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Spotlight on Commerce: Anita Ramasastry, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

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Anita Ramasastry, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Anita Ramasastry is the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

In my role as the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I develop and advance strategies to keep markets open for U.S. exporters. In the International Trade Administration, we do this by trying to reduce or eliminate trade barriers in other countries. Recently I was asked to establish a new initiative focused on preventing corruption in global trade. In addition, as part of the President’s National Export Initiative, I coordinate new strategies for increasing trade in six growing markets including Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. I also am a member of the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force – tasked with promoting the growth of the knowledge economy and supporting our Internet and technology companies overseas. In this role, I have focused on how restrictions on Internet data flows can be a trade barrier, hindering innovation and competition in many markets.

Before coming to the International Trade Administration, I was a tenured law professor at the University of Washington, School of Law in Seattle, where I taught and researched commercial and banking law. My research focused on the impact of corruption on economic development in countries with natural resources.

President Obama has spoken of the devastating cost of corruption. And the need for change: “In too many places, the culture of the bribe is a brake on development and prosperity.  It discourages entrepreneurship, destroys public trust, and undermines the rule of law while stifling economic growth. With a new commitment to strengthening and enforcing rules against corruption, economic opportunity and prosperity will be more broadly shared.”
My work on anticorruption attempts to tackle one of the largest trade barriers and problems in global trade. One of my achievements in the first year was develop part of a set of comprehensive anti corruption commitments proposed by the U.S. for adoption by G20 countries. When the G20 leaders adopted a comprehensive action plan to combat corruption at the Leaders Meeting in Seoul in 2010, I could see tangible results of my efforts. It has been a great experience to come to the International Trade Administration and to put my ideas into practice and to work actively with the private sector at home and abroad. 

I grew up in Boston, Washington D.C. and New Jersey, and headed out to Seattle to begin teaching law in the late 1990’s. My parents are immigrants from India. When I attended college and law school, there were very few South Asians in my classes. I went to law school because I felt that it was important to have lawyers that represent all parts of the American community – including Asian and Pacific Islanders. I am a graduate of Harvard University, Harvard Law School and the University of Sydney. 

As a lawyer, I have a lifelong commitment to public and community service. In Seattle, I founded a nonprofit, the Immigrant Families Advocacy Project, which assists immigrant women, married to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and who are victims of domestic violence. The organization is more than a decade old.

During AAPI heritage month, I reflect on the fact that Indians and other Asians were not always welcome in the United States. In 1946, The Luce-Celler Act of 1946 was  sponsored by Republican Clare Booth Luce and Democrat Emanuel Celler and signed into law by President Harry Truman, granting naturalization rights to Filipino Americans and Indian Americans. This law also re-established immigration from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines and ended discrimination against these two Asian American groups once deemed 'unassimilable'. Thanks to this law, my parents emigrated to the U.S. and became proud Americans.

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