WITA Webinar Featuring:
H.E. Yoo Myung-hee, Trade Minister, Republic of Korea and Candidate for the post of Director General of the WTO
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
H.E. Yoo Myung-hee is the first female Trade Minister for the Republic of Korea, and has been an innovator, negotiator, strategist and pioneer in her 25 year career in trade. She has devoted her career to progress in the multilateral trade arena from the early days in 1995 when she took charge of WTO affairs in the Korean Ministry of Trade Industry and Energy, through her role as Korea’s key FTA strategist to, more recently, negotiator of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Korea-China FTA and the critical Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA renegotiation, among other trade initiatives.
Minister Yoo’s belief in the importance of the multilateral system and its constant renewal derives from Korea’s position as a major beneficiary of the open trading system represented by the GATT and WTO. Her life in Korea has been defined by Korea’s increasing prosperity and growth in the multilateral trading world. She personally knows that development can happen in this framework and has first-hand experience in how to effectuate mutually beneficial change and development.
There is no question that the world trading system faces great challenges at this time of pandemic and crisis of confidence in multilateral systems. In her capacity as Trade Minister, she has always been passionate in voicing her support for the multilateral trade system which must be based on international cooperation and consensus in the WTO, while recognizing the need for WTO reforms to update the rules including in emerging issues and an early restoration of the dispute settlement system. The difficulties are real and they must be addressed openly by the WTO as an institution and by its Members.
She is a skillful negotiator with deep knowledge and insights into the details of various areas of trade agreements, but more importantly, she has flourished in her role as a catalyst who brings together diverse views of the parties involved to derive win-win solutions. In doing so throughout her career, she has worked with countries spanning all levels of development, in various WTO and FTA negotiation settings as well as through her work experience in the APEC Secretariat (2010 to 2014) and the Korean Embassy in China (2007 to 2010). The multilateral system must work for everyone.
Minister Yoo’s ability to reach across divides and help achieve consensus has been crucial in developing critical support for trade initiatives within Korea. She has worked constructively and successfully with domestic stakeholders with a diversity of views, including those who benefit directly from open trade as well as those who are vulnerable to trade. She always focuses on bridging gaps to reach agreements that maximize the overall welfare of the parties involved. She is familiar with the domestic political pressures and needs that all Members face.
Minister Yoo is a strategist, laying out long-term visions to be followed, and at the same time when faced with unexpected hurdles, able to proactively develop and pursue practical doables and deliverables that are meaningful under the circumstances. She has also proven her outstanding skills in leading and managing large, complex organizations as Trade Minister during a period of high ambitions and efforts in Korean trade policy. These skills are needed now. The WTO is at a critical juncture. Minister Yoo will bring her experience and skills to the Membership and help drive reforms in the institution including in the approaches and extent of negotiations as well as optimizing and focusing Secretariat resources on the important tasks at hand.
She received her M.A. in Public Policy from Seoul National University in Korea and her Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School in the US, and was admitted to the New York State Bar in May 2003. She is married with two children.
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.