Ronald Kirk

CSIS Trustee

Ronald Kirk is senior of counsel with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Dallas and Washington D.C. offices. He is cochair of both the International Trade and Sports Law practices. He is also a member of the Public Policy, Crisis Management, and Private Equity practice groups. Ambassador Kirk focuses on providing strategic advice to companies with global interests. Prior to joining the firm in April 2013, Ambassador Kirk was the first African-American to serve as U.S. trade representative (USTR) and was a member of President Obama’s cabinet, serving as the president’s principal trade adviser, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues. Ambassador Kirk was nominated to be U.S. Trade Representative by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the United States Senate in 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. Ambassador Kirk was also 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’s 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 Bensten and he was named 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. In 2014, Ambassador Kirk was named one of the “28 Men of Change” by BET Networks and ICON MANN in a special initiative for Black History Month featuring “inspirational figures” from multiple countries and a wide array of industries. The initiative shared “the journeys of 28 contemporary trailblazers whose formula for success includes empowering others, and who credit their personal and professional advancement to their continued investment in philanthropy.” He has been actively involved in the community and has been recognized by a number of state and national organizations. He currently serves as a trustee of Austin College and the University of Texas Law School Foundation, as well as a member of the Advisory Commission of the Center for American Progress. Ambassador Kirk was featured in Law360 as part of its Minority Powerbrokers Q&A series in 2014. He has been named one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal and one of the nation’s top government relations lawyers by the Best Lawyers in America. He is a recipient of the University of Texas Distinguished Alumni Award, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Outstanding Public Service Award, the Young Texas Exes Award, and the Austin College Distinguished Alumni Award. Ambassador Kirk also received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Austin College and the Mickey Leland Leadership Award from Texas Southern University. Ambassador Kirk was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where he received his B.A. 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. Ambassador Kirk is admitted to practice law in Texas and the District of Columbia.