Ambassador Ron Kirk announced on Tuesday that he intends to step down from his position as United States Trade Representative in late February.  “It has been no less than my greatest professional privilege to serve President Barack Obama alongside the dedicated professionals of USTR,” Kirk said.  “Together we have made great strides to bring about the President’s vision of a more robust, responsible, and responsive trade policy that opens markets to products stamped ‘Made in America’ and enforces Americans’ trade rights around the world and does so in a way that is more consistent with America’s core values on issues like the rights of workers and the environment.”

Among the hallmarks of the last four years under Ambassador Kirk,  USTR has completed, passed through Congress, and implemented trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.  In addition, USTR has advanced the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations; worked to move the World Trade Organization past the stalled Doha Round;  and completed the termination of Jackson-Vanik amendments and full application of the WTO agreement between new member Russia and the United States.  The last major achievement of his term may be an announcement of the intent of the United States to negotiate an free trade agreement with the European Union, which could come in the next few weeks.

There is speculation about who might replace Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative.  Michael Froman, currently the president’s deputy national security advisor on international economic affairs, is one of the names being mentioned to replace Kirk.  Another potential candidate is Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard.