WITA WEBINAR: Three Former USTRs on the WTO in a Time of Change
Wendy Cutler with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA)
On Thursday, July 16th, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Vice President Wendy Cutler cohosted a special webinar with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA). Cutler, along with WITA Executive Director Ken Levinson, interviewed three former U.S. Trade Representatives, Amb. Carla Hills, Amb. Susan Schwab, and Amb. Michael Froman.
Cutler, who served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative under all three USTRs, sought their views on pressing trade issues, ranging from the current campaign to become the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General, to the recent entry into force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The USTRs talked about the important qualities a WTO Director-General needs to have, including diplomatic savvy, political savvy, and specialized trade knowledge. Amb. Hills called for a candidate with all of the above, saying the WTO needs a person with "considerable experience, who understands the WTO, and also has management experience and economics." Amb. Schwab said leadership was at least as important as technical knowledge. "You have to have some background in trade policy, economics, and some of the more arcane issues having to do with trade," she said, but she emphasized that it was perhaps most important that "the D-G has stature."
When asked whether they would encourage the winning candidate to focus on major reforms at the WTO, or to aim for smaller, achievable goals at the start, the three agreed that a successful Director-General will probably need to do both. "There is no silver bullet approach," Cutler summed up. "You need to think about a lot of approaches that can be pursued simultaneously."
On the USMCA, the three congratulated the current USTR, Amb. Robert Lighthizer, for shepherding the deal through Congress with wide, bipartisan support, and they acknowledged that it might be used as a sort of template in the future. Amb. Froman emphasized, "I do hope there are elements of USMCA that make their way into other trade agreements in the future," and added that he was "certainly hopeful that that bipartisanship will continue."