Washington International Trade Foundation

WITF Overview

Washington International Trade Foundation is the 501(c)3 charitable non-profit educational organization which supports the educational activities of WITA. Incorporated in 1996, the Foundation has its own Board of Directors and operates under its own set of bylaws. WITA’s staff manage the affairs of the Foundation, under the direction of the Foundation President and Foundation Board of Directors.

Support for the activities of WITF are tax deductible. WITF’s Federal Tax ID # is 52-1907420. The Foundation is most active during the preparations and hosting of the Annual Dinner, which it co-sponsors with WITA. The Annual Dinner is the capstone event of both organizations. Held each July in the Atrium and Ballroom of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Annual Dinner is Washington’s most important trade event, where the trade community honors those individuals who have provided leadership and vision in the field of international trade.

Foundation Board of Directors


Ted Austell, WITF Chair, The Boeing Company

Bill Lane, WITF Vice Chair, Trade for America



Christine LoCascio, DISCUS

John Murphy, US Chamber of Commerce

Welles Orr, Miller and Chevalier, Chartered

Kaitlin Sighinolfi, International Paper

Sarah Thorn, WITA Board Liaison, WalMart Stores Inc.

Nicole Venable, Invariant

Christopher Wenk, Kia Motors Corporation


Bill Lane is Executive Director of Trade for America, and one of the business community’s leading advocates for free trade and global engagement. A 40-year Caterpillar veteran, Bill led a global team of 38 government affairs professionals in 12 countries. In that capacity, Bill was responsible for Caterpillar’s international advocacy in support of competitiveness, trade liberalization and economic growth.

Bill has held numerous leadership positions in Washington most recently chairman of the Russia PNTR coalition and the U.S. Latin America Trade Coalition, a group that supported Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia and Panama. He is also co-president of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, a coalition supporting a robust international affairs budget.

Appointed by Speaker Hastert, Bill served on the HELP Commission, a presidential committee examining the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid. He was a member of the German Marshall Fund Task Force on Development and Peace Corps Review Team.

Previously, Bill founded and led the USA Engage Effort, the Coalition of American Steel Using Manufacturers (CASUM) and helped lead the business advocacy efforts in support of the Australia, Chile and Peru FTAs. He was the Company Spokesman in Peoria during the Caterpillar-UAW labor dispute (1991-1993). For ten straight years (2004- 2013), Bill has been named one of Washington’s top corporate lobbyists by the Hill newspaper.

Bill is a 2011 Penn State Alumni Fellow and a member of the Penn State Hammond Society. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Bill received his BS and MA degrees from Penn State and attended the University of Cologne in Germany. He was also a Certified Management Accountant. Bill is on the boards of Global Communities, US-Russia Business Council, National Foreign Trade Council and Washington International Trade Foundation.

Bill received his BS and MA degrees from Penn State and attended the University of Cologne in Germany.

Christine LoCascio, Senior Vice President, International Trade, Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association representing U.S. producers, marketers, exporters and importers of distilled spirits products. Ms. LoCascio is responsible for coordinating and implementing the Council’s international trade policy objectives. She participated in the successful lobbying efforts on behalf of the Distilled Spirits Council in the U.S. business coalitions supporting passage of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia Panama, Australia, Chile and Singapore, and other trade legislation, including the WTO accessions of Vietnam, Russia and China and Trade Promotion Authority.

In addition, Ms. LoCascio oversees the Distilled Spirits Council’s promotional activities in connection with the Council’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP). She also supervises the Council’s MAP budget and ensures compliance with relevant USDA regulations.

Since February 2008, Ms. LoCascio has served as an advisor on the Agricultural Technical Committee for Trade (ATAC) in Processed Foods, which provides technical advice on U.S. agricultural trade issues to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). She also currently serves as Chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce and USTR’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee for Consumer Goods (ITAC 4). She is a member of the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) and currently serves as a Member of Board of the WITA Foundation. She is also a member of Women in International Trade (WIIT), and served as a Member of the WIIT Board from 2006 to 2008.

Ms. LoCascio received her B.A. in History and Italian Language and Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and her M.A. in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

John Murphy directs the U.S. Chamber’s advocacy relating to international trade and investment policy. Since joining the Chamber in 1999, Murphy has led its successful campaigns to win congressional passage of trade agreements with a dozen nations, including Colombia, Panama, and South Korea in 2011, as well as Trade Promotion Authority in 2015. Murphy also plays a key role in the Chamber’s advocacy for international business priorities before Congress, the administration, foreign governments, and the World Trade Organization.

From 2001 to 2008, Murphy served as the Chamber’s Vice President for Western Hemisphere Affairs and as Executive Vice President of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA). In 2008, he received AACCLA’s Eagle of the Americas award, which is given annually to the individual who has “done the most to advance our mission of increased trade and investment between the United States and Latin America.”

