Jason Kearns became interested in global commerce, international trade, and finance while working as an Associate in International Practice for Mayer, Brown & Platt. With a law degree from Penn and a Masters of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, Kearns has had many opportunities to explore these interests throughout his career.
[updated June 30, 2017] As of June 29, 2017, Penn Law graduate Jason Kearns was nominated by President Trump to be a Member of the United States International Trade Commission for the term expiring December 16, 2024.
He serves to advise the Committee on aspects of trade law and policy, as well as representing Members of Congress in consultations and negotiations with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and other government departments.
Kearns’s path towards his current position developed organically, and was influenced by the ebb and flow of his career evolution, education, and interests. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from the University of Denver in Economics and Russian, he attended Penn Law with an interest in litigation. Kearns then practiced for a year in Chicago for Mayer, Brown & Platt. Upon learning of his studies in Russian, the firm assigned him to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan as an Associate in International Practice. This placement stimulated his interest in global commerce, leading to his application and acceptance to Kennedy School of Government. While at Harvard, he concentrated in international trade and finance. Kearns cites his two summer internships during this time – at the USTR’s general counsel office, and the World Trade Organization’s appellate body - as being particularly transformative.
Following graduation, Kearns moved to Washington to join WilmerHale as an associate in the international trade department. After three years in this position, Kearns returned to the USTR’s Office of the General Counsel. With them, Kearns’s diverse portfolio included drafting international agreements, and representing the United States as a litigator in front of global judicial bodies. Three years later, in 2006, Kearns transferred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and became the Chief International Trade Counsel in 2012. This role sits at the nexus between his legal background, and his Masters of Public Policy. Kearns notes that the Penn Law degree provides the foundation upon which his international trade and economic platform is built. His legal expertise is the vehicle that helps facilitate a deeper understating of trade processes and agreements. Presently, in addition to his advisory role vis-à-vis trade agreements, Kearns oversees the enforcement of past accords to ensure the maintenance of negotiated standards and clauses. This summer though, most of his time has been consumed by the TPP and the nascent Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (with the EU). Kearns, on behalf of the Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI-09), is focused upon guaranteeing that the Committee’s important objectives are promulgated in the finalized agreement. These include: agricultural market access, an opening of the Japanese automotive industry, protections against currency manipulation, and heightening environmental and labor standards.
In terms of his own experiences and career path, Kearns highlights that “superficial networking is not beneficial,” and that one should “develop long-term relationships.” In essence, Kearns notes that “” He stresses the impressions that interns can make, as his internships with the WTO and USTR aided him years later when he was hired as a full-time employee with the USTR. Further than giving him valuable work experience and helping him sharpen his interests, the internships provided Kearns with invaluable mentors and contacts.
More than networking and making positive impressions though, Kearns notes the need to let your work and effort stand out. He says that “merit and subject matter expertise supersede partisanship and are keys to success.” Kearns wants students to understand that they don’t need to stay on a one-track path, but rather to do what interests them. If this is the case, then students will love their job, and consequently be good at it too.
M.P.P. ’00, J.D. ’96, B.A. ’93
University of Pennsylvania - Law School - 1996
- Juris Doctor - Cum Laude