As United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Kirk is a member of President Obama’s Cabinet and serves as the President’s principal trade advisor, negotiator and spokesperson on trade issues.
Ambassador Kirk was nominated to be United States Trade Representative by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 18, 2009. The office of USTR is responsible for the development and oversight of U.S. trade policy, including strategy, negotiation, implementation and enforcement of multilateral, regional/bilateral and sector-specific trade agreements. These include the ongoing Doha Development Agenda multilateral trade negotiations, as well as seventeen countries with which the United States has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). As well, Ambassador Kirk is responsible for U.S. trade policy involving agriculture; industry; services and investment; intellectual property; environment; labor; development and preference programs.
Ambassador Kirk draws upon more than 25 years of diverse legislative and economic experience on local, state and federal levels. As the first African American mayor of Dallas from 1995 – 2001, he earned a reputation for bringing together diverse coalitions to get things done. During his tenure as Mayor, Ambassador Kirk expanded Dallas’ reach to the world through a range of trade programs, including numerous trade missions. He also passed seven budgets that focused on the critical needs of the city while maintaining and even lowering taxes. His economic development efforts helped secure more than 45,000 jobs and investment of more than $3.5 billion in Dallas. To protect citizens he increased the public safety budget by $128 million, and while he was Mayor, Dallas saw its lowest crime rate in 20 years. Previously, Governor Ann Richards appointed him as Texas Secretary of State, he served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen and he was named as chair of Texas’ General Service Commission. Ambassador Kirk also served as a City of Dallas assistant city attorney.
Prior to joining USTR, Ambassador Kirk was a partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP, where his principal area of practice was public finance and public policy. He has been actively involved in the community and has been recognized by a number of state and national organizations, such as being named one of the nation’s top government relations lawyers by The Best Lawyers in America from 2007-2009, and receiving the University of Texas Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001, Woodrow Wilson Center for Public Policy’s Outstanding Public Service Award in 2000, the Young Texas Exes Award in 1995, and Austin College Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994. Ambassador Kirk also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Degree from Austin College in 2006 and the Mickey Leland Leadership Award from Texas Southern University in 2004.
Ambassador Kirk was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1979. He is married to Matrice Ellis-Kirk and they have two daughters, Elizabeth Alexandra and Catherine Victoria.