Professor Kathleen Claussen: Leadership in International Trade Law

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Kathleen Claussen

Professor Kathleen Claussen (photo by Joshua Prezant)

Widely recognized for her knowledge of international trade law, Kathleen Claussen has guided U.S. and global policymakers, as well as Miami Law students, on the nuances of this dynamic field.

“I want our students to understand how transnational law is interwoven with every part of U.S. law,” said Claussen, associate professor of law. “Our students need to become familiar with the tools and ideas of international law to be effective advocates for their clients and informed leaders.”

Claussen recently served as an invited member on the Biden-Harris 2020-21 Transition Team, where she worked with three different agencies engaged in foreign commerce regulation to assess the state of play for the new administration on policies such as the tariffs on products from China and the so-called national security tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“It was an unexpected invitation, and I was happy to join,” she said. “Our role was to ensure that the incoming leadership could be up to speed on the issues.”

Reflecting on the multiple economic, security, and human rights issues involving China, Claussen said, “There are many concerns regarding the policies and practices of the Chinese government. The challenge for this administration is engaging China in an effective and consistent way, using the many available tools. That means thinking about interrelated issues and deploying our political capital in creative ways.”

Current Role on US-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Claussen is also one of 10 Americans appointed to the dispute settlement roster of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA, which came into force in 2020, replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement. If there is a trade dispute between the U.S., Mexico, or Canada, Claussen could be one of the individuals asked to adjudicate the matter.

Claussen is also one of two Americans selected by Canada and Mexico for their USMCA rapid response labor mechanism roster, a key tool for enforcing the agreement’s labor protections. The mechanism is the first of its kind and allows either country to take expedited enforcement action against worksites in the other country that do not comply with domestic freedom of association and collective bargaining laws.

Looking beyond the USMCA, Claussen said, “Global trade facilitates so many aspects of modern life – not always in positive ways for all people, and that still needs to be top of mind. But, in many respects, it is the fast and open movement of goods and services that defines the 21st-century global economy.”

Route to International Trade

Growing up in Kansas, Claussen planned to become a teacher. She also wanted to widen her horizons and began traveling internationally for work and study when she was 15. As a junior at Indiana University, she studied European and international law in Denmark, which helped solidify her interests in law and public service.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Claussen traveled to Northern Ireland as a Mitchell Scholar and obtained a master’s degree from Queen’s University Belfast, followed by her juris doctor from the Yale Law School.

"My goal was to become an international law professor, where I could merge public service with academic pursuits," she said.

She clerked for Judge David F. Hamilton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and later became legal counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In that role, she advised arbitrators and the organization’s secretary-general on disputes between countries and on investment and commercial arbitrations involving countries and international organizations.

In 2014, Claussen was asked to become associate general counsel at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President during the Obama administration. For the next three years, she represented the United States in trade dispute proceedings and served as a legal adviser for international trade negotiations. She also worked on economic security issues as a detailee to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force. In these capacities, she was deeply involved in labor and trade issues, as well as in national security and economic policy decision-making.

Joining the Faculty

In 2017, Claussen joined the Miami Law faculty, where she teaches international economic law, as well as civil procedure and international business and national security law.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Claussen would take her students to Miami International Airport for real-world experiences in the import-export sector.

"Along with understanding how trade law is made, our students need to see how international trade works in practice and why it matters so much to our economy," she said.

Claussen also wanted Miami Law students to learn about global supply chains – an issue that became more critical after the pandemic struck, causing shortages of facemasks and personal protective equipment. Now, vaccine distribution issues are another topic of international trade conversations.

Leadership in Her Field

Claussen holds several leadership positions in international law and professional arbitration associations. She coordinated the forum, “Designing International Economic Law,” as co-chair of the American Society of International Law International Economic Law Interest Group, and she is also co-chair of the Junior International Law Scholars Association, a member of the ASIL Executive Committee and Executive Council, a member of the Academic Forum of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and serves on the Academic Council of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration. She was also recently named as co-chair of the ASIL Midyear Meeting and Research Forum to be held in 2022 at Miami Law. In addition, she is one of three experts awarded research funding to carry out a study for the Administrative Conference of the United States on alternative dispute resolution in the federal government.

Claussen has been a Brandon Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Lauterpacht Centre for International Law; a visiting scholar at the University of Copenhagen’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts; a visiting researcher at the World Trade Institute; and an invited seminar leader at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies. She recently was invited to speak to the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, which boasts more than a dozen former cabinet officials and major business leaders among its membership.

She is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Georgetown Institute of International Economic Law and a distinguished guest professor at the University of Zurich in fall 2021, teaching a class on national security, climate change and international trade. She will serve as a visiting professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law during the spring 2022 semester.

Scholarly Activity

Claussen serves as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Economic Law, the leading publication in the field.

“It is an honor to be appointed to this important role for this outstanding journal,” said Claussen at the time of her appointment in January 2021. “I’m excited to begin work with my terrific co-editors-in-chief, with whom it will be a privilege to lead.”

Claussen is the author of more than 30 articles and book chapters concerning trade, investment, foreign relations, and related research areas. She regularly provides guidance to U.S. and international policymakers on these issues. Her most recent work has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review and Virginia Law Review. Likewise, her expertise has been featured in numerous news and popular outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Marketplace, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times.

In a May article, “The Hidden Rules that Govern Our Supply Chains” in Just Security, Claussen called for greater transparency in reporting the more than 1,200 U.S. trade-related executive agreements – foreign commercial agreements not approved by Congress after their conclusion.

Relying on research conducted by her Miami Law team, she noted that trade deals are frequently left unpublished and unreported by the U.S. agencies that negotiate them, leaving the Department of State and Congress in the dark – contrary to U.S. legal requirements. “As new trade negotiating authority comes into effect in the Biden Administration, lawmakers from both branches should use it as a chance to address the transparency problems with TEAs,” she wrote. “The next trade legislation ought to include provisions to temper the publication, reporting and record-keeping issues of the past.”

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