President elect Barack Obama has named former Dallas, Texas Mayor Ron Kirk his U.S. Trade Representative.
A native of Austin, Texas, Kirk cut his teeth politically as a legislative assistant to Senator Lloyd Bentsen in the early 1980’s. A University of Texas School of Law graduate, he briefly served as Secretary of State under Governor Ann Richards. One year after leaving state government Kirk made history by becoming the first Black mayor of Dallas in a landslide win that saw him capture 62 percent of the vote with widespread support across racial boundaries. Due to the structure of the Dallas city charter that pays the mayor a meager stipend, Kirk maintained his partnership in one of the city’s premier law firms, Gardere & Wynne.
The U.S. Trade Representative is responsible for the nation’s international trade policy. It is a cabinet level position with the rank of ambassador. The Trade Representative sits as a member of the board of the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The officer also represents the country for all activities related to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and negotiates on behalf of the United States with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Office of the Special Trade Representative was created by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and formally established by an Executive Order issued by President John F. Kennedy on January 15, 1963. President Jimmy Carter renamed the agency and the position the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by Executive Order in January, 1980. Five members from the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate serve as congressional advisers on trade policy as a result of an effort in the 1970’s to strengthen Congressional oversight over the agency.