Ford Motor Co., embroiled in trade talks with President Donald Trump’s administration, is losing its second veteran lobbyist in Washington this summer as Steve Biegun, who ran international affairs, has left to join the State Department as a special representative to North Korea.
Ford said in a statement that Biegun, 55, will retire Aug. 31 after 14 years as vice president of international government affairs. Biegun has been directing Ford’s Washington office since chief lobbyist Ziad Ojakli left last month to join Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. Now Curt Magleby, vice president of U.S. government relations, will lead Ford’s lobbying efforts on an interim basis while the company searches for Ojakli’s replacement.
The churn among Ford’s top lobbyists comes as Trump negotiates a revised North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, and automakers struggle to push back on the administration’s proposed tariffs on imported autos. A proposal to increase tariffs on cars imported from Mexico, where Ford builds the Fusion and Lincoln Continental sedans, is said to be a sticking point in reaching a deal on NAFTA.
Before joining Ford, Biegun was national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee who left the Senate in 2007. Biegun also worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, serving as executive secretary of the National Security Council from 2001 to 2003.
Pompeo and Biegun are traveling to North Korea next week to discuss plans for dismantling the country’s nuclear weapons program, Pompeo said in a video shown on Twitter.
Separately, Ford said Bruce Hettle, group vice president of manufacturing and labor affairs, will retire Oct. 1 after a 32-year career with the automaker. He will be succeeded by Gary Johnson, 54, who will oversee global manufacturing and labor affairs activities. Johnson will report to Joe Hinrichs, Ford's executive vice president and president of global operations.
Johnson has held numerous roles, including vice president of manufacturing for North America and Asia Pacific. While steering manufacturing in Asia, Johnson oversaw the construction of 10 new manufacturing plants in the region – seven in China, two in India and one in Thailand – as part of the company’s largest expansion in 50 years.
Automotive News contributed to this report.