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Charlene Barshefsky

The negotiator: Charlene Barshefsky

America’s point person in negotiations from 1997 to 2001 to bring China into the World Trade Organization gives her take on the country today.

C
harlene Barshefsky was a name you couldn’t avoid if you were in Beijing in the late 1990s. As the United States trade representative from 1997 to 2001, she led the American team that negotiated China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). On December 11, 2001, Ambassador Barshefsky’s efforts paid off, and, as a new member of the body that sets global rules for trade, China began the deep integration into the world economy that we take for granted today.

Kaiser and Jeremy recorded this interview with Ambassador Barshefsky at her offices at the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, D.C., where she is the chair of international trade. She recounted stories about the WTO negotiations, and about her relationship with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, who was her Chinese counterpart in negotiations (see SupChina’s video on Zhu). We asked her how the hopes and expectations behind China’s WTO accession look in retrospect, and how she sees China’s role in global trade in the second decade of the 21st century. We think you’ll agree that her answers provide a fascinating glimpse into one of the most significant global economic deals in recent history.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: A series on the history, politics, and culture of cities in China, edited by Geremie R. Barmé: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Hangzhou and West Lake.

Charlene: The classic tale of Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.

Kaiser: Learning (or relearning) Spanish, especially via the YouTube channel Aprender Idiomas y Cultura General con Rodrigo.

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