WITA Webinar Featuring:
H.E. Amb. Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Candidate to be Director General of the World Trade Organization, former Kenyan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Ambassador Rufus Yerxa, President, National Foreign Trade Council, and former Deputy Director General of the WTO
Wendy Cutler, Vice President, and Managing Director, Washington D.C. office of the Asia Society Policy Institute
Ambassador Amina Mohamed is a committed international civil servant who has had a distinguished career in both public and foreign service. She has served in strategic government positions and been elected to key international positions. Her work experience in over twenty six years covers a broad spectrum of domestic and international assignments. She rose through the ranks in Kenya’s diplomatic service to the highest level of Ambassador/Permanent Representative Kenya Mission to the UN at Geneva from 2000-2006. She served as Director, Europe and the Commonwealth and Director Diaspora from mid-2006-2007 and was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs in 2008. Since July, 2011 she has served as United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at Nairobi.
She is an excellent strategist and visionary anticipating the management needs of every organization she has been involved with. With her profound knowledge of the WTO and her strong managerial skills, Ambassador Amina Mohamed has all the required competencies to lead the WTO into the future.
She is fluent in English, Russian, Swahili and has a working knowledge of French.
Amina Mohamed has had a distinguished diplomatic career since 1986 and rising through the ranks to become Ambassador/Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission to the Republic of Kenya at Geneva in 2000. As the Permanent Representative, she represented Kenya in the UN system, and the WTO among other international organizations. Her strong interpersonal skills in negotiations, developed during her career in the multilateral fora, enabled her to effectively articulate Kenya’s interests in the WTO. She participated in drafting and interpretation of International Trade Treaties.
Ambassador Amina Mohamed was instrumental in restructuring, reforming and rationalizing the Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Missions abroad. She chaired the team that drafted Kenya’s foreign trade policy focusing on economic and commercial diplomacy. As Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, she supervised the drafting, negotiation, national referendum and promulgation of the new Constitution of Kenya 2008- 2010, including institutional reforms on elections, ethics and integrity, access to justice and the development of a national cohesion policy. At UNEP, Ambassador Amina Mohamed has spearheaded the implementation of UNEP’s Medium Term Strategy and Programmes as well as on-going reforms. Most recently she has been actively engaged with intergovernmental processes in implementing the RIO+20 outcomes and support efforts to enhance the funding base of the organization.
Through her experience in the multilateral fora, she has provided legal advice during Kenya’s tenure in the Security Council, negotiations in the WTO, particularly in launching the Doha trade talks and contributed texts in the Kenya’s constitution where foreign trade has been integrated with Foreign Affairs.
Throughout her career, Ambassador Amina Mohamed has demonstrated solid leadership and proven negotiations skills. She chaired three key WTO bodies: the Dispute Settlement Body, the Trade Policy Review Body and the General Council during her tenure in Geneva. During which important decisions and recommendations were made. Under her leadership as the General Council Chair, the accession of Saudi Arabia was concluded; she guided the negotiations and preparation for the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference where substantial progress was made on Doha Development Agenda; the LDC’s waiver on market access was successfully concluded and members agreed to amend the TRIPS agreement to legally allow WTO members without capacity to produce pharmaceutical products to import and address public health concerns. At UNEP she has been instrumental in enhancing the capacity of the institution and seeking additional resources to initiate new goals and action plans.
Ambassador Rufus Yerxa became President of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) in May 2016. As president, he oversees NFTC’s efforts in favor of a more open, rules-based world economy, focusing on key issues to U.S. competitiveness such as international trade and tax policy, economic sanctions and export finance.
He has more than four decades of experience as a lawyer, diplomat, U.S. trade negotiator and international official. He has been in key policymaking and management roles in Congress, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and also spent several years in private law practice and the corporate world. As Deputy Director General of the WTO from 2002 to 2013 he helped to broaden its membership and strengthen its role as the principal rules-based institution governing world trade.
Prior to this, from 1989 to 1995, he served as Deputy USTR under both a Republican and a Democratic President, first as the Geneva-based Ambassador to the GATT (the predecessor organization to the WTO) and subsequently as the Washington Deputy. Earlier in his government career (1981 to 1989) he was with the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Trade. He began his government career as a legal advisor with the U.S. International Trade Commission. After leaving government service in 1995 and prior to joining the WTO he spent five years in the private sector, including as the Brussels-based partner with the U.S. law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Rufus is a native of Washington State.
He holds a BA in political science from the University of Washington (1973), a JD from Seattle University School of Law (1976) and an LLB in international Law from the University of Cambridge in England (1977). He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, and is also a Visiting Professor with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).
Wendy Cutler joined the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) as vice president in November 2015. She also serves as the managing director of the Washington D.C. Office. In these roles, she focuses on building ASPI’s presence in Washington — strengthening its outreach as a think/do tank — and on leading initiatives that address challenges related to trade and investment, as well as women’s empowerment in Asia. She joined ASPI following an illustrious career of nearly three decades as a diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
Most recently she served as Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, working on a range of U.S. trade negotiations and initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. In that capacity, she was responsible for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, including the bilateral negotiations with Japan. She also was the chief negotiator to the U.S.-Korea (Korus) Free Trade Agreement.
Cutler received her master’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and her bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University.