Modernization of U.S. Trade Agreements: A Conversation with Clete Willems

Scott Parven and Clete Willems (Akin Gump).

As the United States moves from multilateral trade agreements to bilateral deals, many within the international community wonder what principles are guiding this shift and what the future holds for trade. Clete Willems, most recently Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economics and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council and now Partner at Akin Gump, offered his insight to diplomats and private sector leaders on the current perspective inside the White House and the Administration’s priorities for international trade.

Before his role on the National Economic Council, Willems served as Chief Counsel for Negotiations, Legislation, and Administrative Law at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In both offices, Willems participated in several multilateral summits as the lead U.S. negotiator. Drawing on his specialized negotiation experience with major U.S. trading partners, Willems offered to the distinguished audience his views on recent discussions with China, the European Union, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

Having litigated over 30 World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes on behalf of the United States, Willems presented his opinion on the recent controversy over the WTO “developing country” designation and its potential remedies. The group assembled at Meridian International Center also discussed the BUILD Act and the evolution of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation into the International Development Finance Corporation. Willems pointed to the need to update free trade agreements to adapt to modern conditions, and the impact of national security concerns on the renegotiation of trade agreements with competitors and allies alike.

Willems now serves as a Partner at Akin Gump, one of the world’s largest law firms, where he leverages his first-hand knowledge on international trade to the benefit of private sector clients. This program was held in partnership with Akin Gump, Founding Partner of the Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement, an education and networking hub for members of the foreign diplomatic corps. Insights @ Meridian sessions are held monthly and feature a high-level U.S. government speaker or thought influencer to brief the diplomatic community. To learn more about our programs, please visit our page.

Project summary

Modernization of U.S. Trade Agreements: A Conversation with Clete Willems | July 2019
Number of Attendees: 32
Regions: Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Near East and North Africa, Western Hemisphere
Countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Türkiye, United Kingdom
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Foreign Policy
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
Partners: Private Sector