WITA Spotlight Event: Former United States Trade Representative Michael Froman




On Thursday, November 9, WITA hosted Ambassador Rufus Yerxa for a virtual Fireside Chat with former United States Trade Representative Michael Froman.

This event was the first in a series of one-on-one discussions with prominent figures in the trade world discussing the new paradigm in U.S. trade policy, and its implications for the U.S. and the World.

Featured Speakers:

Ambassador Michael Froman, President, Council on Foreign Relations; former U.S. Trade Representative; former Vice Chairman and President, Strategic Growth, Mastercard

Ambassador Rufus Yerxa, Senior Advisor, McLarty Associates; former WTO Deputy Director General; former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

Speaker Biographies:

Michael Froman is President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He previously served as vice chairman and president, strategic growth, at Mastercard, chairman of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and a distinguished fellow at CFR. 

Ambassador Froman served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the U.S. trade representative from June 2013 to January 2017. Major initiatives under his leadership included the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in the Asia Pacific and negotiations toward a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union; the negotiation of agreements on trade facilitation, agriculture and information technology products at the World Trade Organization; the monitoring and enforcement of U.S. trade rights; and congressional passage of Trade Promotion Authority, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Generalized System of Preferences program, and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.

From January 2009 to June 2013, Froman served at the White House as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs, where he was responsible for coordinating policy on international trade, finance, energy, climate change, and development issues. He served as the U.S. sherpa for the Group of Twenty and Group of Eight Summits and staffed the president for the APEC Leaders Meetings. In addition, he chaired or co-chaired the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, the Transatlantic Economic Council, the U.S.-India CEO Forum, and the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum. He played a leading role in the launch of several of the Obama administration’s development initiatives, including Power Africa and Trade Africa.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Froman served in a number of roles at Citigroup, including as chief executive officer of its international insurance business, chief operating officer of its alternative investments business, and head of its infrastructure investment business. He also has served as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

In the 1990s, Froman spent seven years in the U.S. government. He served as chief of staff and deputy assistant secretary for Eurasia and the Middle East at the U.S. Department of Treasury. He also worked at the White House, where he served as a director for international economic affairs at the National Security Council and National Economic Council.

Dr. Froman received a bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University, a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, and law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

He has published a book and several articles on international relations, international law and trade. He has received numerous fellowships and scholarships, including a White House Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Fellowship in International Law, a Social Science Research Council/MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in International Peace and Security, and a Fulbright Scholarship. In 2016, he was selected by Fortune magazine as one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” and by Politico as one of the “50 thinkers, doers and visionaries shaping American politics in 2016.”

Froman was born in California. He, his wife, Nancy Goodman, and their two children, Benjamin and Sarah, currently reside in Washington, DC.

Rufus Yerxa is Senior Advisor at McLarty Associates. He has been a prominent figure in international trade policy for more than four decades. He served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under two Administrations and spent more than a decade as Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He has also served in the private sector as a trade lawyer and as head of a leading business association in Washington. His areas of expertise include the functioning of the WTO system and other international agreements, bilateral and regional economic relations, international investment matters and U.S. trade law.

Ambassador Yerxa began his government career as a lawyer with the U.S. International Trade Commission before joining the staff of the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as Staff Director of its Subcommittee on Trade.

From 1989 to 1995 he served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with the rank of Ambassador, first as head of USTR’s Permanent Mission to the GATT in Geneva under President George H.W. Bush and subsequently as Washington Deputy during the Clinton Administration. He was instrumental in negotiations to replace GATT with the WTO in 1995 and to create the original NAFTA accord (now USMCA).

After leaving government service he practiced law for a major U.S. firm in Brussels. In 2002 he was appointed to serve as Deputy Director General of the WTO. During his long tenure he helped to broaden its membership and strengthen various aspects of its rulemaking function.

From 2016 to 2021, he was President of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), a Washington-based industry association focused on expanding global markets for U.S. companies and strengthening the rule of law in world trade.

He was a Visiting Professor and Adjunct Professor with the Middlebury Institute for International Studies from 2013 to 2018, where he taught courses on international trade and the WTO system.

Ambassador Yerxa is a native of Washington State. He holds a BA from the University of Washington, a JD from Seattle University and an LLB in International Law from the University of Cambridge.