Kessler_Jeffrey

Jeffrey I. Kessler

A former senior US trade official, Jeffrey I. Kessler advises leading global companies and industry associations on a wide range of high-profile, cutting-edge international trade disputes and policy issues, especially those involving US trade remedy laws, World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and China-related trade and investment barriers.

In 2019, Mr. Kessler was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance at the US Department of Commerce. In this role, Mr. Kessler led an organization that administers the US antidumping and countervailing duty laws, monitors foreign compliance with trade agreements, supports the negotiation and implementation of international trade agreements to open foreign markets, administers the Foreign-Trade Zones program, and evaluates Section 232 steel and aluminum tariff exclusion requests. Mr. Kessler was also involved in the litigation of numerous Commerce administrative determinations at the US Court of International Trade, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the WTO. During his tenure, Mr. Kessler ushered in a more aggressive approach to trade remedy enforcement, including by presiding over a significant increase in the overall volume of enforcement activity; strictly enforcing existing rules; and placing greater emphasis on anti-circumvention and self-initiation. Mr. Kessler spearheaded several groundbreaking regulatory initiatives to further strengthen enforcement, such as a regulation for countervailing undervalued foreign currencies; the establishment of an all-new aluminum import monitor and associated import license requirement; and a package of proposed regulations which, if finalized, would represent the broadest overhaul of Commerce’s trade enforcement regulations in more than two decades. In addition, Mr. Kessler successfully renegotiated four suspension agreements—more than half of those in existence—including one for uranium from Russia, which Congress subsequently codified in statute. 

In the area of WTO dispute resolution, Mr. Kessler has been involved in litigating several precedent-setting cases, including US – Large Civil Aircraft (2nd complaint) (Article 21.5 - US), EC and certain member States – Large Civil Aircraft (Article 21.5 – US), US – Tax Incentives, Argentina – Import Measures, and Brazil – Certain Measures Concerning Taxation and Charges. These disputes involved successful challenges to foreign country trade practices that restricted billions of dollars of international trade per year, as well as successful defenses of US trade practices. Mr. Kessler has also advised companies and industry associations on the feasibility of potential future WTO disputes.

With respect to domestic trade remedies, Mr. Kessler has represented US manufacturers in the chemicals and aerospace industries in proceedings before the US Department of Commerce, the US International Trade Commission, and the US Court of International Trade. Mr. Kessler has also advised leading US companies on free trade agreement rules and negotiations.

A particular area of emphasis for Mr. Kessler's practice is China. Mr. Kessler has assisted leading US companies and industry associations—especially those in innovative, IP-intensive industries—to understand and navigate Chinese trade and investment barriers. Mr. Kessler has advised companies on issues such as China's sector-wide subsidy programs, IP policy and enforcement, cybersovereignty and related policies, technology transfer requirements, national security–related technical standards, and restrictions on the supply of foreign services.

Mr. Kessler has also advised clients on a variety of other trade-related issues, such as complex customs classifications and investigations, US procurement rules, Trade Agreements Act (TAA) compliance, and sanctions and export controls.

Mr. Kessler is a member of the American Bar Association and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Experience

  • Leading the US Department of Commerce’s Enforcement and Compliance unit—a 360-person organization with a $100 million budget—and ushering in a more aggressive approach to trade enforcement.
  • Successfully renegotiating politically sensitive suspension agreements pertaining to uranium from Russia, tomatoes from Mexico and sugar from Mexico.
  • Assisting the Office of the US Trade Representative in securing a landmark WTO ruling that the EU failed to comply with past WTO rulings condemning $22 billion in subsidies to European industry—resulting in US countermeasures against imports from the EU.
  • Authoring a white paper for a leading US industry association, which analyzed previously unidentified patterns of de facto discrimination against foreign companies in China's enforcement of competition law.
  • Providing strategic advice to a US industry association whose members were targeted by a Chinese sector-wide subsidy program.
  • Advising US high-tech companies on the possibility of obtaining Chinese government authorization to enter China's market.

Recognition

  • Selected as a "Rising Star" in the 2018 edition of Washington DC Super Lawyers

Insights & News

Credentials

  • Education

    • JD, Stanford University, 2010

      Articles Editor, Stanford Law Review, John M. Olin Law & Economics Fellow
    • MA, Economics, Stanford University, 2010

    • MA, Philosophy, University of Chicago, 2007

      Century Fellowship
    • BA, Philosophy and Classics, Yale University, 2005

      magna cum laude
  • Admissions

    • District of Columbia

    • California

  • Government Experience

    • Department of Commerce

      Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance

Credentials