Karen Toliver, the lead architect for trade and international issues for the Society of the Plastics Inc. the past two years, has resigned effective Dec. 15 as the group's trade counsel and vice president of international affairs.
Sources said Toliver's departure after two years did not result from any conflict with SPI, and that she was relocating outside the Washington area. SPI said it anticipates hiring a replacement before Congress reconvenes in January.
Her departure is viewed by some as a major loss for SPI, which had regained its trade influence in Washington since her arrival.
``She brought an awful lot to SPI in terms of her wealth of experience in trade litigation and her experience in working with trade officials,'' added Peter Jones, president of Wexco Corp. in Lynchburg, Va., and chairman of one of SPI's strategic management groups. ``She was a first-rate expert and a very competent person who knew her way around trade officials. SPI will miss that experience, especially in the legal arena.''
``Karen has gotten us on the map with international trade issues,'' acknowledged SPI President and Chief Executive Officer William Carteaux in an interview with Plastics News that was published Oct. 30.
During her tenure, Toliver successfully lobbied with U.S. Trade Representative officials for provisions that improved free trade agreements for the plastics industry. In particular, she was able to convince USTR to speed up plastic product tariff reductions in the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which covers the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
She also pursued an aggressive legislative stance on unfair Chinese trade practices and has helped put pressure on the White House to get China to change its undervalued currency. In an interview Dec. 6 before she departed SPI, Toliver said she expected Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to come back from his two-day strategic economic dialogue with Chinese officials Dec. 14-15 with ``some commitment from China'' about the currency exchange rate.
``I expect a one-time bump-up of 5-7 percent in the yuan and some commitment from China to widen the band'' of fluctuation for the yuan. The yuan is currently set at plus-or-minus 3 percent and based on a market basket of currencies across the globe.
``She was the right person at the right time for SPI,'' said Mike Lynch, director of government affairs for Illinois Tool Works Inc. of Glenview, Ill. ``Our members now have a better understanding of the convergence of public policy on trade. So now, rather than people trying to articulate their frustrations, they can now articulate their opinions and generate solutions.''
Lynch said that the biggest challenge for Toliver's replacement would be ``refereeing the differences'' among larger and smaller companies that are SPI members.
Toliver joined SPI in January 2005. She previously had worked for the Washington law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld LLP where she represented domestic and foreign producers involved in unfair trade proceedings before the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission, with a particular focus on issues related to trade developments with China, elimination of market access barriers to U.S. exports and World Trade Organization enforcement issues.