But they should beware. Another warrior is taking Kantor’s place as United States Trade Representative (USTR) and although she may look less threatening, she is, by all accounts, just as strong.“Most people here say she is even tougher than Kantor,” said a seasoned trade journalist in Washington. “She is held in very high regard.”Charlene Barshefsky already has a fearsome reputation throughout Asia, where she is known as one of the “Three Iron Ladies”, along with Chinese Trade Minister Wu Yi and Malaysia’s Rafidah Aziz.That reputation may soon be reinforced. The word in Washington is that the Clinton administration is on the verge of announcing approximately 1.5 billion ecu in sanctions against China for violating intellectual property rights on American computer software, videos and compact discs. “She is tough but not inflexible and looking to do business where possible,” said Rufus Yerxa, who served as deputy USTR with Barshefsky and is now a Brussels-based lawyer. “She will be somebody with whom the Europeans can negotiate.”If Union officials who felt the effects of Kantor’s battering-ram policies from a distance during EU-US disputes were surprised by his thin, small frame when they met him, they will be even more amazed when face to face with Barshefsky. She stands just 1 meter 65 cms tall, weighs only 48 kilos and is bean-pole thin, with a long, angular face that has been compared to those in Modigliani’s portraits. She keeps the day of her birthday a strict secret – call her office to ask and you will be told she does not give out the date because she does not want to receive flowers.She has, however, just as much stamina as Kantor. During marathon talks with the Japanese in October, 1994, including one 22-hour session, Barshefsky’s colleagues nicknamed her Stonewall.But the 45-year-old mother of two daughters – Mari, 12, and Devra, 7, – can apparently disarm her counterparts in trade talks with her charm as well as her negotiating tactics.Japanese Trade Minister Shunpei Tsukuhara met Barshefsky for the first time last month during a meeting in Kobe of trade ministers from the Quad (the EU, the US, Canada and Japan). During a break in the talks, Tsukuhara was heard to say: “Mrs Barshefsky, like my wife, is a strong person and I was smitten with her.”Between talks on microchips and photo film, the two found time in Kobe to talk about their daughters and Tsukuhara said he found he had much in common with Barshefsky.The trade minister would, however, be well advised not to be lulled into a false sense of security by her warm, familiar chats. Because when the negotiations start, says Yerxa, “I don’t think you will see the bottom line change very much for the United States”. US President Bill Clinton introduces Barshefsky as “our toughest trade negotiator”. He gave her that nickname last year when, as Kantor’s deputy, she was pounding the Chinese for the illegal copying of copyrighted works worth billions of dollars.When Beijing finally promised to crack down on intellectual property pirates, people approached Barshefsky in Washington restaurants to congratulate her on forcing China to bow to international law.If the USTR office statistics are accurate, Barshefsky has also become a secret weapon in the government’s campaign to create employment.Official figures show that US exports to China have doubled since 1993, when the Clinton administration came into office, and that the new exports around the world have created a million new jobs.When Clinton announced last month that Barshefsky would become the next USTR, he had to add, “when she comes home”. On that April day, as usual, Barshefsky was in China tackling the piracy problem, which has reared its head yet again.Barshefsky has yet to be confirmed in her new post by the US Senate, but is expected to win approval. While in private practice she represented Canadian clients in a lumber industry case, which, if US law were to be strictly interpreted, might prevent her from holding public office. But the American lumber industry supports her candidacy, because it knows what trade officials all over Asia and Latin America know – that it is better to have Charlene Barshefsky on your side than against you. Barshefsky was the natural choice to step into Kantor’s shoes when the president appointed him to replace Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was killed in a plane crash over Bosnia last month.Kantor himself describes her as one of the world’s best trade negotiators and, when it comes to their trade philosophies, the two seem to be cut from the same cloth.When the US created shock waves last summer by threatening to slap a 100% import tariff on Japanese luxury cars unless Tokyo opened its market, the EU heaped criticism on Kantor, accusing him of undermining the multilateral trade process established in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But the idea was Barshefsky’s.She has also wielded the dreaded ‘Special 301’ legislation that enables the US government to impose unilateral sanctions on a trading partner. The EU has repeatedly tried to get Washington to dismantle that big gun, but to no avail.Barshefsky is the Clinton administration’s expert on intellectual property and on opening foreign markets to investment – both issues high on the agenda of EU trade negotiators. She also directs trade policy for Latin America and was instrumental in formulating plans for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.During 18 years with the Washington, DC law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, Barshefsky represented American and foreign clients in international trade litigation and counselled on US import and export rules. As a lawyer, she published, lectured and testified on American and international trade laws and served as an advisor to the US Court of International Trade. She also helped teach art in her eldest daughter’s class during a lunch-hour every other week. Besides taking a 75% pay cut when she left private practice for the government, Barshefsky’s new career has also allowed her almost no time at home. Constantly on the road, she has made 15 trips to Asia during the past two years and is away for at least a week each month. The rest of the time, she burns the candle late into the evening in her office half a block from the White House.But even from hotel rooms in Asia, she takes a few minutes each day to go over her children’s schoolwork or religious education by phone and keep in touch with her husband Edward Cohen, a deputy solicitor at the department of the interior.Barshefsky, the youngest child of Russian and Polish immigrants, was always pushed to excel. Her parents came to the US speaking no English, but once in Chicago, her father became a chemical engineer and her mother a school teacher. Her father, a religious and scholarly man who had studied to become a rabbi, would have preferred Charlene to follow her older brother and sister into the world of academia instead of opting for the legal profession.While Barshefsky and Kantor may share the same equally tough approach to the job, the new USTR’s legal background and professional manner distinguish her from her former boss. “Kantor is a politician, a thin-skinned shouter, an intimidator,” said a long-time trade watcher in Washington. “Barshefsky is a very tough trade lawyer. She is a little bit school-marmish in her professional dealings, but she is a very warm, sweet person.”Colleagues at the USTR like working with her and say she consumes briefing material and masters new subjects with surprising speed and depth.During negotiations, Barshefsky is apparently tireless, capable of speaking for four hours at a stretch. First she gives her opponent a straight read-out of American criticisms, then she gives encouragement – making the task sound achievable.Throughout, she studies the expressions of everyone on the opposite negotiating team – someone shifting in his chair or raising a shoulder tells her whether his stance is hardening or softening and she can often anticipate his response.