jay Pritzker founded in 1957, two years before she was born.

Pritzker was in the running to be commerce secretary in Obama's first term but bowed out.

She could face questions during a Senate confirmation process over the Pritzker family's reputation for sheltering income to avoid taxes, Hyatt's battle with a labor union and the 2001 failure of Superior Bank, which was half-owned by the Pritzker family.

Current acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in March she planned to become chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in July.

Former Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned for health reasons last year.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen, Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)

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