In the 1990s, Murphy worked at the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy overseas, and at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), which champions market-oriented economic reform around the world. From 1992 to 1993, he was the first Western lecturer in economics at the National University of Economics in Czechoslovakia.

Murphy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he received his Master of Science degree from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He serves on the boards of the Global Business Dialogue, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and the Washington International Trade Foundation. He is fluent in Spanish.

Welles Orr has more than 25 years of experience in international trade policy, national security, and foreign affairs. His practice focuses on the formulation and implementation of international trade policy and U.S. foreign policy by the executive branch and the U.S. Congress.

Before joining Miller & Chevalier, Mr. Orr served as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for Congressional Affairs in the Executive Office of the President in the George H.W. Bush Administration. In that capacity, he served as the liaison between the USTR and the Congressional leadership and members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees on the drafting, negotiation, and implementation of all trade policies and agreements, as well as bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.

Mr. Orr advised the USTR and the White House staff on all legislative matters affecting U.S. trade policy. He chaired the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) Congressional Affairs Subcommittee, which coordinated the Administration’s legislative trade policy agenda. He was the recipient of USTR’s Superior Accomplishment Award for his leadership efforts on major trade legislation.

Before joining USTR, Mr. Orr served in the U.S. Department of State as Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He managed the Bureau’s legislative and public affairs activities and served as the principal liaison with members and staff of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees and the Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittees, providing briefings on administration policy developments and economic and security assistance matters throughout the 27-country region.

Mr. Orr graduated in 1982 with a B.A. from Denison University and received his M.A. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1984 where he studied International Security Studies and Public and International Affairs. Mr. Orr also earned a certificate in International Studies from Warnborough College, Oxford.

Kaitlin Sighinolfi is the Director Government Relations, and International Affairs at International Paper, where she focuses on issues regarding tax and trade. She comes to International Paper most recently from Siemens Corporation where she worked as Director, Tax and Trade. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill as Legislative Director for Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana and as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. A native Mainer, from Brewer, ME, Kait grew up joining her elementary school class learning about pulp and paper by touring the local Eastern Fine Paper mill. Kait’s expertise and knowledge of the industry will be invaluable.

Sarah F. Thorn is the Senior Director of Federal Government Relations for Walmart, where she is primarily responsible for international trade and investment issues. She is involved in legislative initiatives and trade negotiations (both regional and WTO) that affect Walmart’s retail and distribution rights overseas. In addition, she works to eliminate import and export tariff and non-tariff barriers that impact Walmart sourcing. Sarah also manages office administration, strategy and planning.

Before joining Walmart, Sarah worked for seven years at the Grocery Manufacturers Association where she led the food, beverage and consumer products industry advocacy on international trade issues. Sarah has also worked as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and served as an international relations representative with AMP Incorporated. Sarah began her career in Washington as a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Information Agency. She holds a Master of Arts degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative area studies and comparative literature from Duke University.

Nicole Venable has more than two decades of experience in the private sector, on Capitol Hill, and in the Executive Branch. As a Democratic strategist, she provides politically astute, forward-leaning, and coalition-based legislative and public affairs solutions to Invariant’s clients.  Recognized by The HilI as one of the “Top Lobbyists of 2018,” Nicole has policy expertise on issues ranging from tax reform and trade to health care, energy, labor, and telecommunications. 

Nicole joined Invariant from The Bockorny Group, where she was their lead Democrat.  Previously, Nicole was an executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s congressional and public affairs division, where she led Democratic outreach to Capitol Hill and third parties while building advocacy campaigns for broad-based industry coalitions.  Additionally, she served as chief of staff to a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and in the Clinton White House.

Nicole serves as a national trustee for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and as a board member of the Washington International Trade Association Foundation, and she is a member of the Trade Policy Forum and the Washington Government Relations Group.  She serves as vice president of the DC chapter of The Links, Inc., a national service-based organization comprised of senior professional African-American women.  Nicole is a founder of the Black Girl Magic Network, an association of female lobbyists of color; established the Lady Von Endowed Scholarship at Spelman College; and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.  

Nicole graduated from Spelman College and earned her Master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Christopher Wenk is the Vice President of Government Affairs at Kia Motors’ Washington, D.C. Office. Since joining Kia in April 2018, Wenk oversees Kia’s U.S. federal and state government affairs program.

Wenk brings with him nearly 20 years of government relations experience both on and off Capitol Hill. He came to Kia from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where he led bipartisan efforts to promote the Chamber’s international trade and investment agenda. Prior to the Chamber, Wenk directed international trade policy at the National Association of Manufacturers and worked on Capitol Hill for the House Small Business Committee, U.S. Representatives Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Dave Camp (R-Michigan).  

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Wenk holds a Master of Arts in Political Management and Corporate Public Affairs & Government Relations from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Spanish from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, with their three daughters and one son.