Carla A. Hills

Carla Hills Portrait

Former U.S. Trade Ambassador and HUD Secretary

Carla Hills, Former U.S. Trade Ambassador and HUD Secretary Ep. 49 - What would it be like to be responsible for negotiating a trade agreement with China or Japan or any other world country? Imagine yourself about to take a high-level job with the Federal government when the news came on about the Saturday Night Massacre. Carla Hills takes us on a journey through her very interesting life, working directly with several United States Presidents. Carla A. Hills is a high-profile, powerful woman, having been U.S. Trade Ambassador under President Bush Senior and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Ford, the first woman to serve in that position and the third woman cabinet member. She also served as Assistant Attorney General in the Civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Ambassador Hills is now the chairman, and CEO of Hills and Company, specializing in international strategy and trade consultants. The firm provides advice to US business on investment, trade, and risk assessment issues abroad, particularly in emerging market economies.

Top Takeaways:

  • How to fight for what you want- how she went after a law career amid major objection
  • The experience of serving the government during uncertain political and economic times like the Watergate scandal
  • The difference between law and trade negotiations when practicing both at the same time
  • The importance of investing in human infrastructure through education and training

Experience first-hand the environment where a decision had world consequences.

"I’ve had a lot of opportunities to negotiate both in trade and in law. It makes a difference. You really have to understand what the other side of the table is thinking, what their limitations are, what’s in the act of the possible. Diplomacy plays a big part.” -Carla Hills

Ambassador Hills served as United States Trade Representative from 1989 to 1993. As a member of President Bush’s Cabinet, she was the President’s principal advisor on international trade policy. She was also the nation’s chief trade negotiator, representing American interests in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations throughout the world. She led the U.S. negotiations in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks, concluded the North American Free Trade Agreement, and entered into a substantial number of trade and investment agreements with countries all around the world.

Ambassador Hills has served on the boards of a number of Fortune 500 companies and currently serves on the International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan Chase and the Starr Companies Advisory Board.  She is also actively involved with a number of eleemosynary organizations, serving as Chair of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations; Co-Chair Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Inter- American Dialogue, Co-Chair  of the International Advisory Board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Honorary Board member of the Peterson Institute for International economics, Member of the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, and Member of the President of Yale’s Council on International Activities.

Before entering government, Mrs. Hills co-founded and was partner of a Los Angeles law firm. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of California at Los Angeles Law School, teaching antitrust law, and co-authored the Antitrust Adviser, which was published by McGraw-Hill.

Ambassador Hills graduated from Stanford University, attended Oxford University’s St. Hilda’s College, and obtained her law degree from the Yale Law School.  The Mexican government awarded her the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor given by the Mexican government to a non-citizen.  She also holds a number of honorary degrees from a number of colleges and universities and awards from various institutions including most recently the U.S. China Business Council’s Distinguished Honoree Award at its 45th Anniversary Gala.

Listen to what it's really like to be on the world stage.

Key Moments:

She explains when and how she got interested in law even with a lot of objections during her time [4:16]

How her professor encouraged and supported her to reach her dreams [6:45]

How she and her partners started a firm and the story of how she ended up working in Washington even though she had never thought of it before [8:38]

Carla describes the man and professional Elliot Richardson was plus how she ended up teaching law at UCLA [11:22]

Her experience working as the assistant attorney general in a time when the country was politically divided and economically deflated [13:33]

[16:38] The Saturday Night Massacre- Saturday events of 1973 during the water gate scandal period.

The role of civil division and the competent team that Carla had when she worked for the justice system [17:26]

She explains how President Ford offered her a job as the secretary of HUD and her performance and challenges there [19:15]

The experience of working as a negotiator in both law and trade [22:01]

How she went back to work as the trade representative for President Bush senior after years of taking a hiatus from government work [27:06]

She explains how she handled countries that were trading unfairly with the US and dealing with Japan’s more complicated situation [29:14]

Why she was awarded the Aztec Eagle award by the Mexican government [32:03]

Why the love of her job has prevented her from retiring and instead continues to help build economies [34:10]

The role of the US-China business council’s organization and why she won their honorary award [37:21]

Why the current China-US relations due to the pandemic needs partnership through diplomacy works [38:47]

 

Hills and Company

Center for Strategic and International Studies

American Academy of Diplomacy

Wikipedia Carla Hills

Wilson Center

Council on Foreign Relations

U.S. Department of State

The U.S.-China Business Council

Why Trade Matters

Center for the Study of the Presidency

Tariffs Won't Fix Illegal Immigration

Ford Legacy: Carla Hills

NAFTA at 20 with Carla Hills

Coronavirus Economic Impact

 

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