Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky


Chair, International Trade, Investment and Market Access Practice Group

Barshefsky, Charlene

Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky is WilmerHale's Senior International Partner. She joined the firm after serving as the US Trade Representative—the chief trade negotiator and principal trade policymaker for the United States—from 1997 to 2001, and acting as deputy USTR from 1993 to 1996. As the USTR and a member of the President's Cabinet, she was responsible for the negotiation of hundreds of complex market access, regulatory and investment agreements with virtually every major country in the world. She is best known internationally as the architect and chief negotiator of China's historic WTO Agreement, as well as global agreements in financial services, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, high-technology products and cyberspace. She is recognized as a central figure for international business and international economic and trade issues. Her 25-year legal career in the field has encompassed international litigation, commercial negotiations, investment and regulatory advice, and dispute resolution, and she has written and lectured extensively both here and abroad.

Ambassador Barshefsky has been honored by both Harvard and Yale law schools; her negotiations are the subject of several Harvard Business School case studies and numerous profiles and she is the recipient of a number of honorary degrees and industry awards.


Ambassador Barshefsky's practice centers on international business transactions, the structuring and negotiation of commercial agreements and the removal of trade and regulatory impediments to exporting to or investing in markets throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America. She is exceptionally skilled in crafting market penetration strategies for goods, services and investment, and devising practical solutions to market access barriers, including negotiation with private parties and foreign governments worldwide. She also formulates sophisticated government relations strategies to complement, when necessary, the overall substantive legal approach. She advises companies in connection with trade litigation and dispute resolution in the US and abroad, as well as commercial and regulatory issues in the United States for foreign corporations. 

Honors & Awards

Publications & News


March 27, 2013

The National Law Journal Names Three WilmerHale Partners Among America’s Most Influential

WilmerHale’s former Co-Managing Partner William Lee and Partners Charlene Barshefsky and Seth Waxman were recognized as three of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal.

October 1, 2012

President Obama Issues Order Prohibiting Foreign Acquisition of US Company

On September 28, 2012, President Obama issued an order prohibiting a Chinese-owned company from acquiring four U.S. wind farm project companies. Although the U.S. government has not disclosed the national security issues raised by the transaction, the Treasury Department stated that the “wind farm sites are all within or in the vicinity of restricted air space at Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility Boardman in Oregon.” Parties considering foreign investment should not become unnecessarily alarmed about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ("CFIUS") review process in terms of bias against foreign investment or investments from particular countries based on this rare action. CFIUS reviews remain highly fact-dependent and parties to a transaction should broadly consider possible issues related to national security even if their business is not directly involved in defense or other national security work.

June 7, 2012

Chambers USA 2012 Final Results Announced

June 4, 2012

Euromoney Honors Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky with Outstanding Achievement Award

May 15, 2012

United States to Resume Bilateral Investment Treaty Negotiations on the Basis of a Revised Model Treaty

March 30, 2012

Chambers USA 2012 Preliminary Results Announced

March 16, 2012

Chambers Global 2012 Ranks 29 WilmerHale Lawyers, 12 Practices

December 8, 2011

Washingtonian Magazine Names Eighteen WilmerHale Attorneys to "Best Lawyers" List

June 6, 2011

WilmerHale Ranked in Top Tier by The Legal 500 United States

March 25, 2011

Chambers Global 2011 Ranks 25 WilmerHale Lawyers and 17 Firm Practices

Speaking Engagements

April 10, 2012

Doing Business in China

Palo Alto, California

December 1, 2011

Doing Business in China

Waltham, Massachusetts

June 11, 2008

World Justice Project Conference: Multi-disciplinary Conference on the Rule of Law

Boston, Massachusetts

October 11, 2007

WilmerHale Webinar: The New Chinese Anti-Monopoly Law


April 20, 2007

Antitrust Practice ABA Luncheon

Washington, DC

December 5-6, 2006

Asian Ventures 2006 Consumer Tech Conference

San Jose, California

March 16, 2005

WilmerHale Event: Doing Business in China

Boston, Massachusetts

April 28, 2004

Milken Institute 2004 Global Conference

Beverly Hills, California

September 28, 2003

2003 Forbes Global CEO Conference


July 24, 2003

Re-energizing America's Trade Policy with Asia

Washington, DC

Recent Highlights

Ambassador Barshefsky is an advisor to a number of Fortune 100 and other multinational corporations in connection with their trade and investment activities in China, Europe and the United States, including in such areas as financial services, telecommunications, high-technology goods and services, consumer products, agriculture and intellectual property rights.

Professional Activities

Ambassador Barshefsky is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Board of the America-China Society, a Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Trilateral Commission. She serves on the Boards of Directors of American Express Company, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Intel Corporation, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. She is a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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JD, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, 1975

BA, University of Wisconsin, 1972

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia