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Bowman tapped for White House trade advisory council

Katie Tabeling

Mike Bowman, the lead at the Delaware Small Business Development Center, has been chosen to participate in a White House advisory committee on trade. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE TECHNOLOGY PARK

WASHINGTON D.C. — It’s not every day that you go through a security clearance and get interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for four hours.

For Mike Bowman, the CEO and President of the Delaware Technology Park and the Delaware Small Business Development Center, those were the necessary steps — and then some — to finally sit on White House Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

President Joe Biden selected Bowman and 44 other members to sit on the advisory committee that provides advice on developing and implementing trade agreements and bargaining positions before entering into trade agreements.

The committee has already met once in office just steps away from the White House. Bowman and others have held secure calls with Ambassador Katherine Tai, Biden’s principal trade advisor in his cabinet, and talks are in the works for the fall. The calls happen about once a month on a secure line.

“I felt pretty honored to not only have a seat at the table,” Bowman told the Delaware Business Times. “[Tai] said she really wanted to lean on us, whether that’s getting a small group together on certain subjects or virtual calls. There’s a purpose to everything.”

Biden has tapped several Delawareans to serve in various roles in the past four years, including Delaware State University President Tony Allen for the Historically Black College and University Board, former Gov. Jack Markell to serve as ambassador to both Italy and San Marino, and at least three judges to federal courts.

Like some of these officials, Bowman has causally met Biden throughout the years when he was a U.S. Senator and took tours at the Delaware Technology Park and the University of Delaware. “We kind of lost track of him when he was vice president for a bit,” Bowman said.

But almost out of the blue, Bowman was approached by the Biden administration months ago to join the trade advisor committee and started the long process of receiving security clearance.

The advisory committee is composed of members with general trade experience, as well as those with experience in local and state government, labor, agriculture, service industries, retailers and more. Bowman was selected to speak for small businesses. The U.S SBDC reports there are 33 million small businesses that employ 61 million Americans.

That first meeting the council had with Tai, Bowman said they talked about broad topics like supply chain, trade relations and tariffs.

“One thing I brought up was how the supply chain of medicines is impacting our life science sector,” he said. “The truth is that active ingredients in most drugs and therapies come from China, and it’s been done that way a long time. But now with the trade fights between China and the United States you’re now seeing that we’re getting short of most of the major drugs we need.”

Months later, on one of those embargoed calls, the advisory council were alerted that the Biden administration was preparing for embargoes on plastic syringes and electric vehicles. With trade policy being a fine balancing act, Bowman said it’s difficult to know which direction to turn.

“The panel is the best of the best at this subject, but as advisors, we just advise,” he said. “We’re charged with a no spin job, and that’s the whole point. There’s a lot of worrisome spots in the country right now that are playing parts in this trade game. It’s a big piece of the economic engine that runs everything. Being a part of it is flattering, but it’s about the small businesses to make sure their voices are heard.”


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