President Barack Obama has appointed Indian-American attorney Ro Khanna to a key post in the US Commerce Department, where he will work to open foreign markets to American technology.
32-year-old Khanna, a prominent attorney who specialised in intellectual property law at O’Melveny & Myers’ San Francisco office, was sworn in earlier this week as Deputy Assistant Secretary for domestic operations of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, International Trade Administration.
Among his duties will be to lead trade missions to countries like India and China.
“I look forward to working to strengthen American competitiveness, increase exports and create good-paying jobs here at home,” he said in a statement.
Khanna is expected to report to Francisco ‘Frank´ Sanchez, Obama’s nominee for Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce. Sanchez is up for Congressional confirmation in the fall.
Khanna will oversee 109 US Export Assistance Centers operating in 47 different states.
His appointment by Obama is being seen by observers as reflection of the growing political clout of the Indian-American community.
Khanna's Indian roots, observers say, will help advance US interests when it comes to difficult trade discussions with India. Khanna, who was born in Philadelphia and earned his law degree at Yale University, has political roots reaching back to India.
His grandfather, Amarnath Vidhyalankar, spent four years in jail during the independence movement. After India gained independence in 1947, he became a member of Parliament.
In 2006, Khanna was appointed by then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to chair the Indo-American Council for Democrats. And until recently, he chaired the Indo-American Council of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Khanna attended the University of Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor's in Economics and did door-to-door campaigning for the future President in 1996 when Obama ran for the Illinois Senate.