Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky

Retired Partner

Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky was a Senior International Partner at WilmerHale. 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 at WilmerHale 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 centered 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 was 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 formulated sophisticated government relations strategies to complement, when necessary, the overall substantive legal approach. She advised 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. 

Professional Activities

Ambassador Barshefsky was 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 served on the Boards of Directors of American Express Company, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., MDC Partners, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. She was a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Intel Corporation board member.


  • Ambassador Barshefsky was 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.


  • Award Text

    Lawyer of the Year for International Trade and Finance Law

    Best Lawyers in America®

    2017, 2020-2021

  • Award Text

    Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Legal Profession

    Chambers & Partners


  • Award Text

    Elite Leading Lawyer for International Trade

    The Legal 500 United States


  • Named to the inaugural Legal 500 US Hall of Fame list in 2017
  • Selected to the 2019 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America "Hall of Fame," and named to Lawdragon's 500 Leading Lawyers in America list since 2012
  • Named by National Law Journal as among the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America," in 2013, the “Most Influential Women in Washington” and "The Decade's Most Influential Lawyers" in 2010 and the "50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America" in 2007
  • Received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Chambers & Partners in 2007 for her outstanding contributions to the legal profession
  • Recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Euromoney Legal Media Group's "Americas Women In Business Law Awards" in 2012
  • Recognized as one of the top 50 women lawyers and one of the top lawyers in the area of international trade in the 2007-2021 editions of Washington DC Super Lawyers
  • Consistently recognized as a leader in the area of international trade by Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers for Business and Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business  
  • Recognized as one of the top international trade lawyers in Washington DC by Washingtonian magazine from 2007-2013
  • Listed as a "Leading Lawyer" in international trade in the 2009-2019 editions of The Legal 500 United States
  • Selected by her peers for inclusion in numerous editions of the Best Lawyers in America in the areas of government relations and international trade and finance law, and was named Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America in its 2017 and 2020 editions
  • Included in BusinessWeek's list of "Top Female Corporate Directors” in 2009
  • Listed in each edition of Who's Who Legal: The International Who's Who of Business Lawyers since 2003 in the area of trade & customs
  • Awarded the DirectWomen “Sandra Day O'Connor Board Excellence Award” in 2009 
  • Honored at the Women's International Trade Association's (WITA) Annual International Women's Day Celebrating Female Ambassadors to the United States in 2010, and at an event in 2007 celebrating her 25 years of trade leadership

Insights & News


  • Education

    • JD, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, 1975

    • BA, University of Wisconsin, 1972

  • Admissions

    • District of Columbia

  • Government Experience

    • Executive Office of the President

      Office of the United States Trade Representative

      United States Trade Representative
    • Executive Office of the President

      Office of the United States Trade Representative

      Deputy United States Trade Representative



Unless you are an existing client, before communicating with WilmerHale by e-mail (or otherwise), please read the Disclaimer referenced by this link.(The Disclaimer is also accessible from the opening of this website). As noted therein, until you have received from us a written statement that we represent you in a particular manner (an "engagement letter") you should not send to us any confidential information about any such matter. After we have undertaken representation of you concerning a matter, you will be our client, and we may thereafter exchange confidential information freely.

Thank you for your interest in WilmerHale.