Ambassador Carla A. Hills, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during President Gerald R. Ford’s Administration, presented a lecture on “Why Trade Matters” on May 14, 2019 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hills is also a former Trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and presented the annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes for Distinguished Reporting for numerous years. 

Hills was the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of HUD (she also was the third woman to hold a Cabinet position), and also served in the Ford’s Administration as Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice – Civil Division. 

Hills later served as a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet as U.S. Trade Representative. She was the principal advisor on international trade policy, and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement. Hills graduated from Stanford University, attended Oxford University ,and earned a law degree from Yale Law School.  

Currently, Hills is the Chair and CEO of Hills & Company, advising on investment, trade, commercial diplomacy, and risks abroad. Working at the highest levels of government advising Republican and Democratic Presidents, Hills has vast bipartisan experience with both U.S. and foreign governments. 

When opening her remarks on “Why Trade Matters”, Hills highlighted a 1974 quote from President Ford which he said, “we live in an interdependent world, and therefore must work together to solve common, economic problems.”

Hills stated that the increase in global trade has mutually benefitted United States and other countries around the world. Hill cited a Peterson Institute for International Economics study showing the increase in global trade and investment between 1950 and 2016, which increased United States GDP by two trillion dollars.

From a humanitarian standpoint, Hills pointed to the opening of global markets as “an effective development tool” in reducing global poverty. Hills cited a study by William Cline at the Center for Global Development estimating that the increase of global trade since World War II has lifted almost 500 million people out of abject poverty.

Hills also provided a few non-economic benefits to global trade. She highlighted how through improving economic opportunities for poorer countries, global trade helps enhance United States security by preventing havens for international crime and terrorists. Hills noted that increased global partnerships from commercial engagements are necessary to deal with global problems such as pandemics and climate change. 

Hills further discussed the mutual benefits of partnerships such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) recently replaced in 2017 with the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA). 

Upon the conclusion of her remarks, Hills answered numerous questions and engaged in a passionate discussion with the engaged audience members on the benefits of global partnerships on trade. 

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