Marianne Rowden

Marianne Rowden is President and CEO of American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI). Ms. Rowden has extensive experience in representing importers and exporters on a wide range of trade compliance issues relating to the entire global supply chain, from sourcing goods and trade security to customs entry and delivery of goods to customers.

In addition, Ms. Rowden serves as an Adjunct Professor at The John Marshall School of Law and has lectured on customs, international trade and transportation topics for AAEI, the Council of Logistics Management, the Transportation Law Association, and the Transportation Law Institute.

What is AAEI?

AAEI was established in 1921 to represent importers in reaction to the codification of anti-dumping laws in 1916. Later, the organization’s focus expanded to also include representation of exporters. We are recognized as technical experts in day-to-day facilitation of trade. Our key advocacy areas are trade compliance, facilitation of trade agreements, supply chain security and product safety. Many of our members represent highly-regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace, automotive, agriculture, and electronics.

What is your role at the organization?

I will celebrate my ten-year anniversary with AAEI this December. I joined AAEI as General Counsel in 2004 and then became President and CEO in 2008. In this role, my daily activities include attending congressional hearings, preparing comments in response to major trade-related legislative and regulatory issues, staffing AAEI committees, and speaking at educational events and conferences. I also get to do some cool things, like participating in the Private Sector Consultative Group to the World Customs Organization (WCO) and testify before Congress on trade legislation. 

Underlying these duties, however, I have a responsibility to ensure that AAEI runs properly, that we make payroll, and that we raise sufficient funds to continue our work. At the end of the day, we are a business.

How did you get involved in international trade?

My career has been, as for many of us, a result of accidents and plans that got modified along the way. At college, I was always intrigued by comparative public policy classes. During school, I interned with Norman Levy, who was a chair of the New York Senate Transportation Committee and also for Eliot Engel, at the time a member of the New York State Assembly. After law school, I worked with a law firm that represented shippers sued by defunct trucking companies during the industry deregulation. While there, I routinely drafted Supreme Court briefs and then would watch oral arguments. After the case concluded, the firm held what we called “post-mortem lunches” with all the attorneys involved to discuss the case. It was phenomenal training.

Later, I joined Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago as part of their international trade practice. As part of a large law firm, I was exposed to large clients which required developing expertise in a broad range of matters.

What is your opinion of the U.S. export control reform?

I give a lot of credit to President Obama for doing it and think it will end up being one of the Obama Administration’s highlights. I think the success of the reform is due, in large part, to the contribution of Kevin Wolf, Eric L. Hirschhorn, and Brian Nilsson – who really are a dream team of trade experts that made the reform happen. On the other hand, I wonder whether enough changes have been made to address new world phenomena, like cyber theft, that pose a threat to the idea of export controls.

In your opinion, what are some issues that will effect the development of international trade in the next years?

As for the U.S., we need to ensure that our companies are able to compete on an international level. Whether we are successful will depend on the country’s leadership. 

On a global level, the most worrisome development to come out in the past weeks is India’s blocking of the WTO’s Bali Agreement**. India’s leadership does not seem to understand how much they have to gain from this agreement. What concerns me is that India’s undermining of the WTO’s multilateral trade regime could bring about segmentation of the trade rules, where, instead of uniform rules, we will end up with distinct trade regimes dictated by different countries or regions. So, we may end up with separate Russian, Chinese, or American sets of trade rules.

**India refused to sign the WTO Bali Agreement demanding a parallel agreement allowing developing countries more freedom to subsidize and stockpile food. The WTO Bali Agreement aims to streamline customs rules for WTO signatories and is projected to add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy.

Funny moment or memory?

Walking alongside former DHS Assistant Secretary Michael Jackson escorting him for his keynote luncheon address at an AAEI conference, talking business, and not realizing I was walking into the men’s bathroom.