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Biden taps 2 women with Puerto Rican roots to key positions at WTO, Treasury

President Joe Biden has announced that he intends to name Puerto Rican attorney María Luisa Pagán to be deputy US trade representative and ambassador to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO). Her nomination must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Pagán was born and raised in Puerto Rico and currently resides in Maryland. A federal government lawyer for nearly 30 years, she is now deputy general counsel at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

A top negotiatior for numerous trade agreements, Pagán was the lead attorney on the US-Mexico-Canada agreement — which was the successor to NAFTA — as well as the implementation package that passed Congress in early 2020.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has been working without any of her three deputy positions filled since taking office in March.

“The absence of the WTO representative in Geneva, in particular, has been noticed, given Mr. Biden’s pledge to work closely with allies and multilateral organizations after the Trump administration’s go-it-alone trade policy approach fueled tensions with allies, as well as China,” according to the article.

It also quoted former USTR official Wendy Cutler, now vice-president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, as saying “there are a lot of matters that need urgent discussion and focus in Geneva,” and that having an experienced negotiator like Pagán will “help the US contribute to finding solutions to a growing list of problems facing the WTO.”

Separately, Alexia Latortue has been nominated as assistant secretary for international markets at the US Treasury Department.

Latortue was raised in Puerto Rico, West Africa and Austria. Her father, Gérard Latortue, served as Haiti’s prime minister from 2004 to 2006 following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. She has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

At present, Latortue is deputy CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), where she helps shape MCC’s strategic vision. Latortue has over 20 years of experience in international development. Her work has covered private-sector development, financial systems development, climate, infrastructure and economic inclusion.

Previously, Latortue was managing director for corporate strategy at the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; before that, during the Obama administration, she was principal deputy assistant secretary for international development at the US Treasury, and before that, she spent 10 years at the World Bank.

Author Details
Tel Aviv-based journalist and photographer Larry Luxner has reported from more than 100 countries on behalf of the Miami Herald, the Washington Diplomat, the Journal of Commerce and other news outlets. From 1986 to 1995, he lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, covering the manufacturing sector for Caribbean Business. Among other ventures, he launched a monthly newsletter, South America Report, and later published CubaNews for 12 years before relocating to Israel in January 2017. Larry is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew.

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